Property Settlement Lawyer
The Law Office of Maria S. Lowry represents spouses in divorce proceedings in Houston and throughout Harris County and surrounding areas. The divorce process can be difficult and stressful, and clients need a qualified and skilled Houston property settlement lawyer to make sure that they protect their desired assets and that they get their fair share of the marital estate in a divorce. At the Law Office of Maria S. Lowry, our property settlement lawyers can help guide clients through the settlement process, providing advice and zealous representation to make sure that their interests are protected in the divorce.
Division of Property in a Texas Divorce: Community Property vs. Separate Property
Texas is a community property state. Essentially, all property acquired and income earned during the marriage is considered community property and belongs to both spouses equally. In a divorce, community property will generally be split evenly. Debts incurred during the marriage are treated the same. A court may split the property differently, and unequally, if there are “just and right” reasons to do so.
Separate property will not be included as part of a divorce proceeding. Separate property includes any property that was owned by one spouse before the marriage and was kept separate throughout the marriage, or property that was acquired by one spouse through gift or inheritance during the course of the marriage. For example, if one spouse inherits a house from a deceased uncle or is given stock as a gift and they keep it separate, that property may be separate property. Rent and other proceeds from separate property are also generally considered separate property. If a client wants to have property labeled as separate and kept out of the divorce calculation, the client must prove by “clear and convincing” evidence that the property is separate.
What Are Just and Right Reasons to Split Property Unequally?
While courts generally tend towards splitting property evenly, courts may shift the balance in favor of one spouse or the other depending on a handful of factors. These factors include:
- Fault in the dissolution of marriage. If one spouse cheats or is abusive, for example, the other spouse may receive a better share of the property.
- Earning capacity and separate assets of each party. If one party has a much smaller earning capacity based on, for example, education, employment, separate assets, or expected inheritance, they may be granted a bigger piece of the pie.
- Size of the community estate. The larger the estate, the more likely the court will split the assets unevenly.
- Benefits a spouse would have received if the marriage continued. One spouse may be compensated for benefits they will no longer receive as a result of the divorce, such as retirement benefits.
- Health and physical condition of the spouses.
- Relative age of the spouses. A large age disparity may affect the court’s calculation of earning potential, including retirement benefits.
- Unusual gifts to third parties, or irresponsible use of marital funds. If one party spends money on third parties, such as an extramarital lover, or racks up credit card or other debt with frivolous spending that does not benefit the marriage, the court may alter their share of the marital property.
- Custody of children. In addition to support or alimony payments, one party may be entitled to a larger share of the marital estate if they obtain custody of shared children.
This is a non-exhaustive list of just some of the factors that can affect a court’s division of marital property in a divorce. A skilled Texas property settlement lawyer can use these factors to get a greater share of the community property for the client if the property split is not already agreed-upon.
Other specific issues with property may affect the division of assets as well. For example, if one spouse owns a house acquired before the marriage, but community funds are used to pay off the mortgage, the owner of the house may be required to pay the other spouse back for their portion of the community funds used to pay the debt.
Contact the Law Office of Maria S. Lowry to Discuss Property Settlement in Texas
If you are considering divorce or already in divorce proceedings, you need to make sure your property rights are protected and that the ultimate division of your shared property is fair. An accomplished Texas divorce and property settlement lawyer can help you get there. In the greater Houston area, please contact the Law Office of Maria S. Lowry to discuss property settlement and get the representation you need to assert your interests. We serve clients throughout the counties of Montgomery, Liberty, Chambers, Galveston, Brazoria, and Fort Bend.