Over the course of a long marriage, a husband and wife may enter into certain agreements that divide their estate and property unequally. This contrasts with Texas’s community property status, which means that property acquired during a marriage belongs equally to both spouses. Because of this, agreements otherwise have to meet certain statutory criteria. A skilled family law attorney can help you navigate these criteria and avoid any nasty surprises in the unfortunate event of divorce. An example of this is highlighted in a recent opinion issued by a Texas court.
Facts of the Case
The now-divorced parties to the case were married in 1994 and had one child. One spouse—the wife— was the primary breadwinner. Before separation, the parties executed a marital property agreement that converted some joint property, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies, to the wife’s separate property. The agreement included provisions, including a full “warning” page, that stated the parties understood they had the opportunity to have independent attorneys review the agreement and that they could be surrendering otherwise available claims to the property. Both parties signed that page and separate waivers. The parties also established a revocable trust that stated property in the trust would remain as either separate or jointly owned property.
The parties separated in 2016 and attempted to execute a settlement agreement to be later incorporated into their final divorce agreement. Later, the wife claimed she revoked her consent to that agreement. The trial court found that the previously established trust granted the wife ownership of an account, but the settlement agreement granted the husband ownership of that same account. The court held that the trust governed and the wife owned the account. A later proceeding ordered that the wife’s property was established as set forth in the marital property agreement pre-separation.
The appeals court found that the district court was correct in finding that the assets in question were the wife’s separate property. The court noted that Texas law provides for married couples to convert joint property to separate property and that the marital property agreement entered into by the couple met all statutory requirements and was never revoked. The court went on to find that the settlement agreement was repudiated later by both parties and was not formal enough to satisfy the requirements for settlement agreements under Texas law.
The court also found that the trial court correctly and fairly divided the remaining jointly-owned community property when it gave the husband a higher—65%–share of that property. Because the wife had more separate property, more benefits, and higher earning potential due to several professional positions, it was reasonable for the district court to award more of the estate to the husband, who earned comparatively less and did not have separate property.
Are You Facing a Divorce in Texas?
Division of property can be complicated, and multiple documents can muddy the waters. The attorneys at Guest & Gray can help you with complex family law matters even before separation. Our Forney family law attorneys have offices in Forney, Rockwall, and Plano and can put our decades of experience in family law to work for you. For your free and confidential consultation, give us a call today at 972-564-4644.