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Money and Marriage: A Comprehensive Guide

When we meet with individuals in our community during a free consultation offered by the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we strive to identify common trends in the questions they ask. Recognizing these trends is crucial because it helps us address not just one person’s concern but also those of others facing similar issues. Lately, we’ve observed a growing interest in topics related to marriage and money during these consultations. Words like community property, assets, income, and debt frequently come up in these discussions. Are these subjects that pique your curiosity too?

Interestingly, you don’t necessarily have to be contemplating divorce to have these questions. Many individuals who consult us are not looking for a divorce, at least not immediately. Instead, they seek clarity on legal aspects related to their family’s financial well-being. Our attorneys are more than happy to provide objective answers to these inquiries without pushing anyone towards divorce.

With that in mind, this blog post aims to delve into the intricate relationship between money and marriage. Whether you and your spouse possess substantial wealth or have more questions than assets, the information presented here will help you better understand the connection between finances and marriage. It will also offer insights into how to safeguard your financial future in case divorce becomes a reality.

Understanding Community and Separate Property in Texas

Texas operates under the Community Property legal framework, making it one of the few Community Property states in the United States. In this system, all property owned by you and your spouse at the time of divorce or one spouse’s death is presumed to be jointly owned, referred to as community property. The other category of property is Separate Property, which includes assets owned solely by either you or your spouse, typically acquired before the marriage or through gifts and inheritance.

Income earned during your marriage is typically considered community property, regardless of who generates it. This applies whether you are the primary breadwinner or a stay-at-home spouse with no income of your own. Even if you deposit your income into a separate bank account, it is still classified as community property.

Similarly, any property purchased during your marriage, such as a house or business, is likely to be considered community property, especially if it was acquired using community income. If separate funds were used for the purchase, proper documentation must exist to trace the source of those funds.

When Separate Property Becomes Community Property

It’s essential to understand that separate property can transform into community property when mixed with community property funds. For instance, if you owned a commercial building before marriage, but you later deposit rent payments from that building into a joint account that contains both marital and rental income, the rent money could become community property. The building itself would likely remain your separate property unless its title was amended to include your spouse’s name.

If your spouse invested significant time and money in improving the separate property, a judge may decide to include the property in the community estate or award your spouse a reimbursement for the community funds invested in the improvements.

Types of Co-Owned Property in Texas

In Texas, any property acquired using community income during your marriage is automatically co-owned by both spouses, with shared ownership rights and income earned from it. This principle applies equally, regardless of who contributed the income for the purchase.

Debts and Taxes in Marriage

Debt is an aspect of financial life that concerns many Americans. Recent questions have revolved around the responsibility for a spouse’s debts that did not provide any direct benefit to the other spouse. Whether you are responsible for your spouse’s debts often depends on whether you co-signed for the loan.

If both spouses jointly applied for a credit card or mortgage and signed the agreement, promising to be responsible for the debts incurred, both would be legally accountable for those debts. It doesn’t matter if only one spouse used the credit card or lived in the house—the responsibility remains joint. This principle applies to various types of debt, including credit card debt and mortgage loans. So, even if you’ve never set foot in the home, you could still end up responsible for its mortgage.

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At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm wants to get to know your case before they commit to work with you. They offer all potential clients a no-obligation, free consultation where you can discuss your case under the client-attorney privilege. This means that everything you say will be kept private and the firm will respectfully advise you at no charge. You can learn more about Texas divorce law and get a good idea of how you want to proceed with your case.

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