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Whether you have been married for decades or only for a short time, you and your spouse will have accumulated some assets during the marriage. It is important to understand how the law in Texas treats this property so you know what will happen if your marriage ends up dissolving.
At The Springer Law Firm in Katy, our divorce lawyers have worked with many clients who have had questions about the division of marital property. We wanted to explain some of the basics so that you know more about the process and can feel confident about making the right decisions for your specific situation.
Call (281) 990-6025 to schedule a consultation at The Springer Law Firm
What Is Marital Property?
In short, marital property is anything that you and your spouse acquired during the marriage. If you and your spouse bought a car while married, it is marital property. If you own a home together, it is likely marital property. Anything — from the paycheck you earn at work to the groceries in the fridge — is considered to belong to both spouses if it was earned during the marriage or purchased with marital assets.
Understanding Community Property Issues
Texas is a community property state and, under the law, all property considered "marital property" is subject to a 50-50 split during the divorce. This can often cause serious problems between spouses when trying to come to an agreement on property division matters. Being prepared can help you and your spouse focus on practical solutions instead of fighting over every little thing.
Does It Matter Who Acquired the Property?
Not generally. There are some exceptions we will cover below but, for the most part, if it was acquired during the marriage it is marital property. Your paycheck, your spouse's paycheck, the car, the house, all of it: It belongs equally to each person and is subject to a 50-50 split.
Are There Any Exceptions to What Is Defined as Marital Property?
Yes. If you owned something prior to the marriage, such as a house, the value you contributed prior to the marriage will be excluded from the list of property to be divided. That does not mean the entire house is yours; if your spouse contributed to house payments after the marriage, he or she will have an interest in the amount of their contributions. It will be necessary to determine the value of these contributions during the property division process.
Additionally, items such as gifts or inheritances will also be excluded from the pile of marital assets. Certain other assets may also be excluded but, in general, most of the property acquired during the marriage will be subject to division.
Dividing Debts During the Divorce Process
Debts are just as essential a factor to consider in a couple’s net worth as their assets, so take some time to examine all of your bills and financial statements to paint a more precise picture of your financial situation. Texas is a community property state, which means a judge will divide your debts as equally as possible during the litigation process.
Unfortunately, in some cases, an individual cannot or will not pay the debts the judge assigned during the divorce process. If this happens to you, the creditors may come after you to repay the debt. Of course, you should not be on the hook for paying off your former spouse’s share of debts. To protect yourself, you should petition the court to enforce the terms of your divorce. Your ex-spouse will be required to attend court where he or she must explain the non-compliance. A judge may punish your former spouse with fines or, under more severe circumstances, jail time.
Ultimately, getting a divorce while you and your spouse still have debts to settle can make the process substantially more complicated. The best option for both parties is to clear as much debt as possible before getting divorced. Even if you cannot clear all of it, easing some of these burdens before going to court will help ensure you and your former spouse will have an easier time paying off the remaining debts, so you can avoid attending court again.
Talk to a Divorce Lawyer Who Can Protect Your Rights
We know that this might be confusing for you, only adding to the uncertainty you are currently experiencing. We would be happy to discuss your case with you and learn more about your options. To schedule your consultation with one of our lawyers, please call our Katy divorce attorneys at (281) 990-6025 or send us an email.
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