Divorce is rarely simple, but, like many things, it is a little more complicated in Texas. Unlike most states, Texas uses community property guidelines to govern how couples divide assets and debts in divorce. However, unlike most other states that use community property guidelines, Texas uses “equitable” division instead of typical 50/50 property division.
Even in divorce, Texans have to deal with matters being a little more complex and special. Practically speaking, this means that property division in a divorce is an intricate process, especially when there are significant assets at stake.
If you anticipate divorce, or are already in the middle of it, it is always wise to consult with an experienced attorney who understands how to navigate this complicated area while remaining professional and fair.
What is community property?
In broad terms, community property is anything you or your spouse owns that either or both of you acquired during your marriage, prior to the date of your separation.
This might include
– real estate like a family home- a business that one or both spouses own- either spouse’s income during the marriage- interest from investments earned during the marriage- personal consumer debts- mortgages
While this is not an exhaustive list of community property, it can give you a decent understanding of what types of property must generally submit to division in a divorce settlement.
What is not community property?
It is not always as simple to determine what is not community property. If you or your spouse gained a piece of property or debt prior to your marriage, then it is possibly separate property. Likewise, if one spouse receives a gift or inheritance, these assets generally qualify as separate property.
Separate property can include
– a home one spouse bought prior to marriage- inheritance, in some circumstances- personal gifts to only one spouse- income one spouse earns after separation
However, keeping separate property separate is often more difficult than one might think. In many cases, property that might otherwise remain separate converts to community or semi-community property because spouses commingled assets.
Commingling usually occurs when one spouse uses or contributes to the property of the other. If your spouse owns a business he or she acquired prior to your marriage, and you work in the business, or use your joint income to support it, there is less clarity over the status of the business.
Similarly, if one spouse receives an inheritance in the course of the marriage, courts might initially consider the inheritance separate property. However, if you and your spouse both use the inheritance, or if the receiving spouse places the inheritance in an account you both use, the inheritance may convert to community property.
The details of the marriage matter in division
Arriving at a fair property division agreement in Texas is not only about the assets or liabilities on the table. Elements of the marriage itself may factor in as well. For instance, if one spouse abuses the other, or if there is proof of infidelity, this may affect the property division.
Whatever the nature of your property division dilemma, the representation of an experienced attorney who understands the nuances of Texas law can help ensure that your divorces settles fairly without dragging out unnecessarily.