Bruce C. Zivley, Attorney at Law

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Understanding the Basics of Community Property in Texas

Texas along with about a dozen other states use the community property standard for valuable things acquired during a marriage. Many states use the common-law system for determining ownership of assets. The common law structure makes determining ownership of property in a divorce easy - if one name is on the title, the lucky person is the owner. But, if two names are on the title, each spouse owns 50% of the asset. The property is not just real estate, but includes, cars, electronics, furniture and other tangible things.

Community property states like Texas, view all assets such as money earned and property acquired as belonging to each spouse equally. There is a flip side to the ownership issue though as all debts are usually seen as belonging equally to both spouses as well.

There are some exceptions to the community property format allowing a married person to own property on their own, examples include:

  • Property owned by one member of a couple prior to marriage
  • Gifts of property given to one spouse
  • Inherited property left to one spouse

Why Do I Need an Attorney to Aid in Dividing Community Property?

When folks think of community property, they often believe that everything is divided in half and that's it. Often, folks are wrong. Judges hearing divorce cases in Texas have several issues they consider when searching for an appropriate division of property between the parties. Usually, the reasons for a one-sided property settlement should relate to expenses borne with child rearing responsibilities and disparities in earning potential between the spouses. For these situations, the judge may order splits of 55-45 or 60-40 of marital property. If you are seeking a larger portion of the assets or you are being asked to give assets up, you may benefit from speaking with an experienced family law attorney.

Five Considerations Judges Make When Determining Community Property Division

Following is a more detailed look at why a judge may order a lopsided property settlement.

  1. Texas is not a no-fault divorce state. Accordingly, if one party is to blame for the breakup, the innocent party may get a larger portion of the distribution of marital assets. Fault that falls into this category includes cruelty, physical abuse, adultery and other fault grounds your family lawyer can help determine if they are useful for your case.
  2. Judges may also consider the benefits the innocent spouse will lose because of the divorce. This can be anything from a country club membership to paying tuition for a degree that a spouse has already started working on.
  3. Differences in salary and other earnings. When there is a large gap in income between the spouses, a judge may award more of the property to the lower-earning spouse in an effort at equalization.
  4. Health is another factor courts explore before finalizing a property settlement. If one spouse is in poor health the division of property is affected.
  5. Age differences are an issue. If there is a significant difference in ages and one spouse is nearing retirement, suffers a disability and such are factors that a judge in Texas may consider.

There are other issues that affect the division of property in a Texas divorce and if you believe you deserve or need more than half of the community property or your spouse is asking for more than half, you need an experienced family lawyer to help.

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