Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont
Submitted on July 5, 2017
Appeal from the 1st District Court Jasper County, Texas Trial
Cause No. 33819
McKeithen, C.J., Horton and Johnson, JJ.
Edwin Waring seeks to reverse several of the trial
court's rulings that addressed the division and
characterization of property in his divorce. We conclude the
evidence admitted during the trial supports the trial
court's findings, and we affirm the terms in the final
Factual and Procedural Background Jack Edwin Waring and
Felicia Phillips married in 2012 but separated in 2014.
Approximately eleven months before marrying Felicia, Jack
purchased a tractor and several attachments from a tractor
dealership in Beaumont, Texas. Jack signed a five-year note
to finance approximately $26, 000 of the purchase price on
the equipment that he purchased from the dealership.
April, 2014, Felicia sued Jack for divorce. In the live
pleadings before the court when the case was tried, Felicia
and Jack alleged that they owned various assets before they
married. Each asked the trial court to characterize certain
assets as separate property, and the property at issue in the
appeal is the tractor that Jack purchased in 2011 in
Beaumont. Additionally, Jack complains in his appeal that the
trial court erred in characterizing the entire bonus he
received from his employer in May 2014 as community property,
and he claims the majority of it should have been
characterized as his separate property because he earned the
bonus over the life of a project that began before he and
parties' disputes were resolved in a trial to the bench.
During the trial, Felicia provided the trial court with an
inventory. The inventory listed the various assets she
claimed as community property, assets she claimed as her
separate property, and it listed the bonus and the tractor
among the assets on which the parties had a dispute.
Felicia's inventory reflects that she was claiming Jack
gave her the tractor as a gift before she and Jack married.
Documents admitted into evidence in the trial show that Jack
purchased the tractor on November 11, 2011, almost a year
before he and Felicia married. The evidence also shows that
Jack made all of the monthly installments due on the tractor
since he purchased it in 2011.
witnesses, other than Felicia, testified in support of
Felicia's claim that Jack gave her the tractor as a
Christmas gift: Colleen Phillips (Felicia's mother) and
Gerald Lewis (a man who Jack and Felicia hired to build
fences). Generally, their testimony tends to support
Felicia's claim that the tractor was given to her as a
gift. Felicia testified in the trial that Jack purchased the
tractor and gave it to her around Christmas in 2011 so that
she could use it to clear some land that her father owned.
Other testimony in the trial, including Jack's, indicates
that before they married, Felicia and Jack were remodeling a
house on a farm that her Father owned but did not farm.
testified that Jack told him that "he was going to get
[the tractor] for [Felicia] for a Christmas present and
that's what was brought up as a gift to Felicia for a
Christmas gift." Lewis explained that he believed Jack
purchased the tractor around the time Jack and Felicia
married. Lewis also testified that after the tractor arrived
at the farm, he began using it. The context of Lewis's
testimony indicates the farm he was referring to is the farm
owned by Felicia's father.
testified that after Jack purchased the tractor, she was at a
farmhouse that Jack and Felicia were remodeling when Jack
asked her whether she had seen what he got Felicia for
Christmas. According to Colleen, Jack made the statement
while referring to the tractor, which was out in the yard.
Collen testified that she told Jack that a tractor seemed
like a strange Christmas present, but she thought Felicia
might like something like that because Felicia liked to farm.
Jack testified, he disputed Felicia's claim that the
tractor was a gift. Jack stated that he could not recall
having any conversations with Colleen or Lewis about giving
Felicia the tractor as a Christmas present. Jack also denied
that he would have purchased Felicia a $30, 000 Christmas
present months before they married. Jack explained that he
purchased the tractor in his name in November 2011, and he
stated that although he is generous, he would never have
given Felicia such an expensive present before they married.
According to Jack, he gave Felicia a bracelet and a ring on
Christmas Day in 2011, gifts that were wrapped and in boxes.
Jack also testified that the tractor was not wrapped or
accompanied by anything such as a card to indicate that he
intended to give the tractor away as a gift. Jack agreed that
when he purchased the tractor, it was to be used on a farm
owned by Felicia's father. Jack described the farm before
he and Felicia began working on it as overgrown and he
testified that the farm had not been used for years. Jack
agreed that after he purchased the tractor, Felicia used it
on the farm. However, Jack explained that he and Lewis also
used it on the farm. Jack testified that as of the trial, he
was still making installment payments that he owed on the
and Felicia also addressed the bonus Jack received from his
employer in May 2014. The inventory in evidence reflects that
Felicia claimed the entirety of the bonus as community
property. Felicia asked the trial court to divide the bonus
equally. In contrast, Jack asked the trial court to prorate
the bonus over the four-year and eight-month period that he
claimed the bonus had been earned while he was working on a
project in Canada. Jack characterized approximately 82% of
the bonus as his separate property, using a formula that he
asked the trial court to use to characterize a large
percentage of the bonus as his separate property. Felicia
testified that Jack did not know he was getting the bonus
until the project in Canada ended, and that Jack had not
earned the bonus over the life of the project. According to
Felicia, Jack earned the bonus during their marriage. Neither
Jack nor Felicia presented any documents from Jack's
employer during the trial to support their testimony about
how Jack's bonus had been earned.
the trial, the trial court reduced its findings of fact and
conclusions of law to writing. In its written findings, the
trial court characterized the tractor as Felicia's
separate property because it found that Jack had given the
tractor to Felicia as a Christmas present before he married.
The trial court allocated the outstanding balance of the note
on the tractor to Jack as ...