Protecting your finances in a divorce is one of the most critical aspects of any case of that kind. In today’s blog post, I would like to walk you through some information about Texas family law and how those laws impact you and your family in a divorce. We will focus our attention on the financial aspects of a divorce. Still, suppose you have questions about child custody or information regarding children. In that case, you are invited to search our blog as the Law Office of Bryan Fagan has posted a great deal of information regarding child custody and divorce cases in previous blogs.
How is marital property divided in a Texas divorce?
If we’re talking about dividing up marital property in a divorce case in Texas, we need to begin our discussion by going over the basics of community property. Community property is the set of laws that Texas subscribes to dividing marital property in a divorce. The essential information for us to be aware of is that all property owned by you and your spouse at the time of your divorce is presumed to be owned by the community. This means that the property will be subject to division in the divorce. Here are some of the finer points on how community property is divided in family law.
First, note that I said a moment ago that there is a presumption that all property owned by you and your spouse in your divorce is community-oriented. This should tell you that certain assets, personal property, or deaths could be a part of your separate estate if you can present evidence to prove that it is. One of the big things for us to talk about today is that both you and your spouse will have an opportunity to present evidence and make arguments about whether or not a property is rightfully placed in your community estate or one of the separate states you and your spouse.
At the very beginning of your divorce, you and your spouse will be asked by your attorneys to fill out paperwork to show what property is currently in existence for you and your spouse, which state you believe the property belongs in and how you value these various properties in debts. In Southeast Texas, these documents are known as inventory and appraisements. While it may strike you that this exercise seems to be more along the lines of paperwork than an essential portion of your divorce case, I would tell you that this is far from the truth. Your ability to accurately inventory your financial life can prove extremely important when negotiating over a division of the Community property estate.
To do this successfully, you should begin to document the property in your home by taking notes and taking photographs. Photographing each room in your house, your closet, your garage, as well as the inventory contained in any safe in your home is significant to do. It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that property can often grow legs and walk away during the case if you are not careful. As a result, you will want to be very thorough about your documentation process. I was involved in a case where a client had thousands of dollars stolen in cash by their spouse. It was only due to proper documentation that this money did not go unaccounted for in the divorce.
Once you have been able to document your property, assess its value and turn that into an attorney, the next step that I will go to is to look through your credit report and determine what credit accounts are open in your name. One of the things you need to look for is available accounts that you do not recognize. It is not uncommon for a spouse to open up a credit account in their partner’s name and not tell them. The last thing you want to do is go through with the divorce and not know about a credit card account or another line of credit that has been opened in your name without your permission.
While we are talking about debt, I want to point out that your finances mean protecting yourself from losing property and taking on debts that are not rightfully yours. If you can avoid Taking on debt after the divorce, this is just as important as gaining property. Think of it like offense versus defense if you are a sports fan. Do not lose sight of the fact that debts play into a divorce just as much as property.
Now that we have gone over the factors at play during a divorce, we can discuss how you can best protect your finances. The critical point to remember is that, although we are talking about divorce in only a financial sense, you may be encountering issues regarding your divorce that impact child custody matters. This means that you cannot afford to have your focus only on one area of the case. You and your attorney need to be vigilant across the board when identifying potential problems in matters related to finances and child custody.
Be intentional and develop a plan to protect your finances.
The first thing that I will tell you is that it is possible to wander into a divorce, but it is not possible to walk out of one. This means that you should be aware of the circumstances in your case and develop goals to accomplish along the way of exiting the divorce process. It is not enough to want to make it out of your claim alive. You should develop goals and work on methods with your attorney to help you reach those goals.
The goals you’ve developed should consider your age, working status, health, and retirement goals in other financial benchmarks for you. Many people Head into the property division phase of their case believing that there is only one way to make it out successfully. These folks sometimes create unrealistic goals for themselves at the beginning of the case and then do not reevaluate those goals based on the specific circumstances in play. You should develop a series of plans in negotiation based on your most important objectives and be willing to bend all those objectives that are not as serious or important to you in particular.
Remember that it is in your best interests to work with your spouse during the divorce to help you eliminate the chances of your needing to go before a judge to divide up your community estate. The popular misconception about divorce in Texas is that it is more likely than not that a judge will decide your case. I would point out that this is unlikely given how successful parties are at mediating and settling their case before a trial. This does not mean that you and your attorney should not be prepared to go forward to practice, but it does mean that you all should be aware that negotiation over the property in debt is just as critical to your case as preparing to go to a trial.
For example, if you are an older person and have concerns about your life as you head towards retirement, then your goals in the divorce may want to focus more on retaining as much of your retirement as possible. If that is the case, you likely would need to be more willing to give up other assets of equivalent value to retain more of your retirement earnings. Dividing up retirement accounts in divorce requires a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) and further instruction from plan administrators associated with each retirement account involved in the divorce.
On the other hand, if you are a younger person and already have a debt to your name like student loans, you probably would want to avoid taking on any unnecessary debt in your divorce. With that said, your ability to make sure that debts are appropriately divided between you and your spouse is paramount. For example, suppose any jointly held credit card debts or business debts associated with spending by your spouse are at issue in your divorce. In that case, you will want to obtain as much evidence as possible to show that these debts should not be placed on your responsibility after the case.
Selecting the right divorce attorney can help you protect your finances
so far, we have discussed your divorce in terms of essential factors in your case and how those factors can influence how your finances look at your case’s conclusion. Now I would like to spend some time discussing a topic that might not immediately jump off the page to you in terms of importance regarding your finances. That topic is how selecting an attorney can go a long way towards helping you maintain financial stability during and after your divorce.
Do not underestimate just how important it is for you to select a family attorney who has experience handling divorces similar to yours. This is important regarding two factors. The first factor is that an experienced family law attorney is better equipped to help you develop goals and develop strategies to help you implement during a case to help you accomplish your goals. There is nothing wrong with the young attorney trying to establish a practice in developing experience in family law. However, I would not recommend hiring one of those attorneys to help you in your divorce.
Instead, I would recommend that you hire an attorney who is not only handled multiple divorces in the past but only handles family law cases. There are many attorneys out there who will tell you that they are capable of handling a divorce. However, there is a difference between adequately handling divorce and properly representing you and your family in the divorce case. Unless your attorney has taken points to trial previously, I will not hire them.
The other factor that is important to note when it comes to a divorce case is that the longer The case runs, the more expensive it will be. This is because family law attorneys bill by the hour, and therefore, you can expect that the more hours your case takes to complete, the more Your attorney will be billing you. This does not mean that the attorney is greedy. This means that the more work that has to be done, the more you can expect your attorney to bill you for that work that needs to be accomplished.
Much of the work in a divorce is spent negotiating between two parties. You and your spouse will have an opportunity to mediate between yourselves and your attorneys during the case. With that said, if you and your attorney can successfully deal with one another and your attorney can help you cut through a lot of the negotiation tactics of the other side, then you can save time and money on your divorce. If you can do this, you should not be surprised to see that your finances will be in a better state than having your divorce dragged on and on for an extra month or two without much justification.
Questions about Texas family law? contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, I recommend that you get the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. I appreciate your interest in our law office, and I hope you will join us again here on our blog tomorrow.