The decision to end a marriage is very personal and often highly emotional. But many people who go through the process are somewhat surprised to find that divorce itself is largely about money. Especially for those who do not have young children, the division of property is typically the most time-consuming and complicated part of any divorce.
Equitable distribution of community property
Texas law follows what is known as the community property model for marriage. Generally, this means that any assets or debts the parties obtain during the marriage is owned equally by both parties. Should they divorce, the parties must first disclose all their assets and debts. Next, they separate any personal property from the community property. For the most part, separate property consists of assets the parties owned separately before the marriage, and community property consists only of assets and debts they obtained during the marriage. However, the picture can be murkier in many cases.
Once the parties have identified the community property, they must divide it in a manner that is equitable, or fair. Since they own the community property equally, one might think that a 50-50 split would alwasy be the right thing to do, but that is not necessarily true.
Dividing it exactly in half — if possible — might be fair in some cases, but in many it is not. For instance, if one spouse earned much less than the other during the marriage, it may be more fair to give the disadvantaged spouse a bigger portion of the marital property so that they are not left at a financial disadvantage after divorce. In some cases, alimony may be appropriate.
Trial versus out-of-court settlement
Most divorces are settled out of court. This requires the parties to negotiate at length over the division of property. This isn’t easy, even in cases where the parties are able to cooperate. In cases where the parties aren’t getting along, it can be very difficult indeed. A good lawyer can help clients protect their rights and their finances in a divorce.