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Who owns what in a community property state?

As every Texan is probably aware, Texas is a community property state. So this begs the question, "what does this mean?" Does it mean that everything you acquire during the marriage is jointly owned, no matter what? Are there exceptions or exclusions? How do you divide assets in a community property state?

The number one rule to keep in mind is that community property only applies to property acquired during the marriage. So, that condo you bought when you were single or that business you started right out of college remains your separate property.

In a community property state, all things acquired during the marriage are the joint property of both spouses, unless it is subject to an exception. This includes everything from pensions and salaries to debts. In this vein, you cannot disposeĀ of, transfer or change community property without consulting your spouse. However, since you own one-half of all property, you are free to do what you will with your own half.

How is this applied to you? Well, it means that you can buy that shirt you wanted with your salary, but you cannot sell the house without consulting your spouse. The reason you are constrained is because you can purchase the shirt with your half of your salary, but you cannot sell the house without affecting your spouse's one-half interest in it.

If you are considering a divorce, then you may want to sit down and speak to an attorney. Typically, couples that have been married longer will have more property issues to deal with. After inventorying your marital assets, an experienced attorney can act on your behalf to help you get a fair settlement.

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