Reimbursement: What Is It? Who Might Be Entitled to It?

Reimbursement claims have a specific meaning in the Texas Family Code (TFC). Reimbursement claims are equitable in nature and fact intensive but can be difficult to prove and put a monetary value on the claim.

Texas has three marital property estates:

  1. The community estate, which is both spouses’ community property
  2. The wife’s separate estate
  3. The husband’s separate estate

The purpose of a reimbursement claim is to recover specific contributions made by one marital estate to another marital estate, which can be monetary, as well as contributions of labor and skill.

A claim for reimbursement includes, but is not limited to, a payment by one marital estate of the unsecured liabilities of another marital estate, inadequate compensation for the time, toil and talent and effort of a spouse by a business entity under the control and direction of that spouse, the reduction of the principal amount of a debt secured by a lien on separate property, capital improvements to property and the reduction of the community property estate of an unsecured debt incurred on the separate estate of one of the spouses.

To prove a claim for reimbursement, the spouse seeking reimbursement must establish that the contribution was made by one marital estate to another, the contribution was reimbursable and the value of the contribution. This must be proved by clear and convincing evidence.

Sometimes, estates are so co-mingled that it’s almost impossible to determine a claim for reimbursement.

Generally the following cannot be reimbursed:

  1. The payment of known child support obligations, unless the payments for child support have not been disclosed, i.e. child support payments of a child born outside a marriage; alimony or spousal maintenance
  2. The living expenses of a spouse or child of a spouse
  3. Contribution of property of a nominal value
  4. Payment of a liability of a nominal amount
  5. A student loan