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What is community property?

Texas is one of 10 states that operate according to community property law. Sometimes community property is referred to as marital property. These laws are used to govern how debt and assets are divided in a divorce. Some of these states divide the debt and assets equally between divorcing couples while other states, including Texas, use equitable division. Equitable division allows judges to use discretion when distributing the assets and debts to each member of the divorcing couple.

Judges consider many factors when applying the equitable distribution doctrine. There are several criteria that may compel the court to order unequal distribution of the debt or assets. Judges often consider spouses earning capacity, custodianship and marital fault in determining the division of community property. Other factors that may influence the division may include age differences, loss of continuing benefit, the size of the estate and existing health conditions.

Assets and debt acquired during the duration of marriage are often considered to be community property. The division of assets in a divorce often includes furniture, artwork, vehicles, homes, legal titles, bonds and stocks. Some of the items that qualify for equitable or equal division include wages, mortgages, the home, interest income from businesses and furniture. Items owned before the marriage, gifts, inheritance or assets acquired after the couple separates are usually not considered to be community property. Separate property division may also apply to individual bank accounts or proceeds from a lawsuit.

When a divorce occurs, many people benefit from meeting with a lawyer who might be able to help gather enough evidence to garner a favorable division of the assets. The disproportionate division of community property can have a lasting impact on each person's future for many years after the divorce is finalized.

Source: Findlaw, "Community Property Overview", August 12, 2014

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