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Arellano v. Arellano

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

January 4, 2018


         On Appeal from the 312th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2015-09767




         Appellant, 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.

         We affirm.


         Katherine and Francisco were formally married on November 26, 2005.[1]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.

         Starting 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.

         Although 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 program.

         After 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."

         She 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.

         On 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 programs.

         Francisco 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.

         The 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.


         Standard of Review

         We 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 ...

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