Are you going through a divorce that makes it feel like you are the only person in the world who knows what that experience is like? We at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan know how you feel. Our attorneys and staff walk beside people just like you every day who are going through difficult divorce cases. Whether you filed for divorce, or your spouse has, everyone who goes through the divorce has to make their way through the process itself and the emotional steps, as well. When you are in the thick of a divorce it can seem like you are on a deserted island without a way to get off. Meanwhile, you look out and it seems like the rest of the world is going about their business as normal- not a care in the world.
If that is the way that you feel today, I want today’s blog post to at least give you some context and divert your attention for just a moment. A lot of people are going through similar trials as you right now- even rich and famous soccer players. Enter the situation between Moroccan soccer star, Achraf Hakimi, and his wife, Hiba Abouk. The couple married in 2000 but have experienced marital difficulties which seem to stem from an indictment for rape leveled against Hakimi by French authorities in March 2023. The rape charge came about because of an allegation made by another woman. Ultimately, the accuser chose not to press charges although authorities maintained the investigation due to the nature of the testimony, she gave against Hakimi. Abouk subsequently filed for divorce against Hikimi and the couple are going through that process currently.
Hakimi plays professional soccer for the French club Paris Saint-Germain. He has an estimated net worth of upwards of $70 million. Here is where the case gets tricky. Abouk attended a court hearing in April where she expected to receive a large portion of that $70 million as part of the divorce case that she filed. Without knowing much about the nature of French divorce and matrimonial law, we can presume that a couple will divide assets and debt much like we do here in Texas. It is not unreasonable to expect that your famous soccer-playing husband would be worth a lot of money and that due to the length of your marriage, you would be due some of that money in the divorce.
Surprises around every corner are what you find in a divorce
Here is where things get tricky, and the interesting part of the story begins. In this court hearing, Abouk learned that Hakimi has virtually nothing to his name as far as money or wealth. Rather, the entirety of Hakimi’s fortune is in the name of his mother. This would seem to be an act intended to hide assets and prevent Abouk from being able to divide up the estimated $70 that Hakimi earned during his professional career as an international soccer star.
In response to this revelation, Abouk has filed a lawsuit against Hakimi alleging that he has mismanaged marital assets and has otherwise acted fraudulently. Hakimi's mother made a confusing statement to the media in stating that she was unaware of her son's transferring of the property into her name, while at the same time remarking that even if he has transferred this money into her name there would not be anything wrong with that.
This is where the story of the rich and famous ends and the story of you and your spouse begins. If you are wondering what the story of a wealthy soccer star has to do with you and your divorce here in Texas, I am about to tell you. The reality is that even though you may not be worth $70 million, you do have something in the way of assets. A home, a home, a bank account, retirement, a vehicle, etc. There is something in your name that is valuable- whether that value comes with a dollar sign in front, or not.
That is why Hakimi and Abouk’s situation relates to you and your spouse. The ratios of their wealth may be different from yours. Abouk is reportedly seeking ten million euros in the divorce while she is being offered two million by Hakimi. Those numbers may blow your financial numbers out of the water, but you still must make similar decisions when negotiating financial issues in your divorce. The key to this discussion is being fair while you are negotiating and doing what you need to as far as proper disclosure of financial material is concerned. Rather than continue to fixate solely on the soccer star and his wife, let's tie their situation into your divorce.
Property division in a Texas divorce
The first thing that we need to discuss when it comes to dividing property in Texas is that our state does things differently than most other states in the USA. Texas is a community property state. Community property is a legal theory that relates to how the property of a married person should be treated when that person divorces or dies. The competing theory of property division in the United States is based on English common law. Almost ¾ of the states in our country adhere to common law principles of property division in a divorce, while Texas counts itself among the remaining ¼ who adhere to community property principles when it comes to the same subject.
This is the backdrop of learning how property will be divided in your case, as well. All the property that you and your spouse own at the time of your divorce is presumed to be community property. That means a court can divide all the property in your life when you go through the divorce unless you or your spouse rebut that presumption of community property. What you can do is argue that certain property belong in your separate estate and your spouse can do the same. If you owned property before your marriage or acquired property during your marriage by gift or inheritance these are all forms of separate property. Otherwise, the rest of the property is community property and is subject to division in your case.
A question that our attorneys run across quite a bit has to do with income and property and how exactly it is divided up. Even if we assume that community property is divisible by a judge in your divorce that does not tell us much about the specific way the property will be divided. Texas law holds that income earned (from most sources) during your marriage is community property. This income is treated as belonging just as much to the spouse who did not earn it as it belongs to the spouse who did earn it. Let’s walk through a hypothetical situation to better illustrate this important point.
Let's say that you have a job that pays you $100,000. Your spouse does not work for income and has no job. Rather, she stays at home and takes care of the house and the kids. She works, for sure, but does not get paid for the work that she does. The salary that you earn from your job is treated as belonging to your spouse just as much as it is to you. You've probably heard some variation of the phrase: what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine. This expression applies a great deal to people who are going through a divorce in Texas. Whether you agree with this arrangement, or not, this is the reality for Texans who get divorced.
Taken a step further, the money in your bank account is likely to be community property. This is the first asset that you should consider when you are going through a divorce. The money that you spend on your attorney, the cash that you use to pay bills, and the other savings and checking accounts are likely to be community property. It does not matter if you were the spouse who worked outside the home for the entirety of your marriage while your spouse never stepped foot outside the house to work. That income that was earned is just as much theirs as it is yours. Were your case to go all the way to a trial this is how a judge would view the situation.
It would follow, then, that the property you purchased with your community income would also be community property. Your home, your vehicles, your personal property, etc. All of this is likely to be community property. Too many spouses who have done all the income-earning work during the marriage, this can come as quite a shock. It wouldn't matter whose name is on the deed to your house or whose name appears on the title of a vehicle. All that matters is the income that was used to purchase the property is community property.
How is property divided in a divorce?
There are three categories of property in a marriage: community property, your separate property, and the separate property of your spouse. It is a wise idea to begin to inventory your property at the beginning of a divorce so that you know what property is in play. Walking around the house to take photos of closets, dresser drawers and places like this makes a great deal of sense. Sometimes property can grow legs and walk away- as we are about to see. Other times you may not have access to your marital home after a certain point in your divorce. Finally, memories get fuzzy over time, and it is just easier to have photographic proof of the property before you forget about it.
Once you have inventoried your property you can begin to classify it. What category does your property belong in? You can make this decision for yourself, and your spouse will be doing the same. Throughout your divorce, the two of you will be negotiating how to divide up property. There are countless amounts of ways to do this depending upon your specific situation and your desires for a post-divorce life. Whether you need cash now or prefer to negotiate with an eye toward retirement, there is no doubt that property division is personal to the two of you.
If it comes to a judge making the final decisions on how to divide your property, then you should be aware that the law requires him or her to do so in a just and right manner. Just and right is not very specific and leaves a lot of authority in the lap of a judge to make a choice based on their experience overseeing divorces and taking into consideration the specific circumstances of you and your spouse. For instance, if you and your spouse both work, earn similar incomes, and have a similar amount of separate property then a judge may split your community estate right now the middle with each of you taking half of the property at the end of your divorce.
Negotiations are more likely to conclude the property division portion of your divorce than a judge’s decisions. Bear in mind that the property division portion of your case has more to do with you and your spouse negotiating through these issues together rather than assuming that the judge will be better equipped to make these choices for you. Nobody believes that a judge who does not know either of you is better positioned to make these kinds of choices- even if you and your spouse are not seeing eye to eye on much of anything these days. The negotiation phase of your divorce is a great opportunity to do what is best for both of you. The benefit of a divorce is that you are given the keys to drive your car across the finish line. Whether you choose to do so is another matter altogether.
Hiding assets, fraud, and other shenanigans
Going back to our situation from earlier in the blog post, it seems like Mr. Hakimi moved his property into his mother’s name or set it up so his mother receives his paychecks so that he cannot have any money in his name. This way when a French court looks through his bank account nothing will come up. It would be as if he had no income, assets, or property that could be divided. Shock probably does not begin to describe how his wife felt while she was the one trying to determine how much money she would be able to walk out of the marriage with. To find out that your famous professional athlete spouse has no property in their name is enough to blow someone away.
What could you do in a situation like that? First, you can submit discovery requests upon your spouse at the beginning of a divorce. Discovery is a process where you ask your spouse questions that require him or her to answer or object to those questions. You can learn information about your spouse and your mutual finances to build a strategy for negotiations and a possible trial. You can also ask your spouse to turn over documents or other assorted information about your finances via discovery.
Next, you should submit an inventory and appraisement of your property to the court and your co-parent at the beginning of your case. This way your spouse can be aware of the property that you say exists between the two of you as well as what kind of property it is and what you believe the property to be worth. Understanding where you and your spouse are coming from can give you each a better jumping-off point to begin negotiations.
Do not hide property from your spouse. I was involved in a divorce case years ago where the wife stole money out of her husband's safe while he was not home. This was cash that he used to pay for things around the house. No funny business was going on with this money. She did not know the combination of this safe but hired a locksmith to break open the safe under pretenses. When our client, the husband, got home from work he found the safe tampered with. He, then, called a local locksmith to come out to see if he could repair the lock- it just so happened that he was the locksmith his wife had also called to come out and break into the safe.
She was caught in the act of trying to steal money from a safe. Ironically, the cash she tried so hard to steal was community property income. Whether you are a soccer star or a soccer mom, it is not a good idea to play fast and loose with the law when it comes to hiding assets from a spouse.
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