Property in a Texas divorce does not have to be divided equally, but instead must be divided in a just and right manner. There can be a number of ways to achieve a just and right division, especially when the property is a large piece of real estate. In a recent case, a husband asked the court to award the wife a smaller portion of the parties’ ranch, which he claimed was more valuable than the rest of the ranch.
Wife Precluded from Presenting Testimony about Value of Ranch
The parties married in 1995. When the wife petitioned for divorce, the parties owned a ranch together. Before the trial, the husband moved to compel discovery and subsequently for discovery sanctions. The trial court granted the motions and ordered that the wife would not be allowed to testify about the community property’s value.
According to the appeals court’s opinion, he husband testified that the tax appraisal for the ranch was $529,280, but that the ranch was only worth $400,000. He asked the trial court to award him the entire ranch, or alternatively to award the wife the “richest 10 acres” and give him the other 40. He testified the westernmost ten acres were the most beautiful and had the richest soil. The remaining 40 acres included several improvements, including a mobile home, a barn, and a pond.
Wife Testifies to Her Opinion of Value
The husband’s attorney objected to any testimony or evidence the wife may offer regarding value of assets. The judge indicated the wife would be allowed to testify about her own opinion of the value, but she would not be allowed to offer third-party valuations. The wife testified that she believed the ranch and the mobile home combined were worth $1 million. She also offered a spreadsheet listing various items and the value assigned to them by each party. The trial court also admitted a similar spreadsheet from the husband.
The court assigned each party to pay the taxes and other encumbrances on the property they received. The trial court awarded the husband the eastern 23 acres of the ranch, which included the pond, the barn, and the mobile home. He also received the contents of the mobile home and the barn, along with furniture and furnishings, jewelry, two bank accounts, four boats, 12 vehicles, a tractor, a gooseneck trailer, a fifth wheel trailer, jet skis, a forklift, three horses, a dog, and other personal property. The husband was ordered to pay the parties’ back income taxes.
The wife received the western 27 acres. The wife also received certain person property, including furnishings, clothes, jewelry, two bank accounts, a vehicle, some birds, and two dogs. She was ordered to pay five accounts related to health care.
Husband Appeals Trial Court’s Ruling
The husband appealed, arguing the trial court erred in dividing the estate and allowing the wife to provide evidence when there were discovery sanctions in place. He argued there was not sufficient evidence for the court to make a just and right division.
Both parties provided valuation testimony and spreadsheets showing the assets’ value. The husband had not provided an overall analysis of the property awarded to each of the parties. He focused his appeal on the ranch’s value and his testimony that the “richest 10 acres” had reach soil than the rest of the ranch. He argued that 10 acres was worth more than the rest of the ranch. He also argued awarding the wife a greater share including the “richest 10” was unjust and unfair. The appeals court noted the husband had not testified regarding a comparative value between the richest 10 acres and the rest of the ranch. The appeals court also pointed out that the improvements on the husband’s share of the ranch would appear to add to its value. The husband also received more personal property than the wife. The husband had not provided an overall analysis of the property awarded to each of the parties.
Appeals Court Rejects Husband’s Argument – Affirms Judgment
The appeals court concluded that, without an overall analysis of the property value, the husband had not shown the trial court abused its discretion in the property division.
The appeals court also rejected the husband’s argument that the trial court erred in allowing the wife to present valuation evidence after imposing discovery sanctions. The appeals court noted that the trial court had “inherent authority to change, modify, or set aside an interlocutory order” before its plenary power expired. The husband had not sought a continuance when he learned the wife would be permitted to testify about value.
The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
Evidence of Value is Important – Call the Experienced Attorneys at McClure Law Group Today
Without evidence showing the value of the “richest 10 acres” as compared to the rest of the property, the appeals court did not accept the husband’s argument that portion of the ranch was worth more. Valuation evidence is important in all property divisions, but becomes especially important when a party is seeking a division that otherwise appears unfair. A skilled Texas divorce attorney can work with you to determine what type of evidence is needed to show the value of your property so you can fight for a fair and just division. Contact McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 for a consultation.