Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the 166th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2017-CI-17710 Honorable Stephani A. Walsh, Judge
Sitting: Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice, Beth Watkins, Justice
Liza A. Rodriguez, Justice
A. Rodriguez, Justice
Brent Mansfield ("Brent") appeals a final decree of
divorce. In his first issue on appeal, Brent contends the
trial court erred in including the monthly payments he
receives from a pre-marital structured settlement annuity in
the amount of his net resources. In his second and third
issues, Brent contends the trial court erred in calculating
the amount of child support and medical support he was
ordered to pay. Finally, Brent contends the trial court erred
in awarding conditional appellate attorney's fees to the
appellee. We affirm.
2010, Brent was involved in a work-related accident. In 2014,
Brent entered into a settlement agreement with his employer.
As part of the settlement, Brent's employer paid a
structured settlement company $1, 750, 000 which the
structured settlement company used to purchase a Single
Premium Annuity Contract. Under the terms of the annuity
contract, Brent receives $6, 970 per month. The payments
began on July 1, 2014, and end on the later of: (1) the date
of Brent's death; or (2) June 1, 2044 (360 months). The
structured settlement company is the owner of the annuity
and Stormie were married on November 12, 2016, and they had
one daughter, A.M., who was born on June 16, 2017. On
September 14, 2017, Stormie filed the underlying divorce
proceeding. The only issues upon which the parties did not
agree and that were submitted to the trial court for a
decision were whether and what amount of child support and
medical support the parties would be ordered to pay.
April 10, 2018, the trial court held a hearing on temporary
orders and concluded the annuity payments received by Brent
were resources under section 154.062 of the Texas Family
Code. In entering the final divorce decree, the
trial court also included the annuity payments in Brent's
resources for purposes of calculating the child support and
medical support the trial court ordered Brent to pay.
of Structured Settlement Annuity in Net Resources
first issue, Brent contends the trial court erred in
calculating his net resources to include the monthly annuity
payments. In his second and third issues, Brent contends that
if the trial court erred in including the monthly annuity
payments in calculating his net resources, then the trial
court erred in calculating the amount of child support and
medical support Brent was ordered to pay.
we review issues regarding child support and medical support
under an abuse of discretion standard. See Ochsner v.
Ochsner, 517 S.W.3d 717, 721 (Tex. 2016); Alvarez v.
Alvarez, No. 04-13-00787-CV, 2015 WL 1938700, at *1
(Tex. App.-San Antonio Apr. 29, 2015, no pet.) (mem. op.);
Brendel v. Brendel, No. 04-08-00883-CV, 2009 WL
3789604, at *9 (Tex. App.-San Antonio Nov. 11, 2009, no pet.)
(mem. op.). However, "[a] trial court has no
'discretion' in determining what the law is or
applying the law to the facts." Walker v.
Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 840 (Tex. 1992). Whether the
annuity payments in this case are included in the statutory
definition of "resources" under section 154.062 of
the Texas Family Code presents an issue of statutory
construction which is a question of law that we review de
novo. Colorado County v. Staff, 510 S.W.3d 435, 444
construing a statute, our primary objective is to give effect
to the Legislature's intent." Id. "We
seek that intent 'first and foremost' in the
statutory text." Id. "Where text is clear,
text is determinative." Ochsner, 517 S.W.3d at
720. "[C]ourts must construe [a] statute's words
according to their plain meaning because changing the meaning
of [a] statute by adding words to it . . . is a legislative
function, not a judicial function." Ferreira v.
Butler, 575 S.W.3d 331, 337 (Tex. 2019) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Stated differently, "[w]e
cannot rewrite [a] statute under the guise of interpreting
it." In re Ford Motor Co., 442 S.W.3d 265, 284
(Tex. 2014). Accordingly, a court's interpretation of a
statute must be one that "'expresses only the will
of the makers of the law, not forced nor strained, but simply
such as the words of the law in their plain sense fairly
sanction and will clearly sustain.'"
Ferreira, 575 S.W.3d at 337 (quoting Simmons v.
Arnim, 110 Tex. 309, 220 S.W. 66, 70 (1920)).
resolving Brent's first three issues, we must construe
the statutory definition of "resources" in section
154.062 to determine if the trial court erred in including
the monthly annuity payments in Brent's resources for
purposes of calculating the amount of child support and
medical support the trial court ordered Brent to pay. Under
section 154.062, the term "resources" is defined to
include "all other income actually being received,
including . . . annuities . . . ." Tex. Fam. Code Ann.
§ 154.062(b)(5). However, "[r]esources do not
include return of principal or capital." Id.
arguing the trial court erred in including the monthly
annuity payment as resources, Brent primarily relies on the
Waco court's decision in In re A.A.G., 303
S.W.3d 739 (Tex. App.- Waco 2009, no pet.). In that case,
"[t]he trial court excluded monies received from an
annuity created from the proceeds of a personal injury
settlement by creating a distinction between an annuity and a
settlement annuity for purposes of determining net resources
under Texas Family Code Section 154.062." Id.
at 740. After reviewing the dictionary definition of
"annuity," the Waco court noted "there are
multiple definitions of an annuity," and "there are
also many types of annuities for different purposes."
Id. at 741. The Waco court then reviewed the
dictionary definition of "principal" and stated the
issue presented was whether the ...