Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
IN THE MATTER OF THE MARRIAGE OF ANGIE DOUTHIT AND CHARLEY L. DOUTHIT
Appeal from the 223rd District Court Gray County, Texas Trial
Court No. 38, 821, Honorable Phil N. Vanderpool, Presiding
CAMPBELL and PIRTLE and PARKER, JJ.
C. PARKER JUSTICE
Angie Douthit, appeals the trial court's characterization
of an asset and denial of her reimbursement claim incident to
her divorce from appellee, Charley L. Douthit. We affirm.
and Angie were married in 2010. Angie filed a petition for
divorce from Charley in 2017. A final decree of divorce was
filed on February 1, 2018, following a bench trial. In this
appeal, Angie challenges the trial court's determinations
that (1) the parties' residence, located at 1900 Hamilton
in Pampa, is Charley's separate property, and (2) the
community estate is not entitled to reimbursement for
improvements to another tract of Charley's separate
court's division of a marital estate is reviewed for
abuse of discretion. Murff v. Murff, 615 S.W.2d 696,
698 (Tex. 1981). A trial court abuses its discretion when it
acts arbitrarily or unreasonably, without reference to
guiding rules and principles. Iliff v. Iliff, 339
S.W.3d 74, 78 (Tex. 2011). However, the mere fact that a
trial judge may decide a matter within its discretionary
authority in a different manner than an appellate judge would
in a similar situation does not demonstrate that an abuse of
discretion has occurred. Sw. Bell Tel. Co. v.
Johnson, 389 S.W.2d 645, 648 (Tex. 1965) (citing
Jones v. Strayhorn, 321 S.W.2d 290, 295 (1959)).
review a family law case under the abuse of discretion
standard, challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence do
not constitute independent grounds of error but are relevant
factors in determining whether the trial court abused its
discretion. Van Hooff v. Anderson, No.
07-14-00080-CV, 2016 Tex.App. LEXIS 466, at *8 (Tex.
App.-Amarillo Jan. 14, 2016, no pet.) (mem. op.) (citing
Boyd v. Boyd, 131 S.W.3d 605, 611 (Tex. App.-Fort
Worth 2004, no pet.)). In determining whether the trial court
abused its discretion by deciding an issue without sufficient
evidentiary support, "we engage in a two-pronged
inquiry: (1) did the trial court have sufficient evidence
upon which to exercise its discretion, and (2) did the trial
court err in its application of that discretion?"
Boyd, 131 S.W.3d at 611.
as Separate Property
first issue challenges the trial court's determination
that the parties' residence, located at 1900 Hamilton in
Pampa, is Charley's separate property. The 1900 Hamilton
property was conveyed from Jerry and Traci Douthit
(Charley's son and daughter-in-law) to Charley and Angie
by warranty deed dated October 29, 2014. Both Charley and
Angie testified that the property was acquired in a trade
with Charley's son, Jerry, and that no other
consideration was given. Charley testified that he traded a
ten-acre tract of land he owned before marriage in exchange
for the 1900 Hamilton property. Angie, however, contends that
the residence cannot be traced back to Charley's separate
property, because the evidence failed to establish
Charley's ownership of the ten-acre tract which was
traded for the residence.
Texas law, property possessed by either spouse during or on
dissolution of the marriage is presumed to be community
property, in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to
the contrary. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 3.003 (West 2006).
To overcome the community presumption, the spouse claiming
certain property as separate property has the burden to trace
and clearly identify the property claimed to be separate.
Estate of Hanau v. Hanau, 730 S.W.2d 663, 667 (Tex.
1987). A spouse's separate property consists of, inter
alia, "the property owned or claimed by the
spouse before marriage." Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
3.001 (West 2006) (emphasis added). And, as is relevant here,
"[p]roperty acquired in exchange for separate property
becomes the separate property of the spouse who exchanged the
property." Ridgell v. Ridgell, 960 S.W.2d 144,
148 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 1997, no pet.) (citing
Dixon v. Sanderson, 10 S.W. 535, 536 (Tex. 1888)).
position fails to account for the full statutory definition
of separate property. Although Charley did not produce a deed
or other documentation reflecting his ownership of the
ten-acre tract that was traded for the 1900 Hamilton
property, he did present evidence that he claimed
the tract before marriage, even though he had not yet
obtained the legal title or evidence of title. Charley
testified that he purchased the tract from his brother Bob
years before his marriage to Angie. At the time of Bob's
death, he had not yet transferred title to Charley. Charley
paid the taxes on the property for years, and both he and
Bob's widow, Gwen, understood that Charley owned the
property. When Charley decided to trade the property to his
son Jerry in exchange for the 1900 Hamilton property, Gwen
agreed to simply convey the tract directly to Jerry. Thus,
Charley's evidence showed that the ten-acre tract was
property that he claimed before marriage. See Sauvage v.