Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
FREDERIKC W. DOBBINS, APPELLANT
CASSANDRA L. DOBBINS, APPELLEE
Appeal from the 360th District Court Tarrant County, Texas
Trial Court No. 360-535647-13, Honorable Michael K. Sinha,
QUINN, C.J., and CAMPBELL and PIRTLE, JJ.
T. Campbell Justice.
an appeal from the trial court's order denying
post-decree relief requested by appellant Frederikc W.
Dobbins after a final decree was entered in his divorce from
appellee Cassandra L. Dobbins. He presents three issues, all
addressing the property division aspects of the divorce
decree. We will affirm.
parties were married in May 1981. Appellee wife filed for
divorce in April 2013 and husband filed a counter-petition
for divorce. The parties tried the case in June 2014, each
party appearing pro se. The court later held a
hearing to resolve differences between the parties regarding
the terms to be incorporated into the decree. The court
signed the final decree of divorce in November 2014. Husband
filed a timely motion for new trial. The court held a hearing on
the motion, at which no evidence was received. The court
signed no written order disposing of the motion for new
trial. Husband later filed the pleading made the subject of
this appeal, entitled "Motion for Clarification of
Divorce Decree & Post-Judgment Motion to Divide Community
Debts & Assets." The court held an additional
hearing, and signed an order denying husband's motion. It
is from this order husband now appeals.
post-judgment motion discusses several topics other than the
decree's division of the marital property and the
parties' debts, but as noted, only the property division
aspects are addressed on appeal. The motion itself gives a
reader little understanding of the relief sought. The motion
contains a series of paragraphs containing factual assertions
and argument, some of which assert inadequacies in the
decree's provisions for payment of the parties'
children's expenses, some of which rehash evidence and
arguments presented at previous hearings, and some of which
argue for additional decretal language addressing marital
assets and debts. Some paragraphs make reference to events
that occurred after the signing of the decree. The motion
concludes with the assertion "[j]ustice will not be
properly served unless the above issues are resolved, "
and the prayer "that the Court resolves (sic) the issues
motion does not make reference to provisions of Chapter 9 of
the Texas Family Code but, to the extent the motion sought
clarification of the decree and division of assets and debts,
the parties treated it as the initiation of post-decree
proceedings authorized by that chapter. See Tex.
Fam. Code Ann. §§ 9.001, 9.201 (West 2017).
Wife's responsive pleading is entitled "original
answer" and contains a general denial. See Tex.
Fam. Code Ann. § 9.001(b) (except as otherwise provided
in Chapter 9, suit to enforce decree "shall be governed
by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure applicable to the
filing of an original lawsuit"). At the court's
hearing on husband's motion, his counsel also indicated
that the relief sought was that authorized by Chapter 9.
evidence in support of husband's motion was introduced at
the hearing. For support of the motion, the court heard only
argument of counsel. It is apparent from the hearing record
that the court struggled to understand which paragraphs of
husband's pleading properly called for clarification of
the decree and whether there was marital property left
appeal, husband raises three issues. He contends the trial
court erred by: (1) failing to divide certain community
assets and debts; (2) refusing to grant the motion for
clarification of the divorce decree; and (3) refusing to
grant the post-judgment motion to divide community debts and
assets. In his argument, husband focuses on his motion's
assertions that the decree's property division failed to
address some of the parties' debt and one of their joint
bank accounts. He refers also to his motion's assertion
that the decree's division of their household goods was
unworkable because it awarded each party the items in the
party's possession or subject to the party's control
but most of the household goods were still in the marital
home and had not been divided between them. Wife argued at
the hearing, and contends on appeal, that the decree
reflected a proper just and right division of all the marital
estate and their debts.
apply an abuse of discretion standard to review of the trial
court's ruling on a post-divorce motion for clarification
of a divorce decree. Murray v. Murray, 276 S.W.3d
138, 143 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2008, pet. dism'd) (citing
In re Marriage of McDonald, 118 S.W.3d 829, 832
(Tex. App.-Texarkana 2003, pet. denied)). A court that
renders a divorce decree retains jurisdiction to clarify and
enforce the decree's property division. Pearson v.
Fillingim, 332 S.W.3d 361, 363 (Tex. 2011) (citing Tex.
Fam. Code Ann. §§ 9.002, 9.008). In doing so,
however, the court may not amend, modify, alter or change the
division of property made or approved in the decree. Tex.
Fam. Code Ann. § 9.007; Pearson, 332 S.W.3d at
363. "The court may specify more precisely the manner of
effecting the property division previously made or approved
if the substantive division of property is not altered or
changed." Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 9.006(b).
record presented, we are unable to say the trial court abused
its discretion by denying husband relief under the pleading
filed. As noted, the court was presented with no evidence in
support of the relief requested. We note also that the
appellate record contains no reporter's record from the
June 2014 trial. No findings of fact or conclusions of law
were requested or made following that trial. Accordingly, we
have no way of determining whether the decree's
provisions for division of the marital property and debts are
supported by the evidence presented at trial or whether,
under the evidence presented at trial, the decree's
provisions require clarification. Moreover, at least some of
the clarifications for which counsel for husband argued at
the hearing would require modification of the decree, not
merely clarification. See In re W.L.W., 370 S.W.3d
799, 803 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2012, orig. proceeding)
(attempt to obtain order that alters or modifies divorce
decree's property division is impermissible collateral
attack) (citation omitted).
same reasons, we see no abuse of discretion in the trial
court's denial of a division of property under section
9.201. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 9.201; see Harton
v.Wade, No. 12-12-00158-CV, 2013 Tex.App.
LEXIS 6343, at *3 (Tex. App.-Tyler May 22, 2013, no pet.)
(released for publication) (reviewing post-decree division
for abuse of discretion). Without a record of the evidence
presented at trial of their divorce proceeding, it is not
possible to determine whether the decree's provisions
left undivided any asset described by the evidence at trial.
Further, from our review of the record, we would say that the
court did not abuse its discretion in its implicit finding
that the decree fully divided the parties' assets and
debts, even if the arguments of ...