Is Reimbursement Really Necessary?

One of the situations when “reimbursement” can occur arises when one marital estate (the husband’s separate estate, the wife’s separate estate or the community estate) pays the debt of one of the other estates. But nominal payments, or payments for living expenses (among others) are not reimbursable. See Subchapter 3(E) of the Texas Family Code.

Reimbursement Despite Jury Verdict

In Mora v. Mora, No. 04-12-00638-CV (Tex. App. – San Antonio Feb. 26, 2014) (mem. op.), the jury found that the wife’s separate estate was not entitled to any reimbursement from the community estate. However, the trial court found that during the course of the marriage, the wife “put approximately $300,000 of her inherited funds into the marriage and the community consumed these funds for various living expenses and vacations.” The trial court then took these expenditures into account when it divided the parties’ community estate.

The Husband’s Appeal

On appeal, the husband complained that the trial court had made an improper reimbursement award. The husband contended that the wife had not traced the $300,000. However, the record did include evidence that the $300,000 had indeed been spent as the trial court found. It was appropriate for the trial court to consider these expenditures when dividing the community estate. Further, there was no requirement that the wife trace the expenditures.

Is Reimbursement Needed?

Even if the evidence supported a reimbursement claim, a reimbursement claim is equitable in nature. A trial court need not necessarily include reimbursement in a divorce decree. Because a trial court is free to consider separate money spent to benefit the community estate – whether paying down debt or merely paying living expenses – is there really any need for reimbursement law?

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