Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
appeal from the 135th District Court of DeWitt County, Texas.
Chief Justice Valdez and Justices Rodriguez and Benavides
V. RODRIGUEZ Justice.
an appeal from a divorce decree which divided the marital
estate of appellant Rudy Cardenas and appellee Caroline
Cardenas. By five issues, Rudy challenges multiple aspects of
the divorce decree and the related findings of fact. We
affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.
and Caroline were married in August 2008. They moved into a
house located at 113 Dorothy Street in Cuero, Texas (113
Dorothy) which Rudy had acquired before the marriage. In
2013, Rudy took out a loan of $30, 000, and Caroline used the
proceeds of this loan to purchase the house at 115 Dorothy
Street (115 Dorothy). Caroline testified that she ended the
relationship in March of 2014 and moved into 115 Dorothy. She
petitioned for divorce in May 2014. A bench trial was held in
August 2015. In December 2015, the trial court entered its
final decree of divorce, adopting Caroline's unsworn
inventory and proposed division of property. Shortly
thereafter, the trial court entered findings of fact and
conclusions of law.
first issue, Rudy contests the trial court's finding that
115 Dorothy was Caroline's separate property. By his
remaining issues, he argues that the trial court abused its
discretion in characterizing and dividing three other
properties: Rudy's IRA account, improvements made to 113
Dorothy using community funds, and a 2010 camper trailer.
Standard of Review
review the trial court's division of property to
determine whether the trial court abused its discretion by
making a division that was manifestly unjust and unfair.
Vandiver v. Vandiver, 4 S.W.3d 300, 303 (Tex.
App.-Corpus Christi 1999, pet. denied). The values of
individual properties are evidentiary to this issue of a just
and right division. LeBlanc v. LeBlanc, 761 S.W.2d
450, 453 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 1988), writ
denied, 778 S.W.2d 865 (Tex. 1989). A trial court has
wide discretion in making such a division. Handley v.
Handley, 122 S.W.3d 904, 907 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi
2003, no pet.). An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial
court rules (1) arbitrarily, unreasonably, or without regard
to guiding legal principles, or (2) without supporting
evidence. Ford Motor Co. v. Chacon, 370 S.W.3d 359,
362 (Tex. 2012) (per curiam). With regard to ruling without
supporting evidence, there is no abuse of discretion if some
probative record evidence supports the trial court's
findings. In re Barber, 982 S.W.2d 364, 366 (Tex.
1998) (orig. proceeding). As the finder of fact for the
proceeding, the trial court is the exclusive judge of the
credibility of the witnesses, the weight to be given their
testimony, and the best means to resolve inconsistencies in
the evidence. Handley, 122 S.W.3d at 911.
Characterization of 115 Dorothy as Separate Property
first issue, Rudy challenges the trial court's decree
that 115 Dorothy was Caroline's separate
property. He argues that Caroline failed to prove by
clear and convincing evidence that Rudy gave her 115 Dorothy
as a gift.
undisputed at trial that in September 2013, Rudy took out the
$30, 000 loan in his name only. Caroline used the proceeds
from that loan to purchase the adjacent property from their
neighbor. The general warranty deed listed the grantee as
"Caroline Cardenas, a married woman dealing with her
sole and separate property."
testified that Rudy had offered to give 115 Dorothy to her as
a gift, to do with as she pleased. According to Caroline, the
couple jointly consulted a lawyer to arrange for the house to
be Caroline's separate property. The couple's pastor
also appeared at trial and testified that Rudy had described
his plan to give the house to Caroline as a gift.
recounted events differently. Rudy explained that the pastor
had misunderstood him; he had meant that Caroline would
receive the house in the future in case anything happened to
him, not that he intended to give the property to Caroline as
a gift. Instead, according to Rudy, he intended to own the
property jointly with Caroline as an investment, to improve
it and to possibly rent it out, but not to give it to
Caroline as separate property. Rudy testified that he asked
Caroline to take the $30, 000 from the couple's checking
account and purchase the 115 Dorothy property in both their
names, and that Caroline solely handled this transaction
because Rudy was out of town and there was a narrow window in
which he could buy the property from their neighbor, who was