There are many moving pieces from a financial perspective when it comes to your divorce. Think of you and your attorney as entertainers who try to keep plates spinning on the end of a stick. Getting the plates to spin in the first place isn’t the most difficult part- actually getting them to stay that way without falling to the ground is the really difficult 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 just right There is only one divorce that you will have a chance to practice on and you had better get it right the first time. You will be faced with 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 the decisions for you.
Rely on your attorney to teach you about divorce and how your individual circumstances will impact a divorce in Texas. It is unrealistic for you to know all the important 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 so that you can make the decisions that you need to in order 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 you can in a limited amount of time and your attorney should be aware of this. The metaphor that law school professors like to use is trying to drink water out of 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 case. Make sure your attorney emphasizes the important 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 amazing how fruitful an attorney-client relationship can be if you are able to digest the basics of a divorce case early on and can use the majority of your time with your attorney on negotiating these issues. This means that having an attorney with experience handling divorce cases is essential. Many attorneys think they can handle a divorce because they are such a widely filed case. Don’t settle for an inexperienced attorney because he or she is a family friend or because he or she is inexpensive. This is not the time to overthink things in order to save a few dollars or to make a family member happy.
Financial disagreements can go from the living room to a courtroom in an instant
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. Now, your case may be the exception that proves the rule but do not assume that your case will end up before a judge. Most of the time divorcing spouses settle either in mediation or in informal settlement agrees.
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 exactly based in fact.
Texas is a community property state
The first major 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 that 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 that you acquired during your marriage by inheritance or gift made specifically 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. Property or debts that you acquire after this stage are part of your separate estate. Your case may be under temporary orders or standing orders that keep you from acquiring large amounts of debt or property that are not necessary to completing your divorce.
Paper Trails are important in a Texas divorce when it comes to property issues
Let’s say that you inherited some money from a deceased relative. In order to prove that it is separate property you should be able to show where the money was deposited and the source of the money as well. I will always remember 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 not clear 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 to come to court to testify as to 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 ways towards answering questions and providing you with reassurance about your situation.