One Shot at a “Just and Right” Division of Community Property
Laypersons often believe that a court will divide the marital estate 50/50. However, courts often do not divide marital property equally. One prominent Texas case illustrates this point. In 1981, the Texas Supreme Court heard the Murff case. Murff v. Murff, 615 S.W.2d 696 (Tex. 1981). In Murff, the appellate court overturned the trial court’s division of the marital estate. The Supreme Court, in turn, reversed the appellate court’s ruling and affirmed the trial court’s division of the martial estate:
“The trial court in a divorce case has the opportunity to observe the parties on the witness stand, determine their credibility, evaluate their needs and potentials, both social and economic. As the trier of fact, the court is empowered to use its legal knowledge and its human understanding and experience. Although many divorce cases have similarities, no two of them are exactly alike. Mathematical precision in dividing property in a divorce is usually not possible. Wide latitude and discretion rests in these trial courts and that discretion should only be disturbed in the case of clear abuse.”
Because trial courts have such wide discretion, trial court rulings are usually not overturned in family law matters. One important lesson, then, is to secure the desired results at the trial court level.