Couples that divorce in Texas must either arrange their own property division settlement or prepare for litigation. In a litigated divorce, a Texas family law judge will use their understanding of state law and your family’s situation to divide your property appropriately.
Although most states in the country have an equitable distribution property law, Texas is technically a community property state. The courts will consider everything you earn or purchase during your marriage to be part of your marital estate and therefore your shared community property. The courts will also expect both of you to share responsibility for the debts that you took on during the marriage.
How will the judge presiding over your divorce handle your community property at the end of your marriage?
The judge has some discretion when splitting the property
In some states, a community property statute implies that the courts will divide everything equally. When people talk about a 50/50 division of their property, they were likely in a community property state when they divorced. However, the community property approach in Texas is different than it is in certain other states.
Specifically, a judge has the authority to deviate from the suggested 50/50 division of property based on their interpretation of the couple’s circumstances. If a judge feels strongly that a 50/50 split would not be fair, they can approach the matter differently. For example, if there is one spouse with far more separate property than the other or a serious health issue, a judge may consider that when dividing up their shared or marital property.
You can never predict exactly what a judge will decide
No matter how carefully you review your inventory of assets and how carefully you study Texas law and family court precedent, it is almost impossible to completely predict the outcome of community property division proceedings. Since so much is left to a judge to decide, each case can have drastically different results than another situation with similar marital circumstances or similar property.
Individuals with highly-specific divorce goals, such as those who want to keep specific property or those who want to exclude certain debts from the marital estate, may benefit from cooperating with their exes instead of litigating. A negotiated or uncontested property settlement will be a reflection of your preferences and values, not a judge’s interpretation of your circumstances.
Understanding the different ways that you can resolve property division matters in a Texas divorce will help you prepare for negotiations and court proceedings.