The Lone Star State is one of nine that has so-called “community property” laws in place. Generally, it means that everything acquired during the period of a marriage is considered part of the marital estate and is to be divided equally. This is usually on a 50-50 scale, and there are exceptions but can vary on a case-by-case basis.
What Is Community Property?
Community property applies to nearly anything acquired during a marriage, including wages and salaries, real property purchased with income, debts, and other assets, such as retirement accounts. These can become more complicated with assets like securities, stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments.
When a divorce is initiated, the court presumes that all assets that are available are community property, including everything acquired during the marriage, unless proven otherwise.
The exceptions to community property are funds or things that are:
- Owned by one spouse before the date of marriage
- Inherited by one spouse before, during or after the marriage
- Gifted to one spouse
- Property purchased with separate funds during the marriage
- Settlement money from a lawsuit, either before, during, or after the marriage
Therefore, the court will award a separate property to the individual owner. However, you will likely have to prove that the property is, indeed separate, in order to have the property awarded. Over time, proving ownership may become more difficult, especially if things like receipts are lost.
When Separate Becomes Community
However, this can become complicated when separate funds become commingled with community funds, such as a joint bank account. A home that is owned by one party prior to the marriage and used as a family home during the marriage may be converted to community property and dealt with accordingly. The name on the title becomes irrelevant.
The aforementioned financial assets can also become marital property when deciding community or separate property. A financial expert may be required to follow a “paper trail” that will tell the story.
Another example is when one party inherits a revenue-generating rental property, and the rents received are used for marital expenses. The rent funds then become community property.
One way to protect separate property is to have your attorney draw up a marital property agreement so that your property will be divided up the way you prefer. This is particularly useful for individuals who own considerable property, or inherited property, and would like to keep it separate.
Prior to or during the marriage, a couple can choose on their own which asset and/or debt would be their separate property, whether or not they plan to divorce. This can be done in a prenuptial and/or post-nuptial agreement, or at another time.
How It Affects The Family
Community property laws come into effect only when a couple of files for divorce and the court must decide specific property division.
In many cases, the biggest property decision is that of the family home, and who will receive it. Frequently, the parent who has possession (custody) of any children will be awarded the home, but not always. If the non-custodial parent is awarded the home, it will mean that the custodial parent must move with the children.
Income and other funds will also be divided, potentially leaving one or both parents with less operating income.
Get Help From Wendy L. Hart With Property Division In Fort Worth
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County are facing property division and other divorce-related matters. Wendy understands the process as well as the difficulties involved and will work to make sure your property division is the best for your family. Representing both and men and women, Wendy will make sure you’re treated fairly, protect your interests and those of your children.