Top 20 Texas Family Law Cases Case 3: GLEICH v. BONGIO.
We continue with the third case in our Top 20 Texas Family Law Cases series, GLEICH v. BONGIO. This case helped Texas divorce attorneys settle the definition of community property during a Texas divorce settlement.
Community Property in Texas Divorce Cases
GLEICH v. BONGIO, 99 S.W.2d 881 (Tex. 1937)
GLEICH v. BONGIO Background
Felix and Bertha were divorced in 1930. During the marriage, numerous plots of land were purchased using a combination of Felix’s separate property and a loan secured by a vendor’s lien.
The Court Decision
Money borrowed on a community obligation is community property. Similarly, property acquired on the credit of the community is community property. So, when a spouse buys property with some of his separate funds, but also incurs a debt for part of the purchase price based on the credit of the community, this creates a tenancy in common between the separate and community estates in the proportion that each estate supplied consideration.
Significance of Case
In Texas, in 1937, women did not have property rights. Although they could own property if they came into the marriage with it, their husband had the legal right to manage it during coverture.
Therefore, there was some discrepancy among the courts as to what happens when the husband buys the property with his separate funds while still taking a loan during a marriage. It is likely that, in practice, the characterization of property purchased in such a way was largely fact driven. In other words, if the trial court was sympathetic to the wife, it might find community ownership.
The Gleich Court settled this issue once and for all, and the concept of proportional ownership has carried over to today.
Interestingly, this concept of proportional ownership was not codified until 1999 in Texas Family Code § 3.006.
“If the community estate of the spouses and a separate estate of a spouse have an ownership interest in property, the respective ownership interests of the marital estates are determined by the rule of inception of title.”
Texas Family Code § 3.006
Top 20 Texas Family Law Cases: CAMERON v. CAMERON
Next week will go over case number 4, CAMERON v. CAMERON, a case that settled the confusion around separate personal property in Texas.