Did you know that individuals with attorneys are 87 percent more likely to not only complete divorce proceedings but to do so with good results? At first glance, this statistic seems confusing. After all, people get divorced every day, so how hard can it be?
As it turns out, the answer is very hard. This is especially true in Texas, where proceedings can be complicated by Texas community property laws and Fault Divorce rules. Keep reading to learn why asset division in Texas can be messy and how a good divorce attorney can help.
Texas Community Property Law
Nationwide, there are two general structures that guide the division of assets in a divorce. The first is a Community Property framework. The second is Equitable Distribution.
Texas is a Community Property state. This means that:
- Any property a couple acquired during their marriage is a shared asset
- All shared assets must be divided between partners at the time of divorce
- The court’s goal is to make that division of assets as “just and right” as possible
- Assets owned by either party prior to the marriage can remain their “separate property”, and is not subject to division
- Assets gifted specifically to one party or the other can also qualify as separate property
- Debt accumulated during the marriage is shared and divided upon divorce
While this may look straightforward, the reality can be complex. For instance, one spouse may have invested substantially more separate property or income in purchasing or renovating a shared home. In that case, they might be able to make a strong argument against dividing the value of the home equally during the divorce.
Other factors that can influence asset division under Community Property law include:
- Disparities in spouses’ income, education, and earning capacity
- Joint decisions that led to one spouse leaving the workforce or reducing participation in it
- Health concerns or chronic conditions that limit one spouse’s ability to support themselves independently
Proceedings can be further complicated by the question of fault.
At-Fault Divorce in Texas
Like the majority of other states, Texas allows both “no-fault” and “fault” divorces. In a “no-fault” divorce, asset division is largely guided by the principles of fairness and a desire to help both parties achieve financial stability post-divorce.
When the concept of “fault” enters the equation, the division of assets can be altered. A spouse who is determined to be at fault may suffer punitive measures during the division of assets. For example, the court may award a spouse accused of being abusive or adulterous a much lower percentage of shared assets than they would otherwise qualify for.
Choosing a fault divorce can be a difficult decision.
On one hand, it can dramatically draw out the divorce process. The accusing spouse must prove their accusations of fault, while the accused spouse has the opportunity to refute the claims and push for a no-fault divorce instead. This may drive up costs for everyone, and delays the spouses’ ability to complete their divorce and start their new lives.
On the other hand, if proven, accusations of fault can be morally gratifying to the wronged spouse, and lead to one party getting more assets than the other. Individuals accused of the fault must employ an asset division attorney to protect their rights or risk huge losses.
Even in amicable divorces, caution is necessary when dividing up assets. Getting a divorce can have enormous and unexpected financial impacts on couples who lack the right guidance and support during the process. A prime example of this is taxes.
Suppose a couple sells their house as part of a divorce. This can be an appealing option because it makes the value of the home easy to split and often provides much-needed cash flow. What couples may fail to account for, however, is the capital gains tax both parties will be hit with as a result, if the sales proceeds are not re-invested in another home within two years.
Changes to retirement accounts also tend to require careful handling to avoid ugly financial consequences. In every case, the laws around these changes and divisions can be elaborate and difficult to understand. Hiring an attorney can help both parties obtain the best possible outcomes.
How a Houston Divorce Attorney Can Help
Houston, Texas individuals seeking a divorce or served divorce papers by a spouse should make hiring a lawyer their first priority. There are several reasons not to wait.
First, the steps a divorcee takes or fails to take right away can play a critical role in how the rest of the proceedings go. The longer a couple takes to file, the more of their income spouses lose to division in a divorce.
This can hamper each spouse’s ability to:
- Create separate accounts
- Make downpayments on post-divorce living arrangements or other separate assets
- Work out a viable post-divorce cash flow and budget
Likewise, failure to separate joint bank accounts and credit cards right away leave divorcees vulnerable to poor financial choices or malicious action on the part of their spouses. Few couples understand:
- What steps do they need to take to prepare for divorce and protect themselves
- When these steps need to happen and in what order
- How various actions might impact divorce proceedings for better or worse
Hiring an attorney as soon as possible supplies divorcees with an experienced guide to the messy and stressful process of divorce. It helps individuals and couples make informed choices and gives them the best chance for a clean, positive divorce and a fresh, empowering start.
Schedule a Consultation
Handling your divorce well is a critical first step to creating a happy, healthy, and successful post-divorce life. An experienced Houston divorce attorney can help you navigate your divorce and set yourself up for future success. Schedule a consultation today and let our expert attorney provide you with the support you need during this difficult time.