Apart from child custody matters, dividing property and debt is often one of the most stressful and contentious aspects of divorce. For anyone considering divorce in Texas, it can be helpful to become familiar with some of the basic legal principles that apply when it comes to dividing debts and assets during divorce.
Classifying property during a Texas divorce
Like many other states, Texas uses the community property system when it comes to dividing assets during divorce. In Texas and other states that follow this system, all money, property or other assets obtained by either spouse during the marriage are typically regarded as "community property," meaning that it is considered by the courts to be owned equally by both spouses regardless of who actually earned or acquired the assets.
Meanwhile, the assets that either spouse acquired before marriage are usually treated as separately owned. Under certain circumstances, some assets may be classified as separate property even if they were acquired during the marriage, for instance if they were given to one spouse alone in the form of a gift or inheritance.
Division of property and debt in Texas
Although many divorcing couples choose to negotiate a property settlement outside of court, often with help from their attorneys, it is not always possible to come to an agreement in this way. When negotiating out of court does not result in an agreement, the matter must be decided by a judge in family court, and the following rules apply.
During divorce in Texas, accurately differentiating between community property and separate property is very important because judges apply different rules to each type of property when dividing assets between divorcing spouses. Under Texas law, each spouse typically retains ownership of his or her own separate property, while the couple's community property is divided between the spouses.
Depending on the circumstances, judges in Texas may order that a couple's community property be divided equally between the spouses during divorce, while in other cases he or she may order that it be divided in other ways according to a legal principle known as equity, or fairness. In order to determine what is fair, Texas family court judges may consider a wide range of factors, such as:
- Each spouse's earning capacity and employment prospects.
- The age and health of each spouse.
- The value of each spouse's separate property.
- Whether either spouse wasted assets or committed marital fraud.
- The needs of any children involved.
In addition to the division of property during divorce, a couple's debts must also be divided when a marriage ends. This is also done according to the principle of equity, although the process differs somewhat from the division of assets.
A lawyer can help
When considering divorce in Texas, it is a good idea to get in touch with a knowledgeable divorce for a thorough discussion of how the law applies to your unique circumstances. Your attorney will work with you to get a clear understanding of your objectives and tirelessly pursue those objectives at every stage of the divorce process.