IN THE MATTER OF THE MARRIAGE OF JOSE EUGENIO RANGEL AND CATALINA TOVIAS-RANGEL
Appeal from the 311th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2015-68294
consists of Justices Wise, Jewell, and Bourliot.
Tovias-Rangel appeals from a final decree of divorce
dissolving her marriage to Jose Eugenio Rangel. In her first
four issues, Catalina complains that the trial court abused
its discretion by excluding certain evidence, the cumulative
effect of which denied her a fair trial and probably caused
an improper judgment. In a fifth issue, Catalina asserts that
the trial court's equal disposition of the marital
residence was manifestly unjust because it is unsupported by
factually sufficient evidence.
affirm the judgment.
and Jose Eugenio Rangel married in 1996 and separated in
2015. They have two children. Jose filed an original petition
for divorce, and Catalina filed a counter-petition.
parties agreed to a mediated settlement agreement addressing
custody of the children and child support. The parties also
agreed on terms regarding the division of the community
estate except for the home purchased during the marriage. The
only issues at trial involved the grounds for divorce and
division of the marital residence. On these matters, Catalina
complains that the trial court abused its discretion by
excluding evidence in three categories: (1) Catalina's
separate property contribution to the purchase of the marital
home; (2) Catalina's sole assumption of marital residence
expenses during the marriage; and (3) Catalina's personal
observation of her husband's "public display of
intimacy with an alleged affair partner." We discuss the
record regarding these arguments in more detail below.
trial court granted the divorce, ordered the marital
residence sold, and ordered the sale proceeds divided equally
among Catalina and Jose.
filed a motion for new trial and to reform the judgment.
Catalina attached a declaration to the motion that detailed
certain facts to which she said she would have testified had
the trial court not excluded those matters. In the motion,
Catalina asked the trial court to reform the judgment and
award the marital residence to her. Alternatively, Catalina
sought a new trial on the marital residence issue.
trial court held a hearing on the motion. Catalina's
counsel called Catalina as a witness, but the trial court
sustained Jose's objection to the consideration of new
evidence. The trial court denied the motion.
discuss Catalina's first three issues together because
they are grounded on the argument that the trial court
wrongly excluded evidence.
first issue, Catalina argues that the trial court erroneously
excluded evidence involving her use of separate property as a
down payment on the marital residence. In her second issue,
Catalina claims the trial court erred in excluding evidence
that she paid the mortgage, insurance, and taxes on the
marital residence for over two years without Jose's
assistance and in part from her separate property. In her
third issue, Catalina contends that the trial court
erroneously excluded her testimony that she saw Jose's
public display of intimacy with an alleged affair partner.
direct examination, Catalina was asked how the marital
residence was purchased. Jose's counsel objected on the
basis that "any testimony about a down payment on the
home or any other claims of reimbursement" had not been
pleaded. The trial court sustained the objection.
Catalina's counsel responded, "In my pleading, I
addressed division of community property and requested a
disproportionate share of the parties? . . . Would that not
address the -- what we're discussing about the main
residence?" The trial court responded, "Right.
Counsel, I've stated several times that that is a
contested issue, whether or not the division of this estate
should be disproportionate or not. So, yes, you may go into
why it should be disproportionate. However, a down payment on
a residence is not a disproportionate
counsel then stated that Catalina made other payments
regarding the residence after Jose moved out, specifically
house payments, insurance and taxes. Jose again objected that
the described evidence went to an unpleaded claim for
reimbursement. The trial court sustained the objection.
Catalina's counsel passed the witness.
an exchange occurred during Catalina's direct examination
that forms the basis of her third issue:
Q. Do you know Ms. Norma?
Q. What do you think is the relationship between Mr. Rangel
A. He went to live at the house where he used to live. And
several times he took her to parties where my children and I
were. And he ...