Many divorcing couples are surprised to learn how property division works in Texas. A Google search for "community property state" bring ups several articles defining the term, along with some confusing information about the rights of each spouse and how assets are divided. In a nutshell, "community property" means that all assets acquired during the marriage are equally owned by both spouses. Many people stop their research there, assuming they'll automatically get half of everything. However, that is not always the case. Let's answer a few common questions Texans have when getting divorced.
Q: Is all property included under law?
A: Not necessarily. Texas law defines "separate property," which may not always be considered community property. Examples of separate property include property that was inherited by one spouse or owned by one spouse prior to the marriage, personal injury settlements paid to one spouse, and anything given as a gift to one spouse. However, all property is still considered "community" unless argued by one of the spouses and proved by evidence.
Q: What does "just and right" mean, and how does it affect the divorce?
A: The term "just and right" is found in the law governing the division of property. Determining what is "just and right" is up to the judge and often involves several factors. The spirit of the law is that each spouse leaves the marriage on equal terms. This is where several factors come into play which can have an impact on the division of assets. Some of these include:
- Who is at fault in the breakup of the marriage
- The health of each spouse
- Custody of children
- Disparity of earning power
- Future employability
The goal of the judge is to not leave either of the spouses with a financial hardship.
Q: What are some common mistakes made during property division?
A: The most common mistake made by people when they start the divorce process is not having all the facts. Working with an attorney is the first step to ensuring the proceedings are fair. An experienced divorce lawyer will make sure you have all of the necessary information and documents to present your case effectively.
Advice from other professionals like accountants, financial planners and property appraisers is also highly recommended. When you walk into the courtroom knowing who currently owns what and how much everything is worth, the chance of having a fair settlement you'll be happy with is much higher.
Asset division, business valuations, parenting and custody plans, and spousal maintenance are just a few of the many factors that must be evaluated during divorce. At the Law Firm of Sutton, Milam & Fanning, our attorneys have the experience needed to answer all of your tough questions. We invite you to contact our law firm today for a consultation.