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Delgado v. Delgado

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso

August 21, 2019


          Appeal from the 388th District Court of El Paso County, Texas (TC# 2015DCM5202)

          Before McClure, C.J., Rodriguez, and Palafox, JJ.



         This is an appeal from a decree of divorce dissolving the marriage between Appellant Martha A. Delgado ("Wife") and Appellee Jose Luis Delgado ("Husband"), and dividing the couple's community property. Wife challenges the property division, which she asserts disproportionately favors Husband.


         The parties ceased living together as husband and wife in May 2015. In July 2015, Husband filed for divorce on the ground of insupportability. He testified at trial that Wife had been unfaithful, and also that she had stopped cooking and cleaning for him and an adult son who still lived at home.[1] He acknowledged asking her to give him her front door key, but denied kicking her out of the marital residence. Wife, on the other hand, testified that Husband was drunk, took her keys, and kicked her out of the house.

         Husband is a high school graduate with one year of university education. He testified that although Wife did not graduate from high school, her English skills are better than his. Husband's gross wages are approximately $2, 100 per month. His weekly take-home pay is $335. He has diabetes and high blood pressure, and is considering applying for disability. He has a 401(k) valued at approximately $9, 000, against which he took a $7, 000 loan, which he is repaying through payroll deductions.

         Wife testified concerning a variety of jobs she has held in the past, including a job as a secretary, one assisting a business with its accounting, and one making telephone collections. Husband acknowledged that Wife worked off and on during the marriage, but testified that she did not help pay any of the household bills other than groceries. He indicated that she used much of her earnings to buy herself clothes. Wife testified, though, that she did buy some things for the house, such as a microwave. At the time of trial, Wife was living with her daughter and helping care for her grandchildren. The daughter was paying her approximately $1, 200 per month.

         Husband testified that the marital residence has a value of approximately $80, 000 to $90, 000, with a mortgage balance of $8, 000 to $9, 000. The parties stipulated that the home was appraised for tax purposes at $94, 000. All of the couple's furniture is paid for, as is Husband's 2009 Honda Accord. Husband pays $412 monthly for a 2012 Mercedes owned by the couple's son, Jose Delgado, Jr., and $242 monthly for a 2014 Hyundai Genesis owned by another son, Brandon Delgado.

         At the time of trial, Wife was driving a 2012 Honda Pilot, which her daughter was helping her pay for. She testified that she has a number of credit cards in her name but that she stopped paying on those cards when she left the marital residence. She also testified that she did not put any additional charges on those cards after that time.

         On March 23, 2017, the trial court signed a document titled, "Findings and Orders of Final Divorce" ("Findings and Orders"), which reflects the court's rulings on the couple's property. Husband is awarded the marital residence, the 2009 Honda Accord, and his 401(k). He is responsible for paying the mortgage on the home, as well as the debt on the 2012 Mercedes and the 2014 Hyundai. Wife is awarded $34, 000, paid in $250 installments over the course of 136 months, as well as a couch, Christmas tree, and decorations that she had specifically requested. She is responsible for paying "debt in her name."

         On June 27, 2017, the trial court signed a final decree of divorce dissolving the couple's marriage on the ground of insupportability. The decree incorporates the rulings reflected in the Findings and Orders with further details. One such detail is that the monetary award to Wife shall bear zero percent interest. The decree also states that Wife is responsible to pay debts solely incurred by her after May 2015, rather than "debts in her name." Wife now appeals from the final decree of divorce.


         In five issues, Wife asserts that the trial court abused its discretion by (1) dividing the marital estate without sufficient information before it; (2) dividing the marital estate in a manner that is manifestly unfair or unjust to Wife; (3) treating the debt on two cars as community debt but not treating the cars as community assets; (4) granting Wife a money judgment instead of ordering the community residence sold and the proceeds divided; and (5) ordering that the money judgment in Wife's favor bear zero percent interest.


         "In a decree of divorce or annulment, the court shall order a division of the estate of the parties in a manner that the court deems just and right, having due regard for the rights of each party and any children of the marriage." Tex.Fam.Code Ann. § 7.001. The court's determination of a just and right property division is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Murff v. Murff, 615 S.W.2d 696, 698 (Tex. 1981); Kaftousian v. Rezaeipanah, 511 S.W.3d 618, 621 (Tex.App.-El Paso 2015, no pet.).

         "A trial court enjoys wide latitude in dividing the marital estate, and we presume that the trial court properly exercised its discretion in reaching its decision. Accordingly, we will not overturn that decision unless the complaining party demonstrates that it was so unjust and unfair as to constitute an abuse of discretion." [Citations omitted]. Kaftousian, 511 S.W.3d at 621; see Mann v. Mann, 607 S.W.2d 243, 245 (Tex. 1980). Our review employs a two-pronged analysis: "(1) Did the trial court have sufficient information upon which to exercise its discretion?[;] and (2) Did the trial court abuse its ...

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