By the time you got married, chances are that you already had your own bank accounts. Perhaps you even had a substantial amount of money saved and a system for paying your bills. Like many in Texas, you may have secured your career and even purchased property before tying the knot. To protect what you had accomplished, you may have decided not to add your spouse's name to your accounts and property deeds.
Many couples, especially those in their twenties and thirties, are taking this step because they recognize the high risk that their marriages will end in divorce. By keeping their income and assets separate from their spouses, they believe they are securing their financial future in the event of a breakup. However, is this really the most effective way to keep your assets during property division?
Yours in name only
Texas is one of the few community property states in the United States. Community property laws say that whatever you and your spouse earn or acquire while you are married belongs equally to both of you. The exceptions include individual gifts and inheritances. Therefore, the money you had in your account up to the day of your wedding is probably not part of your community property. However, anything you earn and deposit into that account after the wedding is fair game for asset division, and to the extent that your separate funds become irreversibly co-mingled with community assets, the Court may presume that all the funds have become community
The same is true for property and vehicles. Attempting to protect your assets by purchasing or titling them in your name only may not be the most effective way to shield them from property division in a divorce. However, those assets you acquired prior to your marriage may be off the table, provided you did not comingle them with your joint or family assets, such as:
- Making your individually owned house a family dwelling
- Using your personal vehicle as a family car or allowing your spouse to use it
- Using funds from your inheritance for improvements on a family home
- Using money from your individual bank account to pay joint bills
- Allowing your spouse access to your account
Of course, in the absence of an enforceable agreement providing to the contrary, any money you earn during your marriage is legally community property even if you deposit it into an account that does not share your spouse's name. To protect what you had before the marriage, it is smart to have documentation of the balances in your individual accounts up to the day of your wedding. Otherwise, a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is often the most successful way of securing your individual assets in case of divorce. If you are considering divorce, or want to protect your separate assets in the foreseeable event of a divorce, a wise spouse might choose to work with an experienced Board-certified Family Law expert Texas attorney in Collin County, Dallas County, Denton County, Grayson County, Tarrant County, Midland County, Ector County, or elsewhere throughout Texas, in order to protect his or her best interests.