Community Property Doesn’t Always Mean a 50-50 Split in Divorce

Texas is one of a minority of states in the nation that has a community property law for divorce. Many people assume that this means that when a married couple divorces, they divide everything equally. That’s not the case.

Most states practice equitable division of marital property in a divorce. This means that the division of assets must meet guidelines of fairness under state law. In all states, almost all property obtained during the marriage is considered marital property, but dividing it 50-50 isn’t necessarily the best way to meet standards of fairness.

For example, when one spouse gave up a career to stay home with children while the other one pursued a high-paying career, a 50-50 split doesn’t account for the difference in the potential income of the two parties. One will be able to continue making lots of money while the other, who sacrificed a career for the good of the marriage, is at a disadvantage in the job market. Most states try to avoid this unfair result by tailoring the property division to address the imbalance. In some states, spousal support, or alimony, can help the disadvantaged spouse.

Under Texas’ community property laws, each spouse has a claim to 50 percent of each asset in the marital property. This can be difficult in high asset divorce when some of the assets consist of retirement plans, businesses, or other items that are difficult to divide.

Even when these assets can be equally divided, Texas courts still demand that the division does not lead to an unfair result. Courts will adjust the division of property to make sure that the lower-income spouse gets a greater percentage of the marital property. Alimony is not common in Texas.

The end of a marriage can be a very emotional time, but much of the divorce process itself is about finances. Texas family law attorneys can help their clients get through the process with the financial tools to help them start a new, happier, more independent life.

Source: Houston Chronicle, “How to have a ‘good’ divorce,” Alyson Ward, May 13, 2014

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