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Is Texas a Community Property State?

Texas is a community property state. Any assets and debts you acquire from the day you get married belong to both you and your spouse. 

As you work through your divorce, you must decide what portion of your estate remains with you and what part goes to your ex. Texas rules can help you decide. 

What is community property in Texas? 

You may acquire all sorts of assets and debts during your marriage. Many of these become part of community property that you will split with your spouse when you divorce. 

Community property typically includes the following:

  • Employment benefits: Your salary, tips, and other payments from your job are part of community property. Unemployment compensation counts as well. 
  • Pension plan contributions: Payments you or your employer made to pension or retirement accounts during your marriage are part of community property.
  • Property: Your primary residence and rental properties purchased during marriage typically become community property. 
  • Major purchases: Computers, televisions, cars, and other items you bought together should be split when you divorce. 

Debts are community property, too. Credit card balances, mortgages, car loans, and other financial tools are typically split during a divorce so one party isn’t left to shoulder debt that was acquired during the marriage. 

How is community property divided in a Texas divorce?

You're required to divide community property during a Texas divorce. Your arrangements must be fair enough to pass inspection by a judge during your divorce hearing. If you and your spouse are amicable, you may be able to make these decisions together. If you are unable to sit down and discuss and resolve property division issues, however, a judge will do it for you.

Your Final Decree of Divorce will outline the following:

  • Items you will keep 
  • Items you will sell, and how those profits will be split 
  • Items considered separate property (not included in community assets)
  • Debts you and your partner will pay 

What is not community property in Texas?

You likely entered your marriage with assets. Those assets may or may not leave the marriage with you, depending on whether they were used to fortify your marriage in any way. For example, if you had an inheritance before your wedding, that was your separate property. But if you used the funds to make a down payment on your marital home, your inheritance is no longer your separate property. 

How to define separate property during a divorce 

Holding items out of community property conversations isn't always easy. Sometimes, couples disagree about what they should and should not split. Having proof of sole ownership is helpful. 

An accountant or financial professional could help you decide how to split your estate fairly. A mediator can also help you hold civil discussions and reach a resolution together more quickly than you could on your own. 

Read: A Beginner's Guide to Divorce Mediation

Can courts award spousal maintenance?

Texas laws include provisions for spousal maintenance (sometimes called alimony). If you have so little left after splitting community property that you can’t meet your needs, a court could force your ex to pay you. 

Some people also develop spousal maintenance plans during their divorce negotiations. You might agree your spouse to keep their retirement accounts in exchange for payments lasting a few years, for example. 

Negotiation with your partner before your divorce hearing can prevent judges from making plans you both dislike. It pays to work together. 

How does community property impact the family?

The court is required to make a "just and right division" of your community property, taking your children's needs into account. If you keep custody of your children and your spouse cannot make reasonable child support payments, the court could shift more community assets to you to help benefit your family and offset the lack of financial support from your ex.

Working with your ex on these plans is wise. Together, you can develop strategies that ensure your children are comfortable after the divorce. 

 

References

Community Property. (September 2022). TexasLawHelp.org.
Dividing Your Property and Debt in a Divorce. (January 2023). TexasLawHelp.org.
Family Code, Title 1, Chapter 8, Subchapter A. (September 2021). State of Texas.