What You Need To Know About Property Division in Texas
While some may refer to marriage as “a piece of paper,” most people who have been married for any length of time, or are pursuing or thinking about pursuing a divorce will quickly discover that it is much more than that. Part of the reason for this is because marriage does more than merge hearts, it merges finances — especially in community property states, such as Texas. When one spouse says to the other “what’s mine is yours” the words don’t always reflect that person’s character as much as they demonstrate their willingness to comply with the law.
Community Property In Texas
Community property includes all earnings, property, assets and debts that either or both spouses acquired during the time of the marriage. Regardless of who’s name is on a title or account, if it was opened after the “I do” it belongs to both spouses 50/50. Some things included are:
- wages from employment, earned during the marriage
- a house the couple purchased together while married
- individual cars bought during the marriage, even if the title is only in one person’s name
- contributions to retirements accounts, during marriage
- money in personal accounts, both individual and joint
Determining Separate Property
While many things are owned together in a marriage, there are exceptions that allow individual spouses to have separate property.
- Money that was earned before the marriage began or property purchased with that money is considered to be separate property, For example, if both spouses paid for their vehicles in full before they got married with their individual incomes, those cars would be separate property.
- Money given to one spouse only via an inheritance or direct gift is considered their own separate property, and if the gift is cash, whatever is purchased with that money is separate as well.
- Personal insurance settlements such as compensation that one person has received for sustaining an injury in an accident is also the separate property of the person who was injured.
Determining Fair Division
Just because the ownership of community property is equal during a marriage, doesn’t mean that dividing that property is as simple as splitting things up equally. In order to determine what is just and right many factors including individual earning capacity, the kids educational needs and schedules, any fault listed in the divorce– such as abuse or adultery, or other situations that a judge decides is relevant. For some property or debt a couple may decide what is fair on their own. For example, they might both agree to keep the car they have been driving, even if both were purchased during the marriage and technically qualify as community property. They may also agree to take over the responsibility of the corresponding car payment. Couples do need to be mindful of these arrangements, however, because if one doesn’t pay the other may be held financially responsible by the creditor.
Reimbursement For “Mixed” Property
Because people often do a lot of living and make plenty of financial decisions before they marry, the line between community property and separate property can occasionally blur. For example, if a couple moves into a home that one spouse already owned before the marriage, the house is technically considered separate property. However, the mortgage payments that were made during the marriage are community property. If the original owner of the home wants to keep the house, he or she may need to reimburse the other spouse for their share of the mortgage payments either directly or indirectly as determined by the court.
If you’re getting divorced in Texas, there is no one way to set things straight financially. An experienced divorce lawyer can review with you many of the circumstances you are facing and help you find the right resources to give you the best chance of a satisfying financial future after your divorce.