In addition to custody and alimony decisions, courts also conduct an equitable division of property as a major component of final divorce orders. Not all property is subject to division, however. There are some categories of property that are considered the separate property of one spouse or the other.
Marital property, or property acquired during the marriage, is subject to division in a divorce case. Property acquired during the marriage through gift or inheritance, however, is not included. Similarly, property that has been excluded due to the existence of a signed premarital or marital agreement will also be considered separate, and the court will follow an agreement unless one party is able to prove it was obtained through fraud.
If one person receives money from a civil lawsuit arising from a personal injury case, that award is also considered that person’s separate property. Contributions to retirement accounts or pensions attributable to the time of marriage are considered community property. If a spouse has paid money toward the other’s separate property, he or she is entitled to reimbursement for the amount.
Property division is not always easy, especially when deciding what to do with a jointly owned house or when spouses’ affairs are very financially intermingled. Additionally, equitable property division does not mean the court will divide all of the marital property equally. Courts order property division as they see fair when taking into consideration spouses’ relative situations and incomes. People who are planning to divorce may benefit from securing representation from a family law attorney. An attorney may be able to assist their client with identifying all assets and proposing a property settlement that is fair while also protecting the client’s rights.
Source: State Bar of Texas, “Pro Se Divorce Handbook“, October 21, 2014