Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana
IN THE MATTER OF THE MARRIAGE OF ANGELA LYNN LEWIS AND MARTIN PAUL LEWIS
Submitted: December 9, 2019
Appeal from the County Court at Law Bowie County, Texas Trial
Court No. 18-D-0158-CCL
Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.
K. Burgess Justice.
result of Angela Lynn Lewis's petition for divorce from
her husband, Martin Paul Lewis, the trial court granted a
"no-fault" divorce in accordance with Section 6.001
of the Texas Family Code. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann.
§ 6.001. In dividing community property, the trial court
(1) awarded each party their own retirement accounts and two
horses, (2) awarded Martin a Ford Fusion and the
"cheaper of the two horse trailers," (3) awarded
Angela a "2007 truck" and the "more expensive
of the two horse trailers," and (4) assigned
responsibility for any debts associated with the property
they were awarded. In addition, the trial court found Martin
responsible for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) debt
associated with early withdrawals from his retirement
account, which he secreted from Angela and failed to report
on their joint tax return. However, the court ordered the
parties to split the fees for the certified public accountant
(CPA) who assisted Angela in receiving innocent spouse relief
from the IRS.
appeal, Angela argues that the trial court erred in failing
to enter findings of fact and conclusions of law and that its
division of community property was inequitable because (1)
Angela should have received half of the remaining balance of
Martin's retirement account since he made early
withdrawals from the account, (2) Martin should have been
required to pay all of the CPA's fees, (3) Angela should
have been awarded the Ford Focus, and (4) the trial court
should have found Martin liable for tax delinquencies for
every year of their marriage. We find that the lack of
findings of fact and conclusions of law did not result in
harmful error and that the trial court's division of
community property was not an abuse of discretion.
Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's judgment.
The Evidence at Trial
and Angela married in 2004. In 2011 or 2012, Martin retired
from his job at Fay-J Packaging, where he had worked since
approximately 1987. At the time of his retirement, the value
of his retirement annuity was $234, 000.00. Unbeknownst to
Angela, Martin began withdrawing sums from his retirement
account to pay for rent, pay a $15, 000.00 loan and other
debts, build a barn, buy horses, and purchase pest control
equipment to start his own business. Martin testified that he
continued to withdraw money even when he was working because
he could not cover the bills. Angela testified that Martin
transferred hundreds of dollars into their joint account to
pay household bills and expenses associated with the care of
their four horses. Angela also testified that Martin built a
barn on property that they were renting, which cost $2,
300.00 in materials. By the time of trial, Martin had drawn
his retirement account "down to about [$]50, 000."
admitted that he hid the withdrawals from his retirement
account from Angela, that he did not report them on joint tax
returns for several years, and that as a result, the parties
owed the IRS approximately $20, 000.00. Although their tax
returns were always filed jointly, Angela testified that she
had never signed a tax return since the beginning of their
marriage. Angela also testified that she was shocked when she
discovered notices of deficiencies from the IRS for 2008,
2012, and 2014.
their separation in 2017, Angela met with Robby Selph, a CPA,
who filed for and obtained innocent spouse status from the
IRS for Angela for 2008, 2012, and 2014. Selph testified that
Angela also received a deficiency notice for tax year 2015
and was in the process of obtaining innocent spouse status
for that year. He informed the trial court of a proposed
delinquency for 2016, which had not yet been assessed, and
said that Angela would file her 2017 tax return separately.
Angela's bill for Selph's services was $3, 000.00,
and she testified that she wished for Martin to pay those
Selph testified that Angela received no benefit from the
funds withdrawn from Martin's retirement account, the
evidence from Martin and Angela showing that Martin
contributed to household bills showed otherwise. In addition
to that evidence, Martin also testified that he sent money to
Angela after their separation for horse feed, shoeing, and
veterinarian bills for the horses, including one bill
totaling $2, 000.00. Angela admitted that Martin was no
longer living in their rental home and that she was
benefitting from the barn on the rental property. Notably,
there was no evidence showing that the $180, 000.00 withdrawn
from the retirement account benefited Martin's separate
estate as opposed to the community estate.
asked the trial court to award her one-half of the balance in
Martin's retirement account after he paid the IRS
deficiencies. Angela also testified that she had worked
during the entire marriage and that taxes were withdrawn from
her paycheck. There was no testimony as to whether Martin or
Angela made more money or who had accrued more money in their
retirement accounts. She was employed by DeKalb Physicians
Clinic for the past three and a half years, had worked for
Dr. Michael Saldino for six years before that, and was
employed by other doctors and James Bowie Independent School
District before that.
asked about division of other property, Martin testified that
he would like to have one of the vehicles that was parked on
the rental property occupied by Angela, one of the two horse
trailers, and horses Deacon and Boss. When asked about the
vehicles parked on the rental property, Angela testified that
there was a Ford Fusion and a Dodge truck, prompting the
Q. You said you have a Ford truck. What model is it?
A. Mine is a Dodge.
Q. A Dodge truck, I'm sorry.
A. Mine is a ...