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Money Is Not Tangible Personal Property in Texas Divorce Case

A Texas divorce case is not always over when the judge signs the final divorce decree.  The decree sets forth the property division, but the parties must take action to achieve the division.  If party fails to surrender property, the other party may need to file a motion to enforce the property division in the decree.  A former husband recently challenged an enforcement order, arguing that the motion had not been filed timely and the claim was time-barred.

The couple divorced in 2012.  The wife moved for enforcement of the agreed divorce decree in 2016.  She also petitioned for breach of alimony contract.  The court held a bench trial and subsequently signed an enforcement order, ordering the husband to make the payments to satisfy the funds transfers required by the decree, to make the unpaid alimony payments, to provide health insurance for the children and reimburse the mother for the premiums she had paid, add the mother to the custodial accounts for the children, and pay the mother’s attorney’s fees.  The husband appealed.

The husband argued the portions of the order awarding funds to the wife were barred by the statute of limitations.  Section 9.003 of the Texas Family Code requires a suit to enforce division of tangible personal property to be filed within two years from the date the decree was signed or becomes final after appeal.

The wife argued that money was not “tangible property” to which the time bar applied.  The appeals court noted, however, that it had previously held funds did constitute tangible property and that decision was binding precedent.  The part of the enforcement order requiring the husband to pay the wife to enforce the division of tangible property was reversed.

The wife moved for en banc reconsideration, arguing the precedent was inconsistent with decisions from other Texas appeals courts and the Texas Supreme Court.  The en banc court noted that the briefs in the precedential case did not cite to authority on this issue and if they had, the court likely would have considered those other decisions.

The en banc court first looked at the Texas Supreme Court case, which held money and stock shares were “intangible” personal property for the purpose of taxation.  Another Texas Court of appeals also found that money was “not a ‘tangible chattel…”  Since this court’s previous decision, two other Texas appeals courts also found money is not “tangible personal property.”  There were similar holdings in other states.

After reviewing the other cases, the en banc court found money and stock shares are not tangible personal property under section 9.003. The two year statute of limitations therefore did not apply to bar the wife’s claim for enforcement.

The husband also argued the trial court erred in modifying the property division in the decree, but the en banc court found the order did not modify the property division.

The en banc court vacated the previous appeals court opinion and affirmed the trial court.

In this case, the statute of limitations did not apply. It would, however, bar enforcement for tangible personal property.  Property division should occur promptly after the divorce.  If your former spouse fails to transfer the property that has been awarded to you within a reasonable amount of time, you should talk to an experienced Texas divorce attorney to determine if you should take action to enforce the property division.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to schedule a consultation.

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