When a couple is contemplating divorce, one of the primary concerns (outside of child-related issues) is how property will be divided. None of us wants to end up poor or without financial security because our spouse received an outsize share of the marital estate. Thankfully, that is generally not allowed to happen.
In this post, we’ll give a basic overview of how property is classified and split in a Texas divorce. But because each divorce is unique, there is no substitute for seeking case-specific advice from an experienced family law attorney.
Community property vs. equitable distribution
There are two basic models for property division in divorce. Most states follow the equitable distribution model, meaning that judges are supposed to divide property equitably (but not necessarily equally) between spouses. Texas is one of just nine states that follows the community property model. Under this philosophy, most every asset gained by either spouse during the marriage is considered jointly owned by both spouses (unless otherwise noted) and subject to equal division in divorce. It doesn’t always work strictly along these lines in practice, but that, at least, is the starting point.
What is community property and what is separate?
Generally speaking, property acquired by either spouse during the marriage defaults to being classified as community property, unless in cases where it is explicitly defined as or understood to be separate property. Common examples of separate property include:
- Assets/property acquired prior to marriage
- Family inheritances given to one spouse but not the other
- Family heirlooms (again, handed down to one spouse)
- Birthday gifts
Trading assets in divorce
This probably goes without saying, but not all assets are divisible, nor do all community property assets need to be divided. Both spouses may own equal shares in a valuable collection of sports memorabilia, for instance, but only the husband may actually want to keep it. As such, he can negotiate to trade his wife a marital asset equal to the value of her share of the collection.
Talk to an experienced family law attorney
Property division can be complex, but it is much easier to sort through with the help of your attorney. To learn more about how our firm can help you with your property division matters, contact us to schedule an initial consultation.