Texas divorce courts use the equitable distribution standard when dividing property. According to this method, the judge splits marital property between the parties as seems fair based on each partner’s contribution to household finances, relative financial positions, child custody, and whether there is fault.

Alternatively, couples can negotiate a property settlement. Most divorce litigants ultimately settle out of court with the assistance of attorneys and sometimes a mediator. It often makes sense to avoid the time and expense of a trial when the likely outcome is clear. A good settlement allows each spouse to retain property that is important to them and remains financially secure despite the increased cost of living separate lives.

Equitable Distribution Versus Community Property

Texas’s equitable distribution divorce laws eliminate the presumption that each spouse is entitled to 50% of the marital property. The term equitable gives the court latitude in defining what fair means in each case. However, judges must base their decisions on established standards in accordance with law and precedent.

The Factors That Decide Property Division in a Texas Divorce

Texas has a list of factors set by statute that specify what the court will use to determine a fair property division. Examples of factors that are often taken into consideration during property division cases include the following:

Marital Fault

Florida law requires divorcing couples to have grounds. Grounds can be no-fault, where the couple splits because they fail to resolve their differences, but neither is legally considered right or wrong. On the other hand, one spouse can file for divorce based on the misconduct of the other, though courts require proof of fault before granting a divorce on that basis.

Grounds for a fault divorce include cruelty, infidelity, and a prison term of over one year. For example, if divorce litigants show evidence that their spouse had an extramarital affair, the court will likely grant the wronged spouse a larger portion of marital property.

Economic Misconduct 

Courts also consider whether one spouse acted irresponsibly or intentionally dissipated marital assets. When economic misconduct has occurred on one side, the other partner suffers damages because the estate has shrunken. In that case, the economically reckless spouse may receive a smaller share as a way of compensating the other.

For example, a spouse with a gambling addiction may have lost vast sums of money at the tables. In such a case, it’s unfair for the other partner to suffer for it. Accordingly, the court is likely to grant a larger share to the more financially responsible spouse.

Income and Earning Capacity

Relative incomes matter in equitable distribution. Often, one spouse has superior earning power because of age, education, health, and other reasons. In that case, courts generally award lower earners a larger portion of the estate.

Educational Contributions 

We see many examples of one spouse helping the other to earn a degree. If the couple divorces, courts must weigh the other spouse’s contribution to that education. For instance, one partner may attend law school while the other works and supports the studies. Because the other spouse helped increase their partner’s long-term earning power, he or she may receive a larger share of the marital property.

Child Custody

The partner who has primary conservatorship of the children usually has larger living expenses post-divorce. The court may award a larger share of the marital property to help with these expenses. Also, the court may assign the primary conservator certain property for the benefit of the children, such as the family home.

Non-Monetary Contributions to the Marriage

Texas law mandates judges to factor non-monetary contributions to the marriage into their decisions. Not all work and participation in the family generates an income. It is only fair for a spouse who earns less because of family obligations to receive a larger share of the marital property. 

Non-monetary contributions include household chores, cooking, childcare, and supporting the other spouse’s career.

High Stakes Divorce Cases

Splitting marital property is always high stakes for those involved. A property settlement or court verdict can benefit one litigant at the expense of the other. An adverse result can lead to a financial loss that can never be recovered.

When preparing to file for divorce, it’s crucial to consult a family law specialist. The reason for the divorce weighs on the property distribution, so wronged spouses need to compile evidence, and those accused of being at fault need a strong defense. Most property division issues can be settled without going to court, but we also see cases where the opposing party remains intractable, and the only way to obtain a fair result is to argue the case before a judge or arbitrator.

Call Us Today to Speak with Property Division Lawyers in Dallas, TX

A divorce can threaten many different types of property rights. Whether you are facing property division, alimony, child support, or other financial issues, the experienced Bellevue divorce attorneys at Aberdeen Family Law are here to help. We have helped many Dallas residents protect their property rights throughout the divorce process. Call (972) 914-3986 to schedule your consultation.

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