If you’re contemplating divorce, you’re no doubt thinking about what happens with all the things you own, the property you’ve acquired while you were married. The state of Texas is a community property state, which influences how property ownership is determined in a divorce. In Texas, the property that the couple owns generally belongs equally to both partners.
Community property includes both spouses’ wages and any items purchased using income earned by either spouse during the marriage. Debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage are also community property. Even if one spouse acquires property individually during the marriage, this is usually still considered community property in Texas.
There may be exceptions to what is considered community property if one spouse can prove they own property on their own. If they can do so, that property is then called “separate property.” This may be the case if one spouse individually owned property prior to the marriage. Separate property may also originate from an inheritance received just by one spouse or a gift of property received by just one spouse. Any income from separate property may itself also be considered separate property.
Monetary compensation from a personal injury settlement or lawsuit received by only one spouse would also be considered separate property. The exception is if the money includes a portion as compensation for lost wages. That money would be considered community property. If a property is proven to be separate, then it will remain the property of that spouse, and the court will not be able to consider it community property.
If separate property was combined with the other spouse’s property rather than kept separate, it would be considered community property. Property may be considered community property regardless of whether or not both spouses are listed on an ownership document such as a deed or title. Even if only one spouse is listed on the ownership document, it may still be considered as owned by both parties. Ownership may also be influenced by a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, which may specify whether particular property is considered community or separate.
Retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k) accounts are considered to be community property. The exception is that contributions made only by one spouse before the marriage may be considered separate property. The court will determine which portion of the accounts are considered community and which are separate.
Community property will be divided either by the court or by the couple if they reach an agreement. In that case, the court will typically let the agreement stand. If the couple is unable to reach an agreement, then the court will split the property. Generally, it will be split equally, meaning that each individual receives half.
There may be situations in which the court does not split the community property equally and instead divides the property at their discretion based on specific circumstances. In cases like these, the court will consider relevant factors to decide what it considers to be a fair division. These may include considering whether one spouse is the primary caregiver for any children from the marriage, each spouse’s earning capacity, and how much separate property each partner owns.
Once the property division is determined, the court may, in some cases, award one spouse periodic payments from the other spouse. This is called alimony or spousal maintenance, and specific conditions must be met for a court to award alimony. These generally include:
- One spouse’s inability to earn enough wages to support themselves (in a marriage that had a duration of at least ten years)
- One spouse suffering from a disability that prevents them from supporting themselves
- One spouse being the primary caregiver for a child who has a disability
- One spouse being convicted of domestic violence toward children or toward the other spouse
Other factors apply, and a key consideration by the court will be whether the spouse who is requesting alimony has made documented unsuccessful attempts to support themselves.
If you are in the process of getting a divorce, you need an attorney who will advocate for you and make sure that you get all the property you are legally entitled to receive. Call (832) 534-2589 today to speak with a Texas divorce lawyer from BB Law Group PLLC who will help you understand the process and your options as you navigate this challenging time. We will fight for you so that you can move on from the divorce and begin the next chapter of your life with the property that is legally yours.