A married couple purchasing a home together generally does not consider how that property will be divided in the event of their divorce. When courts divide marital property in Texas divorce cases, there is a presumption that a spouse who uses separate funds to acquire property during the marriage and titles it in the name of both spouses intends to gift half of the separate funds to the other spouse. The purchasing spouse can, however, rebut this presumption with evidence clearly establishing he or she had no intention to gift the funds.
A wife recently challenged a property division that awarded 50% of a house to the husband despite unequal separate-property contributions. The wife had contributed nearly $65,000 to the purchase of the house, while the husband contributed $8,650. The title to the property was in both spouses’ names.
In its findings of fact and conclusions of law, the trial court found the wife failed to present clear and convincing evidence that would overcome the presumption she intended to give 50% of her separate property interest in the marital home to her husband.
The wife challenged the trial court’s determination not to reimburse her for the separate property contribution she made to toward the purchase of the home. She argued that the court ignored the evidence presented to rebut the presumption and the court’s conclusion was contrary to the testimony presented by both parties. The only testimony she cited, however, was her response to a question about why she put the down payment on the property. She responded that she thought her husband “was going to come up with his—he was going to pay [her] out…”
The appeals court found, however, that her testimony did not clearly establish she did not have intention to make the gift. The presumption may only be rebutted with clear and convincing evidence that there was not an intention to gift the separate property, and the wife did not meet that burden of proof.
The wife also argued that the Family Code and the court’s division of property unconstitutionally deprived her of her constitutional rights. She referenced a right to “liberty in the pursuit of happiness in the marital relationship.” She argued that contributing to the purchase of the home was an act of love that deserved constitutional protection. The appeals court rejected this argument, however, finding the argument was waived because it was not supported by argument or legal authority.
The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
Both the trial court and appeals court found there was insufficient evidence to rebut the presumption of an intended gift in this case. Other cases, however, may include stronger evidence that could support rebutting the presumption, including documentation or evidence of discussions indicating an expectation that the other spouse repay the contribution. If you are facing divorce, an experienced Texas divorce attorney can work with you to identify any evidence that can help protect your assets and rights. Call 214.692.8200 to schedule an appointment to discuss your case with McClure Law Group.
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