Every divorce is different from the next. Marriages last for different amounts of time and involve different circumstances. Sometimes, the spouses have children together or one spouse requires maintenance from the other after the divorce. Other times, the only issue that spouses need to address is how to divide their shared property.
Texas is a community property state. Thus, marital or community property is subject to division during litigated divorce proceedings. Spouses navigating the divorce process can either reach their own settlement through direct negotiations or may litigate and ask a judge to decide who should keep which assets from the marital estate. But, before negotiations about property division begin in earnest, spouses first have to identify what assets are marital property and which ones are separate property.
Some types of assets may belong only to one spouse
State statutes in Texas clearly establish several categories of separate property. Unless there are claims of commingling, meaning that someone combined those resources with marital assets, they usually remain the separate property of one spouse. Property that someone acquired before getting married is their separate property unless they deposited their money into a shared bank account or otherwise engaged in commingling. Gifts usually remain someone’s separate property too. Items that one spouse inherits are their separate property. Any recovery from a personal injury lawsuit is also usually separate property.
Marital property, on the other hand, consists of assets people acquired during a marriage. Income earned by both spouses is usually marital property. Any assets they purchase with marital income or investment returns earned on marital income are part of the marital estate. Even if someone has a separate bank account and uses that to hold their paychecks, the funds earned and deposited during the marriage are likely subject to division in the divorce proceedings. The discovery and property disclosure process is important in part because it lets each spouse better understand what marital property they have to divide and what separate property they can protect.
Ultimately, with so much at stake, learning more about the basic Texas rules that govern property division – and seeking legal guidance accordingly – may benefit those preparing for an upcoming divorce.