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Ask a Family Law Attorney: How Is Property Divided in a Divorce in TX?

Nov 19, 2021 | Property Division

Dividing the assets in a divorce is one of the hardest aspects, along with settling child custody and alimony matters. The laws in Texas are clear about splitting all property equally, but depending on your situation, certain things will be excluded or treated differently. What’s more, you can negotiate with your spouse and find another solution. A great family law attorney in Houston, TX can help you figure out a way forward and receive the assets you’re entitled to.

Usually, they will start by locating everything that needs to be split and estimating how much you will receive. You can then speak to your lawyer about which assets are most important to you, so they can fight for your right to keep them. Sometimes, you might be able to come to an amicable solution with your former spouse, but at other times, you will need to take the matter to court. Let’s examine Texas property law a bit closer.

How Is Property Divided in Houston, TX?

Texas is a community property state, which means that most of what you own will be split up equally between you and your spouse. There are some exceptions, for example, the property you already had when you came into the marriage and any gifts that were explicitly for you.

What’s more, these laws are there as guidance, but they are not set in stone. The judge can decide to change these rules depending on your circumstances, or you could negotiate with your spouse to get a better outcome.

Assets You Both Acquired During Marriage

In general, all assets you both acquired while you were married are considered community property, so they belong to you as well as to your spouse. Many families still have one main breadwinner in Texas, while the other person stays home and looks after the children. However, this doesn’t entitle the higher earner to more of the assets, and they will have to split their home, their savings, and even their pension with their former spouse.

As well as your property, you will also split everything you owe. If either you or your spouse accrued some debts such as a personal loan, a car loan, or a credit card balance, both people are considered to be liable for this. Your attorney will ask you about the kinds of debts you have, so they can be included in the total calculation.

Assets You Already Owned

The main exception to the community property law is assets you or your spouse already owned before you came into the marriage. For example, if you bought and paid off the primary residence with your own money prior to getting married, you will be able to keep your home without any issues. However, if you bought it after your marriage and paid it off together, it will likely be split.

Your retirement accounts, such as your 401(k), will be treated in the same way. Anything you contributed when you were single will be yours to keep, while the money you put away during the marriage will be divided up equally. Because your investment has likely appreciated in value, this can be hard to calculate, and you should ask your family law attorney for help.

Exceptions

Aside from the assets you already had going into the marriage, there are some other exceptions to community property. Any valuable gifts you received that were specifically for you and not for the family will also be yours to keep. These could include monetary gifts but also items that have retained their value or even appreciated. If you or your spouse have ever received money as compensation for a personal injury, you’ll also have to consider whether it’s joint.

Those funds meant for the injured person’s own use, for example, to pay for medical bills or to make up for mental health problems like post-traumatic stress, won’t be split. On the other hand, compensation for a loss of family income or the main breadwinner’s inability to perform their job should be distributed equally because it’s meant to sustain the entire household, not just the injured person.

Does This Always Apply?

Most of the time, these laws will be observed, and you will split the property in this way. However, the judge has the right to alter them slightly if he deems them unfair in your case. The aim of the court is to make the most equitable arrangement for everyone, and this might be different from the standard community property solution. If you believe that you should receive more due to your circumstances, your Houston, TX lawyer can help you receive a fair amount.

Another way to circumnavigate these laws is to mediate with your spouse directly. You don’t have to go to court at all if you can find a solution on your own that is acceptable for both parties. A great attorney will explore this option with you. Often, such a method is cheaper and easier for everyone, especially during an amicable divorce.

How Can My Family Law Attorney Help?

When you first get in touch with your attorney, they will have a look at your situation and locate all your assets and debts. Once they have a full picture of the situation, it will be easier to figure out a way forward. Your attorney will speak to you about your situation and what has led to the divorce, which can play a part in what property you receive and how likely you are to gain custody of your children.

Helping You Decide What’s Important

An important step will be to figure out which assets are important to you. In the best-case scenario, you and your spouse both have certain things you value, and you can divide them up fairly. Unfortunately, there are usually some items that both people want, which can lead to conflict. A great lawyer will speak to you about what you value the most and how likely it is that you will gain access to it.

Mediating and Finding a Good Solution

As mentioned, going to court isn’t always the best solution because it is expensive and tedious. Together with your lawyer, you can come up with a mediation strategy and negotiate with your former spouse directly. Although it can be a challenge to find an equitable solution, your attorney will be there to help you every step of the way.

No matter how much property you and your spouse own, it can be challenging to divide it up in a fair and equitable manner. This is particularly the case if you both want to keep the same assets or if your spouse doesn’t agree that you are entitled to half of everything you’ve built up together. Contacting a lawyer and getting professional help is the best way to go because it ensures you receive everything you are owed.

The family law attorney will analyze your situation closely and let you know which assets are yours to keep because you brought them into the marriage and which ones you have to split. In many cases, they will suggest a mediation process because it is usually easier and cheaper than going to court. However, this isn’t always possible, and your lawyer will fight for your rights regardless. Contact us now at Skillern Firm in Houston, TX, to get started.

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