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Jones v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

May 4, 2017

YUNDLANDER JONES APPELLANT
v.
CLAUDE JONES APPELLEE

         FROM THE 325TH DISTRICT COURT OF TARRANT COUNTY TRIAL COURT NO. 325-507689-11

          PANEL: GABRIEL, J.; LIVINGSTON, C.J.; and SUDDERTH, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          PER CURIAM

         Appellant Yundlander Jones[2] (Wife), proceeding pro se, appeals from the trial court's January 7, 2016 corrected judgment dividing the existing community estate between her and appellee Claude Jones (Husband). Wife argues that the trial court ignored her evidence submitted in support of her claims for reimbursement and, therefore, abused its discretion by failing to order Husband to reimburse her these expenses. She further attacks the trial court's failure to file findings of fact and conclusions of law to support its judgment. We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its division of the community estate and that Wife's notice of past-due findings and conclusions was not timely filed.

         I. PROPERTY DIVISION

         Wife and Husband married in 2004 and were granted a divorce on March 22, 2013. Jones v. Jones, No. 02-13-00133-CV, 2014 WL 4105264, at *1 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth Aug. 21, 2014, pet. denied) (mem. op.). In the final decree, the trial court awarded Wife as her separate property a "community residence" located on Ransom Terrace in Fort Worth. Id. After Wife appealed, this court held that the Ransom Terrace property, which had been sold before the divorce, was erroneously included as a community asset, which "distorted the value of the community estate." Id. We affirmed the portion of the decree awarding Wife and Husband a divorce, but reversed and remanded to the trial court "the remainder of the trial court's judgment . . . for a new trial on the division of the community estate." Id.

         After the remand, Wife requested that the trial court, as part of its division of the community estate, award her reimbursement for the money she spent on a house located on Harness Circle in Fort Worth, for the money she spent to satisfy Husband's premarital debts, and for the premiums she paid on Husband's medical- and life-insurance policies. She further requested to be named the beneficiary of Husband's life-insurance policy if she were not awarded reimbursement for the premiums she previously paid. On October 9, 2015, the trial court held a hearing to determine the appropriate property division. The trial court awarded to Husband as his separate property the Harness Circle house.[3]The trial court then awarded all property, monies, cars, and personal effects in the parties' possession as their respective separate property. The trial court also awarded any life-insurance policies to the named insured as his or her separate property, "and any payment on that is their responsibility from this day forward." Finally, Husband and Wife were ordered to pay 50% "of all the credit cards as of December 2, 2012." The trial court denied Wife's reimbursement requests in a separate, summary order entered that same day.

         On January 14, 2016, Wife timely filed a motion for new trial requesting reimbursement for "her equity $58, 466.00" in the Harness Circle house, "liabilities incurred prior to marriage $12, 683.00, " and of her premium payments that she made on Husband's insurance policies "since April 2012." The trial court denied the motion on February 4, 2016. On February 12, 2016, Wife filed a request for findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the trial court's order denying her motion for new trial and again urged her claims for reimbursement. Thirty-two days later after the trial court failed to file findings and conclusions, Wife filed a notice of past-due findings and conclusions.

         Wife appeals from the trial court's property-division judgment, arguing that she was entitled to be named the beneficiary of Husband's life-insurance policy and to reimbursement for money she paid during the marriage to satisfy Husband's pre-marital debts, including payments on the Harness Circle house, such as homeowner's insurance and "association fees."[4] She further asserts that the trial court erred by failing to file findings and conclusions although she requested them and served notice that they were past due. Husband did not file an appellate brief in response to Wife's arguments. Although Wife raises six separate issues in the issues-presented section of her brief, she argues them collectively with no reference to a corresponding issue. Indeed, some of her numbered issues are not briefed in her argument portion. We will do the same and will merely address the arguments she briefs on the merits that we are able to identify, but will not attempt to tie these arguments back to a specific, numbered issue.

         II. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

         We first address her complaint directed to the lack of findings and conclusions supporting the trial court's denial of her motion for new trial. Even if such a request were appropriate under the facts of this case, Wife did not file her notice of past-due findings and conclusions within thirty days of her original request. Accordingly, she cannot complain on appeal about their absence. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 6.711(b) (West 2006); Tex.R.Civ.P. 297; Sonnier v. Sonnier, 331 S.W.3d 211, 216 (Tex. App.-Beaumont 2011, no pet.); Burns v. Burns, 116 S.W.3d 916, 922 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2003, no pet.).

         III. REIMBURSEMENT

         We turn now to Wife's arguments challenging the trial court's property division, which primarily focus on the trial court's denial of her requests for reimbursement. She points to monies she paid for Husband's "debts incurred before marriage in which she did not benefit"-"child support, " "bankruptcy payments, " "mortgage payment arrears, " "property lien due to back taxes, " and "homeowner assoc. past due fees." She also argues that she was entitled to reimbursement for the monies she paid for Husband's health-insurance premiums and for homeowner's insurance and association fees that "were paid monthly for eight years."

         A claim for reimbursement arises upon dissolution of a marriage when funds from one marital estate have been expended to benefit another marital estate. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 3.404(b) (West Supp. 2016). In disposing of such a claim, a trial court "shall apply equitable principles" first to "determine whether to recognize the claim after taking into account all the relative circumstances of the spouses, " and second to order a just and right division of the claim for reimbursement, "if appropriate, . . . having due regard for the rights of each party." Id. § 7.007 (West Supp. 2016); see also id. § 3.402(b) (West Supp. 2016). A spouse seeking reimbursement has the burden of pleading and proof to show that a contribution was made by one marital estate to another, that the contribution was reimbursable, and the value of the contribution. See id. § 3.402(e); Hinton v. Burns, 433 S.W.3d 189, 195 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2014, no pet.); Roberts v. Roberts, 402 S.W.3d 833, 838 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2013, no pet.) (en banc op. on reconsideration). A trial court has broad discretion to determine a ...


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