There are many moving pieces from a financial perspective regarding your divorce. Think of you and your attorney as entertainers who try to keep plates spinning on the end of a stick. Getting the containers to turn in the first place isn’t the most challenging part- getting them to stay that way without falling to the ground is the hard part. If you spend too much time paying attention to a single plate, then you risk all of the other ones falling and breaking. It takes practice to become very adept at this sort of stage act.
Unfortunately for you and your attorney, you both will not have enough time to practice over and over until you can get the divorce right. You will have a chance to practice on only one divorce, and you had better get it the right first time. You will face challenges when it comes to sorting through your finances in your divorce. You and your attorney will work together to make it through a divorce in one piece. It isn’t a situation where you get to hang back and watch as your attorney does all the heavy lifting. You make the decisions in your divorce. Your attorney advises you along the way but cannot make your decisions.
Rely on your attorney to teach you about divorce and how your circumstances will impact divorce in Texas. It is unrealistic to know all the essential aspects of a divorce in Texas. That is why you will hire an attorney. Rely on that attorney’s experiences, but be sure that you understand what is happening to make the decisions you need to to achieve whatever goals you have set out for yourself.
Your attorney should understand the competing interests in your life.
While we are on the subject, you should interview multiple attorneys before deciding upon one to hire. If you hire the first attorney, you meet you will have never had the opportunity to learn how different attorneys may approach or view your case. This is a severe detriment to you because you will have no idea what the different perspectives on your case would be.
You will be attempting to soak up as much information as possible in a limited amount of time, and your attorney should be aware of this. Law school professors like to use a metaphor for drinking water out of a fire hose. Couple that with the emotional aspects of a case and the disruption to the lives of your children, and you have a recipe for a potentially eventful chance. Make sure your attorney emphasizes the essential details of your case that you may be missing.
Do your best to find an attorney who seeks to teach you information about your case rather than one who assumes you know or understand things that you may not. It is incredible how fruitful an attorney-client relationship can be if you can digest the basics of a divorce case early on and use the majority of your time with your attorney to negotiate these issues. This means that having an attorney with experience handling divorce cases is essential. Many attorneys think they can divorce because they are such a widely filed case. Please don’t settle for an inexperienced attorney because they are a family friend or inexpensive. This is not the time to overthink things to save a few dollars or make a family member happy.
Financial disagreements can go from the living room to a courtroom instantly.
If you know that financial issues have always been a source of disagreement between you and your spouse, then you should know that these living room arguments can easily spill into a courtroom if you are not careful. The fact is that most divorces in Texas settle before getting to court. Your case may be the exception that proves the rule, but do not assume that your case will end before a judge. Most of the time, divorcing spouses settle either in mediation or informal settlements.
To avoid a situation where the disagreements of your marriage become the disagreements of your divorce, work with your attorney to learn the financial issues that are a part of a divorce case. Lean on your lawyer to inform you of the likely outcome if you proceed to negotiate a certain way. If you have received bad advice from a buddy of yours who you play golf with on what could be divided up in a divorce property settlement, you may end up hurting yourself when that advice isn’t strictly based on fact.
Texas is a community property state.
The first primary consideration that you need to give to your and your spouse’s property is that Texas is a community property state. This means that there is a presumption that all of the property you and your spouse own at the outset of your divorce is community-owned and therefore subject to being divided up in the divorce.
It is your responsibility to prove that a particular piece of property is part of your separate estate. You can do this by bringing title documents and other documentary evidence to show that title was vested in you in that property before you and your spouse got married. Debts, like property, are also subject to division in your divorce. The most typical outcome is one where the spouse who incurs the debt in their name is the one who will end up taking the debt on after the divorce concludes.
Exceptions to the community property rule in Texas
An exception to the community property rule in Texas is that property you acquired during your marriage by inheritance or gift explicitly made to you is not a part of the community estate of you and your spouse.
Once you or your spouse move out of the marital home, this is the time for when contributions, in the eyes of the court, to your community estate typically cease. After this stage, property or debts that you acquire are part of your separate estate. Your case may be under temporary orders or standing orders that keep you from reaching enormous amounts of debt or property that are not necessary to complete your divorce.
Paper Trails are essential in a Texas divorce regarding property issues.
Let’s say that you inherited some money from a deceased relative. To prove that it is separate property, you should show where the money was deposited and the source of the funds. I will never forget a past client who had a long and very detailed chain of emails, title documents, and other real estate documents that showed that a condo he purchased during the marriage was with inherited funds and, therefore, his separate property.
Forensic accountants are relevant in certain instances where it is unclear whether a piece of property is part of the community or separate estates of you and your spouse. These accountants have specialized training and experience in looking at documents and tracing the source of the money used to purchase them. You would hire one to do the work for you and then come to court to testify about the results of what was found.
Questions about today’s subject matter? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
We hope you will come back to our blog tomorrow to read more about finances and divorce. In the meantime, if you have questions about anything that we discussed today, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We can set you up with a free-of-charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations are available six days a week and can go a long way towards answering questions and reassuring you about your situation.