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Alfayoumi v. Alzoubi

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

March 9, 2017

FADI ALFAYOUMI, Appellant,
v.
THARWAH ALZOUBI, Appellee.

         On appeal from the 197th District Court of Cameron County, Texas.

          Before Chief Justice Valdez and Justices Benavides and Hinojosa

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROGELIO VALDEZ Chief Justice

         After a marriage that lasted fourteen years, appellant Fadi Alfayoumi and appellee Tharwah Alzoubi filed cross petitions for divorce. Following a bench trial, the trial court entered a final decree of divorce. By one issue, Alfayoumi contends the trial court erred in awarding Alzoubi $5, 000 per month in spousal maintenance. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.001 (1) (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.). By three cross issues, Alzoubi contends the trial court erred in: (1) failing to appoint her as managing conservator of two children born of the marriage, see Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 153.131; (2) failing to grant the divorce based on cruel treatment, see Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 6.002; and (3) failing to reconstitute the community estate based on fraud, see Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 7.009. We affirm.[1]

         I. Spousal Maintenance

         Alfayoumi's sole issue on appeal challenges the trial court's decision to award Alzoubi spousal maintenance. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.001(1).

         A. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         We review the trial court's decision to award spousal maintenance for an abuse of discretion. See Lopez v. Lopez, 55 S.W.3d 194, 198 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2001, no pet.). A trial court does not abuse its discretion if there is some evidence of a substantive and probative character to support the decision. Id.

         Spousal maintenance is an award of "periodic payments from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse." See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.001(1). The purpose of spousal maintenance is "to provide temporary and rehabilitative support for a spouse whose ability for self-support is lacking or has deteriorated over time while engaged in homemaking activities and whose capital assets are insufficient to provide support." O'Carolan v. Hopper, 71 S.W.3d 529, 533 (Tex. App.-Austin 2002, no pet.).

         Family code section 8.051(2)(B) provides that a spouse is eligible to receive spousal maintenance if the spouse "lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse's minimum reasonable needs[.]" Id. § 8.051(2)(B). There is a rebuttable presumption that maintenance under section 8.051(2)(B) is not warranted unless the spouse seeking maintenance has exercised diligence in developing the necessary skills to provide for the spouse's minimum reasonable needs during a period of separation and during the time the suit for dissolution of the marriage is pending. Id. § 8.053(a)(2). The term "minimum reasonable needs" is not statutorily defined. Slicker v. Slicker, 464 S.W.3d 850, 860 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2015, no pet.) (citing Cooper v. Cooper, 176 S.W.3d 62, 64 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, no pet.)). Instead, minimum reasonable need is a fact-specific inquiry, which courts determine on a case-by-case basis. Slicker, 464 S.W.3d at 860 (citing Amos v. Amos, 79 S.W.3d 747, 749 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2002, no pet.)).

         Courts consider several factors in determining spousal maintenance. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052. These factors include: the financial resources, age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance; the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income; the contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse; the contribution of a spouse as homemaker; any history or pattern of family violence; and the comparative financial resources of the spouses. Id.

         B. Analysis

         The record shows that after Alzoubi and Alfayoumi separated from each other, Alzoubi resumed her pursuit of a career in the medical profession by returning to college for the purpose of obtaining a master's degree in nursing. Based on this evidence, the trial court could have found that Alzoubi overcame the presumption disfavoring spousal maintenance on the basis that she demonstrated diligence in developing the necessary skills to provide for her minimum reasonable needs by returning to college. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.053(a)(2).

         The record further shows that Alzoubi put her professional career on hold during her fourteen-year marriage and became a homemaker for Alfayoumi and their two children. See id. § 8.052. While Alzoubi labored in this role for many years, Alfayoumi had the opportunity to attend and graduate from medical school. See id. At the time of trial, Alfayoumi reported a yearly salary of approximately $500, 000 working as a medical doctor. Moreover, although Alfayoumi denied a history of family violence, Alzoubi maintained that Alfayoumi beat her several times ...


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