IN THE MATTER OF THE MARRIAGE OF YOSSEF ELABD AND SONIA ELABD AND IN THE INTEREST OF J.E., E.E. AND S.E., CHILDREN
the County Court at Law No. 2 Brazos County, Texas Trial
Court No. 17-000880-CVD-CCL2
Chief Justice Gray, Justice Davis, and Justice Neill
E. NEILL, JUSTICE
three issues, appellant, Yossef Elabd, complains about the
final divorce decree signed by the trial court. Specifically,
Yossef argues that: (1) the evidence is legally insufficient
to support the trial court's determination that appellee,
Sonia Elabd, is entitled to spousal maintenance; (2) the
trial court abused its discretion by awarding Sonia $1, 500
per month in spousal maintenance; and (3) the trial court
abused its discretion by making a disproportionate division
of the community estate. Because we overrule all of
Yossef's issues, we affirm.
first issue, Yossef complains that the spousal-maintenance
award is not supported by legally-sufficient evidence.
Specifically, Yossef contends that because the trial court
made no findings concerning Sonia's minimum reasonable
needs, and because no such findings can be implied from this
record, Sonia was not entitled to spousal maintenance. We
Applicable Law & Standard of Review
maintenance is an award of "periodic payments from the
future income of one spouse for the support of the other
spouse." Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.001(1) (West
2006). The purpose of spousal maintenance is "to provide
temporary and rehabilitative support for a spouse whose
ability to self-support is lacking or has deteriorated over
time while engaged in homemaking activities and whose capital
assets are insufficient to provide support."
O'Carolan v. Hooper, 71 S.W.3d 529, 533 (Tex.
App.-Austin 2002, no pet.).
8.051 of the Family Code governs a spouse's eligibility
for spousal maintenance. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann.
§ 8.051 (West Supp. 2018). As relevant to the instant
case, section, 8.051(2) provides that a spouse is eligible to
receive spousal maintenance if the spouse seeking
(A) is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for the
spouse's minimum reasonable needs because of an
incapacitating physical or mental disability;
(B) has been married to the other spouse for 10 years or
longer and lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to
provide for the spouse's minimum reasonable needs; or
(C) is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age
who requires substantial care and personal supervision
because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the
spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for the
spouse's minimum reasonable needs.
Id. § 8.051(2). It is undisputed that
subsection (B) is the sole provision of section 8.051(2) that
is at issue in this case. Id. § 8.051(2)(B).
is a rebuttable presumption that maintenance under section
8.051(2)(B) is not warranted unless the spouse seeking
maintenance has exercised diligence in developing the
necessary skills to provide for the spouse's minimum
reasonable needs during a period of separation and during the
time the suit for dissolution of the marriage is pending.
Id. § 8.053(a)(2) (West Supp. 2018). The term
"minimum reasonable needs" is not statutorily
defined. Slicker v. Slicker, 464 S.W.3d 850, 860
(Tex. App.-Dallas 2015, no pet.) (citing Cooper v.
Cooper, 176 S.W.3d 62, 64 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.]
2004, no pet.)). Rather, minimum reasonable needs is a
fact-specific inquiry, which the courts determine on an
individualized, case-by-case basis. Id. (citing
Amos v. Amos, 79 S.W.3d 747, 749 (Tex. App.-Corpus
Christi 2002, no pet.)).
review an award of spousal maintenance under an
abuse-of-discretion standard. Dunn v. Dunn, 177
S.W.3d 393, 396 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2005, pet.
denied). A trial court abuses its discretion when it rules
arbitrarily, unreasonably, without regard to guiding legal
principles, or without supporting evidence. Id.
Under the abuse-of-discretion standard, legal and factual
sufficiency of the evidence are not independent grounds for
asserting error, but they are relevant factors in assessing
whether the trial court abused its discretion. Id.
Because of the overlap between the abuse-of-discretion and
sufficiency-of-the-evidence standards of review, we engage in
a two-step analysis to determine whether the trial court (1)
had sufficient information on which to exercise its
discretion and (2) erred in its application of that
discretion. Day v. Day, 452 S.W.3d 430, 433 (Tex.
App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2014, pet. denied). "In
determining the first prong, '[w]e apply the same
standards when reviewing the legal and factual sufficiency of
the evidence supporting the trial court's fact findings
as we do when reviewing the evidence supporting a jury's
answer to a special issue.'" Id. (quoting
Dunn, 177 S.W.3d at 396).
prevail on a legal-sufficiency challenge on an issue for
which the opposing party had the burden of proof, the
complaining party must show that there is no evidence that
would enable reasonable and fair-minded people to reach the
verdict under review. City of Keller v. Wilson, 168
S.W.3d 802, 827 (Tex. 2005). When reviewing a
legal-sufficiency challenge, we consider all of the evidence
supporting the judgment, "credit[ing] favorable evidence
if reasonable jurors could, and disregard[ing] contrary
evidence unless reasonable jurors could not."
Id. We consider the evidence in the light most
favorable to the findings and indulge every reasonable
inference that would support them. Id. at 822.
Entitlement to Spousal Maintenance Under Section
noted above, Yossef asserts that the spousal-maintenance
award should be reversed because the trial court did not make
sufficient factual findings with regard to Sonia's
"minimum reasonable needs" in its findings of fact,
and because the award cannot be supported by presumed
findings under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 299.
See Tex.R.Civ.P. 299. Rule 299 governs whether we
may presume omitted findings of fact to support a judgment.
Id. Specifically, Rule 299 provides:
When findings of fact are filed by the trial court they shall
form the basis of the judgment upon all grounds of recovery
and of defense embraced therein. The judgment may not be
supported on appeal by a presumed finding upon any ground of
recovery or defense, no element of which has been included in
the findings of fact; but when one or more elements thereof
have been found by the trial court, omitted unrequested
elements, when supported by evidence, will be supplied by
presumption in support of the judgment. Refusal of the court
to make a finding requested shall be reviewable on appeal.
Id. In other words, if a party secures an express
finding on at least one element of a ground of recovery or
defense, then deemed findings may arise as to the balance of
the elements. See Howe v. Howe, 551 S.W.3d 236, 245
(Tex. App.-El Paso 2018, no pet.) (citations omitted);
see also Smith v. McDonald, No. 12-12-00165-CV, 2013
Tex.App. LEXIS 11769, at ...