Protecting assets is one of the most difficult aspects of a Texas divorce because the division of property is often the most contentious issue in a divorce.
However, just because it is difficult to protect your assets during a divorce does not mean that it is impossible. There are a few specific steps you can take to make your assets secure during a divorce case in Texas.
Since each case is unique, it is important to discuss your particular situation with a Florence divorce lawyer to find out how you can protect your assets in your specific case.
How is Property Divided in a Texas Divorce?
In order to know how to protect your assets during a Texas divorce, you need to understand the state’s property division laws. Texas is one of few states in the country that recognizes marital property as community property.
It means that any property spouses acquire during the marriage is subject to division upon divorce, though there are some notable exceptions. The following assets are not considered community property in a Texas divorce:
- The assets owned by either spouse before the marriage;
- Any property acquired by either party as a gift before or during the marriage;
- Any property inherited before or during the marriage; and
- Personal injury awards.
Previously, we discussed what constitutes community and separate property in Texas.
In order to protect your property more effectively, you need to understand which assets belong to whom. For this reason, it is advisable to consult with a skilled divorce attorney to help you identify community and separate property in your divorce case.
1. Determine the Status of Your Property
Any assets acquired during the marriage are considered community property in Texas, except inheritance, gifts, personal injury awards, and property owned by the spouses before the marriage.
Often, however, it is difficult to determine the status of your property without an experienced attorney. For example, if your separate property is commingled (mixed) with community property, it may lose its “separate” status.
2. List All of Your Separate Property
The second step to protect your assets is to list all of your separate property and gather evidence proving its “separate” status. You may need the assistance of a knowledgeable lawyer to trace your assets to a community or separate property source.
Under Texas law, all assets owned by the spouses at the time of divorce are considered community property unless they can prove otherwise. For this reason, it is vital to gather all available evidence to prove that the assets rightfully belong to you.
3. Find Proof of Gifts and Inheritance
If you inherited any property before or during the marriage, you need to find documents proving that it was an inheritance. If you received any items, funds, or assets as a gift, you should find documented proof to show that it was acquired as a gift.
4. Collect Financial Statements
In order to protect your assets in a Texas divorce, it is a good idea to gather all available financial statements to establish when and how the separate property was acquired. For this reason, you may need to collect the following documentation and information:
- Bank statements
- Mortgage documents
- Retirement account statements
- Life insurance policy
- Estate planning documents (Last Will and Testament and Trust documents)
- And many more
5. Do Not Incur New Debt
Regardless of whether you have any debt at the time of filing for divorce, it is not advised to incur new debt while your divorce is ongoing. New debt could complicate both your divorce case and financial situation.
6. Open a Bank Account in Your Own Name
Do not rule out the possibility that your spouse could wastefully dissipate marital funds from your joint bank accounts while your divorce case is pending. For this reason, it could be a smart move to open a bank account in your own name to protect your funds from your spouse during the divorce case.
7. Hire a Financial Appraiser
It is generally a good idea to hire a financial appraisal to assess all of your assets. Getting the appraisal will ensure that you divide your property in a fair and just manner. You need a financial appraiser to assess all assets and everything that has value, including but not limited to the marital home and other real estate, automobiles, retirement plans, businesses, and many more.
If you need assistance finding a reputable and reliable financial appraiser, ask your attorney to help you the right fit for your assets and budget.
8. Make Copies of Your Documents
Ideally, you should make copies of all the important documents before you file for divorce. However, if your divorce is already ongoing, you can still get the copies, but it is important to act quickly. Some documents may go missing or may even get destroyed, or you may simply not have access to the documents if you leave the marital house before or during the divorce case.
While your divorce lawyer could issue subpoenas to help you obtain the necessary documentation, it is much better to make the copies before filing for divorce. You will need the copies of:
- Tax returns
- Bank statements
- Savings/investment account statements
- Proof of income
- Trust documents
- Pension plans
- Retirement account statements
- Deeds to all real property
- Car registration
This is not the complete list of copies that you should make during your divorce case in Texas. Contact a knowledgeable attorney to help you gather the necessary documentation and determine what copies to make for your divorce case.
Speak with a Lawyer Today
If you are getting divorced in Texas, it is important to take the above-mentioned steps to protect your assets. The property division process can be very complicated and confusing, which is why it is advisable to consult with a divorce lawyer to understand your rights.