Divorce cases can range from amicable to downright hostile. In uncertain scenarios like this, it is difficult to know what you will be able to take with you and what assets and property you will be able to keep after the divorce. It is important to discuss your divorce case with a lawyer and have them represent you so they can help protect any financial investments or assets that you need going forward after the divorce.
The Houston property and asset division lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm work with our clients to help them maintain separate property and get their fair share of shared property during divorce cases. Texas law gives many avenues for how to divide assets, and it is often through the help of an experienced attorney that people are able to get the outcomes they want in their divorce cases. For a free case consultation, call our law offices today at (817) 476-1797 to learn more about how we can help in your particular case.
How Assets are Divided During Divorce in Houston, TX
Texas law sets up a “community property” system for assets during marriage. This means that from the date you get married to the date you separate, any property acquired during the marriage is considered “community property.” This gives both spouses access and control over the assets, allowing them to use them, grow them, and take advantage of them. During a divorce, any and all community property is divided among the spouses.
Many states with a community property system assume that property will be divided 50/50 since the spouses have a 50/50 interest in the property. Texas Family Law § 7.001 instead says that property should be divided in a way that is “just and right.” This equitable division usually means that both parties will get something close to 50/50, but there may be very good reasons that one party would get more.
Courts can look at any factors that are relevant when deciding how to divide assets. For instance, one party’s contributions to growing those assets by working and investing could justify giving them a greater share of the assets. However, the court could also agree that the other spouse working as a homemaker and the primary parent to shared children also entitles them to a higher split of the assets, especially if they will be taking custody of the children and need additional assets to support themselves and the shared children.
Property that either party receives as a gift to only the one spouse is not considered community property and is not divided during a divorce. The same is true for any damages in a personal injury case that are paid to only one spouse, except for damages for lost wages (which are divided as community property, just like other wages and income).
What Property is Kept Separate During Divorces in Houston?
Although any property gained during the marriage is shared as community property, any property that the spouses already owned before the marriage is considered “separate property” and is not subject to asset division. This means that if you owned a car or a house or a business before getting married, it should not be shared property and you should not be at risk of losing it during the divorce. However, there are many caveats to this.
First, any property that you intentionally share with your spouse could become community property. The clearest example of this is when you add your spouse to the title of your shared home. This explicitly makes the property shared and legally gives them a fair share of the property upon divorce. However, other property can be shared without such a formal title change, such as the furniture in your house. Commingled money in an account is not necessarily community property, and fighting for money in shared bank accounts is often something a lawyer can help with.
Second, separate property that generates income would itself be separate property, but the income it generates is usually community property. That means that stocks would usually be left separate, as would rental properties you might own, but that stock’s dividends or the income from the rental properties would still be divided during divorce.
Lastly, while the marriage might still be in effect after separation but before the court finalizes the divorce, your property can start being separate again. Couples live separate and apart before the divorce is finalized. The date of separation can usually be used as the end of the community property so that property acquired after the separation but before the marriage is dissolved is still separate. Talk to a Houston family lawyer about what issues might arise to challenge this and how to protect assets gained during separation.
Settlement Agreements and Prenups for Asset Division in Houston, TX
When you are getting divorced, a lot of elements of the divorce case can be handled through agreements instead of leaving the issue up to the court. When couples form an agreement on how to divide assets, courts need to approve it first. They will usually do so if both sides had separate lawyers represent them during negotiations and the agreement is “just and right.”
Courts also often approve prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements dealing with asset division. Prenups can be signed before the wedding to dictate what property is community property and what property is separate, laying out the groundwork for any potential divorce. Postnuptial agreements work similarly, but they are formed after the marriage begins.
Call Our Houston Asset Division Attorney for Help with Your Divorce Case
When you start a divorce case, you might not realize the full extent of the legal issues that could arise at asset division. To help protect your assets and get what you need out of your divorce case, call our Houston property and asset division lawyers today. Call our Houston family law attorneys at The Queenan Law Firm at (817) 476-1797 to set up a free legal consultation today.