Most residents of Texas who are contemplating a divorce understand that Texas is a community property state. To most people, the phrase “community property” means that the couple must divide their assets equally. The law, however, does not operate in such a mechanical fashion.
The essential first steps
The first step for any person prior to a divorce is enumerating all of the couple’s assets and estimating the net value of each asset. Debts must also be included in this calculation, especially debts used to provide cash to acquire an asset.
The next step is to determine which assets were acquired during the marriage. Assets that were separately acquired by one spouse or the other before the marriage are deemed to be individual property, not community property. Also, assets acquired by gift or bequest to one spouse or the other are not community property.
The standard for division
The common belief that community property must be divided equally is wrong. Instead, the division must be “just and right.” Texas law enumerates the factors that the court must take into account in determining whether a division is “just and right.” These factors include:
- Whether either spouse has a disability and the extent of the disability
- Likely inequities in earning potential between spouses after the divorce
- Who will have custody of the children
- The values of each spouse’s separate assets
For couples with great wealth, dividing the property can be extremely difficult and often requires the services of accountants and appraisers.
Seeking help when required
Dividing assets in a Texas divorce can be a couple’s most difficult decision. Especially for wealthy couples, the assistance and advice of a capable divorce attorney may be essential to negotiating a settlement of this issue that is neither burdensome nor unfair to either party.