As any family law attorney will tell you, Texas is a community property state. This means that there is a legal presumption in our State that all property that you and your spouse acquire during your marriage is presumed to be community property- jointly owned. Therefore, there is a burden on a divorcing spouse to prove that a piece of property- no matter what type of property- is separately owned.
We've defined what community property is in the context of Texas family law, which begs the question of what precisely separate property is. By definition, separate property is the property owned by a spouse before marriage or acquired by a spouse during marriage by gift or inheritance.
Awards related to personal injuries are also included as separate property. What this all means for your divorce is that if an item is determined to be part of your or your spouse's different estate, it cannot be divided in a divorce. Once the separate property is identified and decided upon by the judge in your trial, it will be allocated according to which spouse it belongs.
Proving separate property in a trial
This is one of the most important questions you will encounter in your divorce if your case makes it to trial. Some overwhelming evidence needs to be shown to trump the presumption in place that all property belonging to spouses in a marriage is considered community property. When the property was received and how the property was acquired are critically essential.
Suppose that you had a piece of property sold and that proceeds of that sale were deposited into a jointly held bank account or otherwise invested. The concept of tracing would come into play as the separately stored property has since been turned into what could be considered community income.
Often you will need to either have kept excellent records of any transaction like this or have an expert witness who is available to testify to the history of the funds and where and how the property should be considered your separate property.
Split it all down the middle?
It is not so simple to assume that if your case makes it before a judge, they will just take all the community property and split it down the middle, 50/50. Instead, a judge will consider all of the evidence presented in your trial and make a "just and right" division of the community property based on that determination.
Keep in mind that which of you or your spouse ends up with the children primarily plays a role in this determination, as does whether or not either of you played a role in the dissolution of the marriage through infidelity or other causes. Prior evil acts can be punished by having your spouse be awarded a disproportionate share of the community estate.
A basic run-down of the factors that a judge will use to determine what a just and right division of the property looks like are:
- Special needs of you and your spouse. Are one of you disabled and unable to work?
- Separate property allocation. Did your spouse come into the marriage with a great deal of particular property, whereas you have virtually none? This may sway a judge to award you with a greater than fifty percent share of the community estate.
- Differing abilities to earn an income. If your spouse is a doctor and you're a teacher, then their ability to make a significant income significantly outpaces your own. With this in mind, a judge can even out this disparity by awarding you a larger share of the community estate if they deem that appropriate.
- Fault in the breakup of your marriage. I alluded to this point earlier in this blog post. If your cheating has caused your spouse to file for divorce, then you may be looking at receiving a relatively small portion of your community estate. This is especially true if you spent community property funds on hotel rooms, meals, and gifts for the "other man/woman."
Putting a dollar value on the property in a divorce
An inventory and appraisal are typically one of the first forms that your attorney will ask you to fill out for them. This form asks you to list out each piece of property that you own, your spouse owns, and your community estate owns and to estimate a value for it.
This gives your attorney, your spouse's attorney, and the judge a good idea of what you believe to be in play for your divorce from a property standpoint. The inventory is taken as an affidavit, meaning that you will sign your name to it and have it notarized before submitting it to the court.
A judge will take these inventories and utilize them as evidence in your trial and will base their decisions regarding property in large part on what the lists have to say.
Tomorrow's topic- spousal maintenance essentials in a Texas Divorce
Stay tuned tomorrow for another blog post covering an aspect of Texas family courts and family law. Spousal maintenance, or alimony as it is sometimes referred to as is another popular area of the law that our attorneys are asked about with some frequency.
We will break this subject down tomorrow and help you understand the critical points in a divorce case in Texas.
If any of the subject matter that we touched on today leaves you with questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, today. One of our licensed family law attorneys can meet with you six days a week for a free-of-charge consultation. Divorce is never easy, but having an experienced representative by your side through the process can help provide you with peace of mind.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: "16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce"
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Other Articles you may be interested in regarding Houston Court Local Rules:
- Texas Family Law Courts: Temporary Orders in a Divorce case
- Texas Family Law Courts: Beginning the Divorce Process
- Texas Family Law Courts: Divorce essentials
- Texas Family Law Courts: Mediation and Divorce Essentials
- Texas Family Law Courts: What to Expect
- Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 245TH Judicial District Local Rules
- 247TH Judicial District Local Rules
- 246TH Judicial District Local Rules
- Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 308TH Judicial District Local Rules
- Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 257TH Judicial District Local Rules
- Why is Separate Property Important and How to Keep it Separate in a Texas Divorce?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's essential to speak with one of our Houston, TX, Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, and surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.