Schlueter v. Schlueter – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Schlueter v. Schlueter, 975 S.W.2d 584 (Tex. 1998), in the parties' suit for divorce, the wife filed a counterclaim against her husband and a claim against her father-in-law for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy on the allegation that, prior to the filing of the divorce action, the husband transferred various "community" assets to his father. (Texas is a community property state.)

The tort claims were tried to a jury, which found in favor of the wife. Based upon the jury's finding, the trial court declined to divide the community property equally, but exercised its discretion to distribute a larger share of the assets to the wife. The court also awarded the wife punitive damages.

The Texas Supreme Court reversed the judgment in part, holding that the discretion courts in Texas have to render a "just and right" distribution of community property upon divorce (i.e., not to divide it equally), accords a wronged spouse an adequate remedy for fraud on the community, and therefore "there is no independent tort cause of action between spouses for damages to the community estate." Id. at 585.