While U.S. divorce rates have declined in recent years, the numbers remain sobering. According to the American Psychological Association, about 40 to 50% of marriages in the U.S. ultimately end in divorce.

Whether a marriage has lasted one year or many, spouses often end up pooling many of their assets as well as sharing personal belongings. When facing divorce, deciding who gets what can be confusing and contentious. Texas couples should know that, if they cannot negotiate with each other about a fair division, the court will distribute property according to state law. This is why the assistance of a divorce lawyer is so important.

What is community property?

Along with eight other U.S. states, Texas is a community property state – meaning that nearly all property that either spouse acquires during the marriage is considered “community property” – and belongs to both partners equally. In addition to earned income, retirement benefits and investments, community property can include vehicles or real estate that one or both couples purchased while married, regardless of whose name is on the title.

What is separate property?

Property that a spouse owned before marriage remains separate property during the marriage unless intermingled with joint assets. The law recognizes several other types of property as separate as well, including inheritances or gifts made to only one spouse and payments from personal injury settlements.

How do the courts divide community property?

While both spouses have equal ownership of all community property, the court may not divide community property equally during a divorce. Texas law holds that the division must be “just and right,” and the court may examine many factors when distributing assets, including:

  • How long the marriage lasted and what standard of living the couple shared
  • What types of economic and noneconomic contributions each spouse made to the family and marriage
  • Which spouse will become the primary caregiver for minor children
  • What education level and earning capacity each spouse has

These are just some of the considerations that help a judge try to make a fair division between partners. Unfortunately, sometimes the outcome is not what either spouse would have preferred.

Collaborative divorce – A third option

Divorcing couples may be able to avoid a potentially undesirable court decision by utilizing the collaborative divorce process. This process helps you remain in control as well as keeping your personal details private.

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