Appeal from the 312th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2015-09767
CONSISTS OF CHIEF JUSTICE RADACK AND JUSTICES HIGLEY AND
RADACK CHIEF JUSTICE.
Francisco Arellano, appeals the portion of a divorce decree
that awarded spousal maintenance to appellee, Katherine
Arellano. In two issues on appeal, Francisco argues that (1)
Katherine failed to rebut the presumption against spousal
maintenance and (2) the trial court erred in awarding spousal
maintenance for the maximum duration.
and Francisco were formally married on November 26,
2005.Francisco filed for divorce on February 19,
2015. Although the parties were not formally married until
2005, Katherine testified that she and Francisco married in
1999 when she was 16-years old. During the marriage,
Katherine and Francisco had two children, ages 13 and 10.
at age 16, Katherine lived in a home with Francisco and her
step-son. Throughout the marriage, Katherine testified that
Francisco prohibited her from working outside the home,
Francisco paid for all of the bills and food, and she handled
the housecleaning and cooking. She also attended
parent-teacher meetings for her step-son.
Katherine testified that Francisco never allowed her to work
outside the home, she finished high school, earned credits at
the Houston Community College, and started classes at the
Coleman College for Health Sciences to become a surgical
technologist. Katherine stated that she nearly finished the
surgical-technology program, but Franciso prevented her from
finishing her classes. When asked if she could return to this
program, she testified that she could not because students
cannot return if they dropped out after finishing half the
Francisco filed for divorce in 2015, Katherine started
working as a waitress for a Saltgrass restaurant. By the time
of trial, she had changed jobs to work at Babies R Us. She
testified that she receives $1, 553.57 in monthly income and
that her expenses are between $3, 800 and $3, 389. She
explained that even including $500 a month in child support,
she would not have enough money to reach her reasonable
needs. She agreed that her current job does not allow her to
pay for her reasonable minimal needs and that she currently
does not have the educational background to get a better job.
When asked if she had researched what it would take to
educate herself to get a better job so she can earn enough
money to afford her reasonable minimal needs, Katherine
answered "yes, " and explained that she has
researched several programs to find better jobs. She
elaborated that an educational program would take two years
to complete if she could attend full-time, but because she is
working and caring for two children, her best guess is that
the educational program would take "maybe five, maybe
six years because of the rotations, the clinical hours."
also testified that earlier in the divorce, CPS required her
to obtain fulltime employment, which prevented her from
retraining herself or looking for another job. And, if she
stopped working at Babies R Us, she would have been in
violation of CPS's service plan.
cross-examination, Katherine testified that since working at
Babies R Us, she had only applied for one other job, but she
did not get a return phone call or interview. She agreed that
since August of last year, she had not applied for other jobs
that paid more than her current wage of $11.22 an hour. She
also clarified she had to drop out of the educational program
because she had missed so many days. When asked whether
Francisco caused her to not finish the program, Katherine
testified, "I'm not going to blame anybody, but it
definitely would have helped if he had let me go to school
and finish the program." She admitted that since January
of 2015, she has not tried to start any new educational
testified that Katherine never cooked for him. Francisco also
disagreed that he did anything to stop her from attending
school or finishing school. Francisco claimed that she missed
school because she was drunk, and he stopped her from going
to school one time because she was drunk. He testified that
he never stopped her from getting a job and that since she
had been working at Babies R Us, he has not prevented her
from getting another job.
trial court granted the parties a divorce, divided the
marital estate, and ordered Francisco to pay Katherine $1,
305.43 per month in spousal maintenance. Francisco appeals
the spousal maintenance award.
review a trial court's ruling on spousal maintenance
under an abuse of discretion standard. Day v. Day,
452 S.W.3d 430, 433 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2014, pet.
denied). A trial court abuses its discretion when it acts in
an arbitrary or unreasonable manner, or when it acts without
reference to any ...