Appeal from the 328th District Court Fort Bend County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 13-DCV-208648
consists of Justices Keyes, Bland, and Huddle.
appeal concerns the division of property between divorcing
spouses. In three issues, Ada Ukah Brown argues that the
trial court erred by (1) awarding Bright O. Wokocha a
disproportionate share of the marital estate, (2)
mischaracterizing some of Brown's separate property as
community property, and (3) failing to award attorney's
fees to James O. Okorafor, who represented third-party
defendants in the trial court, including Brown's three
daughters from a previous marriage and various business
entities. We affirm.
and Wokocha married in April 2004. They separated in
September 2011, and Brown filed for divorce in August 2013.
Wokocha countersued in October 2013, alleging breach of
fiduciary duty and fraud claims against Brown and several
business entities. He subsequently amended his petition to
include claims for fraudulent transfer, intentional
infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy, and
he added Brown's three adult daughters and additional
business entities as co-respondents. Some of the business
entities were owned or operated by Brown and Wokocha. Wokocha
alleged that other of the business entities were created at
Brown's behest in the name of Brown's daughters with
community funds in an effort to defraud the community estate.
trial, the daughters moved for summary judgment and the trial
court granted their motion. The parties subsequently tried
the case to the bench. The trial court entered a final decree of
divorce which divided the marital estate between Brown and
Wokocha. Brown appealed.
second issue, Brown contends that the trial court abused its
discretion by awarding Wokocha a disproportionate share of
the marital estate.
Standard of Review and Applicable Law
review a trial court's division of marital property for
an abuse of discretion. Barras v. Barras, 396 S.W.3d
154, 164 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2013, pet. denied).
The trial court has broad discretion when dividing the
marital estate at divorce. Murff v. Murff, 615
S.W.2d 696, 698 (Tex. 1981). If the evidence demonstrates a
reasonable basis for doing so, a trial court may order a
disproportionate division of the community property.
Id. at 698-99 & n.1. "To disturb a trial
court's division of property, a party must show that the
court clearly abused its discretion by a division or an order
that is manifestly unjust or unfair." Barras,
396 S.W.3d at 164. A trial court abuses its discretion if it
acts unreasonably or arbitrarily, or without reference to any
guiding rules or principles. Id.; Evans v.
Evans, 14 S.W.3d 343, 346 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th
Dist.] 2000, no pet.) (citing Worford v. Stamper,
801 S.W.2d 108, 109 (Tex. 1990)). A trial court does not
abuse its discretion if there is some evidence of a
substantive and probative nature to support the decision.
Barras, 396 S.W.3d at 164.
order to determine whether the assets of the community estate
were divided in a "just and right" manner, an
appellate court must have the trial court's findings on
the value of those assets. Vasudevan v. Vasudevan,
No. 14-14-00765-CV, 2015 WL 4774569, at *4 (Tex. App.-Houston
[14th Dist.] Aug. 13, 2015, no pet.) (mem. op.) (citing
Wells v. Wells, 251 S.W.3d 834, 840-41 (Tex.
App.-Eastland 2008, no pet.)). Without findings of fact, the
appellate court does not know the basis for the division, the
values assigned to the community assets, or the percentage of
the marital estate that each party received. Id.
(citing Hallum v. Hallum, No. 01-09-00095-CV, 2010
WL 4910232, at *6 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] Dec. 2,
2010, no pet.) (mem. op.)); Funderburgh v.
Funderburgh, No. 12-08-00428-CV, 2010 WL 2982906, at *2
(Tex. App.-Tyler July 30, 2010, no pet.) (mem. op.);
Wells, 251 S.W.3d at 840-41. Property inventories
filed by the parties cannot serve as a substitute for
findings of fact by the trial court. Id. (citing
Funderburgh, 2010 WL 2982906, at *2). In the absence
of trial court findings, we presume the trial court made all
the necessary findings to support its judgment. Id.
(citing Wells, 251 S.W.3d at 838); Hallum,
2010 WL 4910232, at *6. Thus, if a party does not request
findings of fact from the trial court, a party cannot
establish whether the trial court intended the division to be
equal or disproportionate, and if disproportionate, what
factors the trial court found to warrant an unequal
distribution if one was intended. Wade v. Wade, No.
01-13-00912-CV, 2014 WL 3398393, at *4 (Tex. App.- Houston
[1st Dist.] July 10, 2014, no pet.) (mem. op.) (citing
Tate v. Tate, 55 S.W.3d 1, 10 (Tex. App.-El Paso,
2000, no pet.)).
argues that the trial court abused its discretion by awarding
Wokocha a disproportionate share of the marital estate.
Wokocha responds that the award was not disproportionate, and
that, even if it were, the record supports a disproportionate
award because ...