Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth
COUNTY COURT AT LAW NO. 1 OF PARKER COUNTY TRIAL COURT NO.
WALKER, MEIER, and PITTMAN, JJ
Jerry Shad Robbins appeals from the trial court's
judgment finding that he breached a fiduciary duty to his
former wife Rhonda Garrett Robbins, awarding her all the net
proceeds from the sale of what remained of the former marital
residential property (the Property), and ordering him to pay
her attorney's fees of $2, 500. We reverse and render
judgment that Rhonda take nothing.
Rhonda and Jerry Divorced in 2004.
and Jerry divorced in June 2004. The agreed decree did not
characterize the Property but contained the following
provisions concerning it:
Dealing with Sale of Residence
IS FURTHER ORDERED AND DECREED that the property and all
improvements located thereon at all that certain lot, tract
or parcel of land lying and being situated in Parker County,
Texas and being Lot 7, Block 2 of the Spring Branch Acres
Addition Subdivision, and having a street address of 825
Highway 199 East, Springtown, Parker County, Texas shall be
sold under the following terms and conditions:
1. The parties shall list the property for sale with Jim
Bransom, Dunn and Elam Realtors.
2. The property shall be sold for a price that is mutually
agreeable to Petitioner and Respondent. If Petitioner and
Respondent are unable to agree on a sales price, on the
application of either party, the property shall be sold under
terms and conditions determined by a court-appointed
3. Petitioner shall continue to make all payments of
principal, interest, taxes, and insurance on the property
until the property is sold and Petitioner shall have the
exclusive right to enjoy the use and possession of the
premises until closing. All maintenance and repairs necessary
to keep the property in its present condition shall be paid
4. The net sales proceeds (defined as the gross sales price
less cost of sale and full payment of any mortgage
indebtedness or liens on the property) shall be distributed
as follows: each party shall receive fifty percent of the net
In 2016, Rhonda Filed a Motion to Enforce the Divorce
Decree and a Breach-of-Fiduciary-Duty Claim.
twelve years after the divorce, in March 2016, Rhonda filed a
motion for enforcement, claiming that Jerry failed to comply
with the divorce decree's provisions for dealing with the
sale of the Property and failed to cooperate with the selling
of the Property and seeking that he be held in contempt. She
also sought clarification of the decree if any part of it was
found not to be "specific enough to be enforced by
contempt, " brought a breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim
against Jerry, and requested attorney's fees, expenses,
costs, and interest.
support of her enforcement-by-contempt claim, Rhonda alleged,
• She and Jerry had mutually agreed not to sell the
Property until their children had graduated from high school;
• In 2012, the house sustained fire damage, and the
insurance company sent Jerry and Rhonda checks to pay off
their mortgage loan and for damages to the Property;
• One check was made payable to both Jerry and Rhonda in
the amount of $56, 385.36;
• Jerry "willfully withheld the proceeds" from
Rhonda and spent the money on illegal drugs;
• Jerry forged Rhonda's name on a $13, 444.33
insurance check made payable to both, and she received less
than half of the proceeds only after litigation;
• She was awarded $3, 000 in attorney's fees in that
case, but Jerry never paid them;
• Since Jerry kept the insurance proceeds, she could not
pay to repair the Property;
• The City of Springtown ultimately condemned the
Property and charged Rhonda for the demolition and house
removal expenses, which she paid-$4, 150; and
• Jerry was responsible for the loss in the
Property's value: $109, 060.00 in 2011 to $38, 000 in
2016, a $71, 060.00 drop.
requested that Jerry be ordered "to fully cooperate in
the sale of the [P]roperty, including but not limited to
signing any and all documents necessary for the sale, "
and that the Property be sold with all proceeds to be awarded
breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim, Rhonda alleged,
14. Respondent had a fiduciary duty to protect Movant's
interest and not commit any acts which would damage the
community property until it was sold. Respondent plotted and
carried out a plan to actually defraud Petitioner, Respondent
committed actual fraud by withholding disbursements from the
insurance company in regards to the property from Petitioner.
His willful actions lead to the property not being properly
restored and led to the property decaying, having to be
bulldozed, and a significant decrease in the value of the
property in the amount of $71, 000.00. Respondent squandered
the money that was intended to be used to fix the community
property on illegal drugs. Respondent has spent and wasted
community funds at a time when Respondent knew or should have
known that Petitioner would have objected to these
expenditures. Movant should therefore receive all the
proceeds from the sale of the property located at 825 E.
Highway 199, Springtown, Texas.
Jerry Filed an Answer, and the Trial Court Granted His Motion
to Personally Appear at Trial.
pro se answer, Jerry alleged, (Image Omitted)
• He possessed real estate contracts that Rhonda had
cancelled because she would not agree to sell the Property;
• The receipts and contracts were in storage;
• The City Council had approved rebuilding the house on
the Property; and
• The house under construction was torn down while he
was in jail.
filed a motion for a bench warrant,  which the trial court
granted, and Jerry appeared personally at trial.
THE BENCH TRIAL
The Trial Court Resolved Introductory Matters Before Hearing
had filed a motion for continuance before trial, and at
trial, he indicated that he was not ready to proceed because
he did not have the necessary documentary evidence. The trial
court "proceed[ed] anyway." At the trial
court's direction, Rhonda's lawyer specified
Jerry's alleged contemptible conduct: "We are asking
that the court hold [Jerry] in contempt for failing to
cooperate with the sale of the [P]roperty." The trial
court warned that the lawyer would "have to be very
specific in that regard." The trial court also pointed
out that the breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim was not an
enforcement claim but would, if successful, result in a civil
judgment. Rhonda's lawyer spelled out the relief
requested-reimbursement for Rhonda's "portion of the
marital property that was damaged due to [Jerry]'s
actions" and attorney's fees. Finally, at
Rhonda's lawyer's request, the trial judge took
judicial notice of the documents already on file.
Rhonda's Testimony ...