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Top 20 Texas Family Law Cases: ANDERSON v. GILLILAND

Top 20 Texas Family Law Cases Case 1: ANDERSON v. GILLILAND.

Family law cases are some of the most stressful and emotional cases to try. For a San Antonio family lawyer, understanding the most important cases in Texas can help you easily navigate through your own difficult cases. That is why we have put together the top 20 family law cases and how they shaped Texas family law as we know it today.

Reimbursement Claims in Texas Family Law

Prior to ANDERSON v. GILLILAND, 684 S.W.2d 673 (Tex. 1985), Texas courts were divided on how to value reimbursement claims.


Mrs. Gilliland owned property prior to marrying Mr. Gilliland. During the marriage, the couple spent $20,237.89 to build a home on Mrs. Gilliland’s separate property land. After Mr. Gilliland died, his daughter, Terri Anderson, requested that a reimbursement claim for the house be included on the estate’s inventory. The trial court ordered Mrs. Gilliland to include in the inventory “an amount equal to one-half of the enhancement resulting from the improvements.”

The Dallas appellate court held that the “proper measurement of reimbursement” was the enhancement of value or the cost of the improvements, whichever was less. The Court rendered judgment in the amount of one-half of the $20,237.89, less one-half of the outstanding mortgage of $10,154.00.

The Court Decision

The Supreme Court held that the one and only measurement of value for a reimbursement claim was the enhancement in value. The Court acknowledged that this measurement was the only way to be fair to both the contributing and benefiting estate.

Significance of Case

The various courts of appeals in Texas were divided on how to value a reimbursement claim. The Fort Worth and Waco courts of appeals had held that enhancement in value was the proper way to value a reimbursement claim. The Texarkana, Corpus Christi and Houston [1st District] courts of appeals held that the value of a reimbursement claim was the enhancement in value, or cost, whichever was less. Yet another appellate court held that the measurement of a reimbursement claim was cost, regardless of the enhancement in value.

Much of the confusion among the appellate courts was based in part on a prior Supreme Court decision which seemed to indicate that cost and enhancement could be used to measure value.
So, since 1935, the intermediate appellate courts had interpreted Dakan differently, which caused a very big discrepancy in family law practice. Trial courts all over Texas were handling reimbursement claims differently.

The Anderson Court answered this question once and for all. In 1999, the Legislature enacted the economic contribution statute in an attempt to codify a formula for enhancement in value. By 2009, the statute was repealed, and Anderson was expressly codified as Texas Family Code § 3.402(d).

Top 20 Texas Family Law Cases: ARNOLD v. LEONARD

Next week will continue the top 20 cases series with case number two, ARNOLD v. LEONARD. This case helped clarify separate property in Texas family law.



Justin Morely | Family Law Attorney San Antonio

Justin Morley

Justin Morley primarily practices family law at Langley & Banack’s San Antonio and New Braunfels locations. Mr. Morley’s family law experience includes divorce, child custody, visitation, complex property divisions, alimony, paternity issues, prenuptial agreements, and adoption cases. He is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and a frequent writer and speaker on family law topics. Scene S.A named Mr. Morley a Rising Star in 2011 and one of the Best S.A. Lawyers in 2015.





Kristal Thomson | Family Lawyer San Antonio

Kristal Thomson

Kristal Thomson is a family law specialist, board certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She focuses on divorces with complex or high net worth estates and complicated custody issues. Her expertise is recognized state-wide through her numerous writing and speaking engagements and involvement in various family law related leadership positions. Ms. Thomson is one of only ten lawyers in San Antonio elected as a fellow to the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Specialists.


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