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Getting divorced in a community property state

Getting divorced can be a messy and extremely stressful process. Who gets what? How do we decide what's fair? Do I get to keep my individual savings account? These are just some of the questions that may arise during your divorce process.

Since Texas is a community property state, the law will distinguish between community property and separate property. The courts will begin their evaluation by labeling any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage as community property unless a spouse can provide sufficient proof that an asset is a separate property. After evaluating all community property and separate property, the judge will divide the assets between spouses based on what they feel is "just and right."

Separate property is something that only belongs to one spouse, but how is that further defined? As you can imagine, these property rules are complex and typically judged on a case-by-case basis. Below are answers to a couple common questions regarding property division in a divorce.

What is considered community property?

Community property examples include:

  • Real estate purchased while married
  • Cars, boats and other vehicles (regardless of who's name is on the title)
  • Income earned from employment while married (including: raises, bonuses, tips and overtime)
  • Any debt acquired by either spouse during marriage
  • All contributions made to 401K or other retirement funds from the start of the marriage
  • Balances of any checking or savings accounts, whether joint or single

What is considered separate property?

Separate property is typically defined as any property that is owned by one spouse before getting married, but there are specific cases where separate property can also be obtained during your marriage. Separate property examples include:

  • Property acquired by inheritance or gift (before or during marriage)
  • Income earned prior to marriage
  • Property gained by personal injury damages (except for lost wages)
  • Property owned prior to marriage

Some separate property assets even if attained before marriage can become community property if marital funds are used to sustain them. For example, if you own a car before getting married but use marital funds to maintain or fix it - that would now be considered community property.

Have more questions?

When in doubt, consult a professional. No matter how amicable or not you believe your divorce will be, the best way to ensure the fairest outcome possible is by consulting with a professional divorce attorney. They will help you understand the intricacy of the law, make sure your voice is heard and be your guide through the process.

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