Property and Debt Division in a Texas Divorce
How property and debts are divided when you get divorced.
Texas is a "community property" state. The Texas Statutes defines community property as:
§ 3.002. COMMUNITY PROPERTY. Community property consists of the property, other than separate property, acquired by either spouse during marriage.
§ 3.003. PRESUMPTION OF COMMUNITY PROPERTY. (a) Property
possessed by either spouse during or on dissolution of marriage is
presumed to be community property.
(b) The degree of proof necessary to establish that property is separate property is clear and convincing evidence.
§ 3.102. MANAGING COMMUNITY PROPERTY. (a) During
marriage, each spouse has the sole management, control, and
disposition of the community property that the spouse would have
owned if single, including:
(1) personal earnings;
(2) revenue from separate property;
(3) recoveries for personal injuries; and
(4) the increase and mutations of, and the revenue from, all property subject to the spouse's sole management, control, and disposition.
(b) If community property subject to the sole management, control, and disposition of one spouse is mixed or combined with community property subject to the sole management, control, and disposition of the other spouse, then the mixed or combined community property is subject to the joint management, control, and disposition of the spouses, unless the spouses provide otherwise by power of attorney in writing or other agreement.
(c) Except as provided by Subsection (a), community property is subject to the joint management, control, and disposition of the spouses unless the spouses provide otherwise by power of attorney in writing or other agreement.
How is property divided at divorce?
It is common for a divorcing couple to decide about dividing their property and debts themselves, rather than leave it to the judge. But if a couple cannot agree, they can submit their property dispute to the court, which will use state law to divide the property.
Division of property does not necessarily mean a physical division. Rather, the court awards each spouse a percentage of the total value of the property. (It is illegal for either spouse to hide assets in order to shield them from property division.) Each spouse gets items whose worth adds up to his or her percentage.
Courts divide property under one of two schemes: equitable distribution or community property.
- Equitable distribution. Assets and earnings accumulated during marriage are divided equitably (fairly). In practice, often two-thirds of the assets go to the higher wage earner and one-third to the other spouse. Equitable distribution principles are followed everywhere except the community property states listed just below.
- Community property. In Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin, all property of a married person is classified as either community property, owned equally by both spouses, or the separate property of one spouse. At divorce, community property is generally divided equally between the spouses, while each spouse keeps his or her separate property.
How do we distinguish between community and non-community property?
Very generally, here are the rules for determining what's community property and what isn't:
- Community property includes all earnings during marriage and everything acquired with those earnings. All debts incurred during marriage, unless the creditor was specifically looking to the separate property of one spouse for payment, are community property debts.
- Separate property of one spouse includes gifts and inheritances given just to that spouse, personal injury awards received by that spouse, and the proceeds of a pension that vested (that is, the pensioner became legally entitled to receive it) before marriage. Property purchased with the separate funds of a spouse remain that spouse's separate property. A business owned by one spouse before the marriage remains his or her separate property during the marriage, although a portion of it may be considered community property if the business increased in value during the marriage or both spouses worked at it.
- Property purchased with a combination of separate and community funds is part community and part separate property, so long as a spouse is able to show that some separate funds were used. Separate property mixed together with community property generally becomes community property.
Who gets to live in the house during the divorce?
If children are involved, the parent who spends the most time with the kids, or provides their primary care, usually remains in the marital home with them. If you don't have children and the house is the separate property of just one spouse, that spouse has the legal right to ask the other to leave.
If, however, you don't have children and you own the house together, this question gets tricky. Neither of you has a legal right to kick the other out. You can request that the other person leave, but he or she doesn't have to. If your spouse changes the locks, or somehow prevents you from entering the home, you can call the police. The police will probably direct your spouse to open the door. When you both own the home, the only time you can get your spouse to leave is if domestic violence has been committed and a judge grants a restraining order.
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