Opinions, August 13, 2015

Today, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals released its Memorandum Opinion in Vasudevan v. Vasudevan, No. 14-14-00765-CV (Tex.App.–Houston [14th Dist.] Aug. 13, 2014). The parties were married in 1992 and divorced after a bench trial in May 2014 on the grounds of insupportability and cruelty. The husband filed a motion for new trial which was denied after hearing. The husband asserted seven errors on appeal.

Characterization: The husband argued the trial court mischaracterized the wife’s separate property, a Chase business account and an interest in a limited partnership. The trial court determined that the wife successfully overcame the community property presumption by establishing she inherited the funds in the business account and then used a portion of those funds to purchase the partnership interest. The husband’s characterization challenge was overruled.

Evidentiary Rulings: The husband challenged the trial court’s exclusion of evidence that the wife supposedly concealed gold bars and coins. The evidence offered by the husband in support was inadmissible for various reasons (it was either hearsay or unauthenticated).  The husband also challenged the trial court’s exclusion of other evidence, but inadequately briefed the issue, so the challenge was denied.

Trial Judge Bias: The husband alleged the trial judge was biased but did not file a motion to recuse, nor did he identify any evidence the judge should have been disqualified.

Division of Community Property: The husband requested that the community be divided unequally, with him receiving 60%. But he did not request findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial court made oral statements on the record indicating the values the court assigned to the certain assets, but those statements do not constitute findings of fact, nor do the respective inventories filed by the parties. Also, whether or not the wife received a larger share than the husband was disputed. Consequently, it was impossible for the Court of Appeals to determine if the trial court abused its discretion in making the division.

Denial of Motion for New Trial: The husband’s motion did not state specifically his grounds for the motion. At the hearing, the husband alleged the trial court abused its discretion by granting the divorce on the grounds of cruelty because, according to him, there was no evidence he was cruel to the wife. The Court of Appeals found the evidence was legally and factually sufficient to support the divorce being granted on fault grounds as the wife provided uncontroverted evidence the husband was physically abusive during the marriage and threatened to burn down the house with her and their daughter inside.

The trial court was affirmed on all counts.

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