Division of community property and punitive damages

| Dec 2, 2010 | Divorce |

As to punitive damages, the Texas court reasoned that heightened culpability does not change the essential character of the wrong:  a deprivation of community assets as opposed to a tort committed against a person or his or her separate property.  A recovery of punitive damage requires a finding of an independent tort with accompanying actual damages.  

The Texas court held that because of the holding in Schlueter there is no independent tort cause of action for wrongful disposition by spouse of community assets, the wronged spouse may not recover punitive damages from the other spouse.  The Court did however state that despite the inappropriateness of the punitive damages, it is a logical extension of a standard that calls for a just and right division to allow the Court to consider that a spouse not only deprive the community of assets to the detriment of the other spouse, but may have done so with dishonesty of purpose or intent to deceive.