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How does 'equal' differ from 'equitable' in a Texas divorce?

Dividing property in Texas is usually not among the simpler things spouses must do during divorce. Texas functions under the community property system of dividing property, which is a system misunderstood by many. In the process of dividing marital property from separate property, and then dividing the marital property itself, Texas strives for an equitable division of assets. However, Texas is not an "equitable distribution" state, the way most of the states in the country are; Texas is a community property state. As a result, there can be much confusion over how assets are divided in the state.

Some may believe that, like the state of California for instance, Texas aims for an equal split of marital property. In other words, each spouse may receive half of the house, half of joint back accounts and so on. While this is a simplified scenario even for states that use such a system, in Texas matters can be much more complex. In a state like Texas, it's possible to have a technically uneven distribution of assets that is still found to be equitable.

One example would be a marriage in which one spouse earned significantly more than the other, but the other spouse quit his or her job to support the first spouse through an arduous, expensive education that formed the lucrative career. The high-earning spouse may believe he or she is entitled to most of the financial fruit of that career, but a judge may view the other spouse's sacrifice as deserving as well.

For some assets acquired during the marriage, it may not be possible to divide them equally. A car, for instance, can't be split in half if it is to be kept and not sold; the same goes for artwork, jewelry and items of sentimental value. At the same time, it may not always be possible to "counter" a non-dividable asset with another non-dividable asset of equal value. There may be multiple pieces of artwork that differ in value or there may be one item of valuable jewelry that is held dear by one spouse and not the other. Property division of these items may culminate in an equitable, but not necessarily equal, outcome.

Since each divorce is as unique as the couple seeking it, the above information is not directed as legal advice. To ensure an equitable division of assets occurs with as little confusion as possible, each spouse can seek advice from a Houston family lawyer.

Source: FindLaw, "Community property overview," accessed Aug. 17, 2014

Source: FindLaw, "Community property overview," accessed Aug. 17, 2014

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Attorney Christine K. Lincoln

Christine K. Lincoln offers sound counsel and legal services to protect clients and their families facing divorce and other family disputes.

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