Navigating Divorce: How to Protect Your Rights and Assets
Not all marriages go the distance. According to data cited by Forbes, as many as half of first marriages eventually end in divorce. That divorce is a part of life for a lot of people does not make the legal process any easier to navigate. At Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, we are committed to empowering our clients. Here, our Houston divorce lawyer provides an overview of the key steps that you should take to protect your rights and your assets when navigating a divorce in Texas.Know the Law: An Overview of the Divorce Process in Texas
Knowledge is power. To effectively protect your rights and your assets when ending a marriage in Texas, it is useful to have an understanding of Texas law. Divorce is largely governed at the state level. While there are some key similarities from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the specific intricacies of a state’s divorce laws always matter. Here are key points to understand about divorce in Texas:
- Most Divorces are Uncontested, No-Fault: A divorce does not have to be a fierce battle. When possible—which is not in every case—parties to a divorce can best protect their interests by looking for amicable solutions. Under Texas law (Tex. Fam. Code § 6.001), most divorces in Texas are filed on the no-fault grounds of "insupportability." In effect, this is a marriage that has become insupportable due to discord or conflict of personalities. An uncontested divorce is one that avoids litigation—meaning a settlement can be reached. Texas also has fault-based divorce cases that may make sense to pursue in certain cases.
- Texas is a Community Property State: Here is a key thing to know about your financial assets in a divorce: Texas is a community property state. For the most part, the property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is deemed "community property" and is subject to division upon divorce. Community property is considered to be jointly owned by both spouses. In contrast, separate property is not subject to distribution in a divorce.
- Best Interests of the Child Applies to Custody/Visitation: When it comes to child custody—which Texas law officially refers to as the “allocation of parental rights and responsibilities—Texas courts prioritize the "best interests of the child." The standard is comprehensive. Relevant factors include the emotional and physical needs of the child, the capability of the parents, the stability of the home, and any evidence of abuse or neglect.
Financial issues are always near the center of a divorce case. Of course, divorce can be emotionally taxing and spiritually draining. That is a given. Beyond that, the logistics can be difficult to navigate as well. In a community property state like Texas, a big part of the divorce process is unwinding finances. You and your spouse will need to divide your property and any debts. You may also need to deal with other financial issues, such as spousal support and/or child support. A proactive approach is key. Here are five tips to help you protect your assets during a divorce in Houston:
- Keep Detailed Records: Proper documentation is essential in a divorce. Be sure to obtain and retain all paperwork related to property ownership, like deeds, titles, financial statements, or inheritance documents. For items claimed as separate property, a clear chain of custody—records—are especially important.
- Make Sure You are Protected From Waste/Abuse of Funds: It may be time to start putting restrictions on joint accounts. How exactly this works is a case-by-case issue. Still, Joint accounts can become problematic in divorce. Be sure to proactively protect your finances from any waste, abuse, or other misappropriation by your spouse.
- Start to Create a Budget for Post-Divorce Life: Your financial situation will likely change post-divorce. To avoid financial strain, create a new budget based on your expected income and expenses after the divorce is finalized. This will help you make informed decisions during asset and support negotiations and set you up for financial stability afterward.
- Clarify the Big Financial Sticking Points: Every divorce has its own unique set of financial complexities. Some of the major assets that can become contentious include the marital home, any shared businesses, retirement savings, and investments. Deciding whether to sell the house or have one spouse buy out the other, determining the value of a business, or dividing retirement accounts are all intricate processes that require careful consideration. Early identification of these issues is absolutely essential.
- Work With a Divorce Lawyer Who Has the Right Financial Knowledge: Divorce laws and financial implications can be complex. A Houston divorce lawyer with experience handling complex financial matters—from property division and debt division to spousal support and child support—can help you ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.
Even if you and your spouse agree that a divorce is the right decision and you remain on relatively good terms, the process can still be extremely challenging to navigate. You do not have to take on the family law process alone. The single best step that you can take to protect your legal rights, parental rights, and financial assets is to consult with a Houston divorce attorney as early as possible in the process. Your lawyer will be able to review your case, help understand your options, gather relevant financial documents/records, and take action to help you secure your future.Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a Houston, TX Divorce Attorney Today
At Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, our Houston divorce lawyer is a skilled, compassionate, and experienced advocate for clients. We are here to protect your rights and your assets. Call us at (888) 378-1784 or contact us online to set up your confidential initial appointment. From our Houston office, we help people navigate divorces in Harris County and throughout Southeast Texas, including in Galveston, The Woodlands, Pearland, Sugar Land, Pasadena, League City, and Cypress.