Understanding the Community ‘Pie’

It’s all in the Pie

In this video I want to talk a little bit about the ‘his’, ‘hers’, and ‘community’ and how all that works together in the realm of divorce. It is a common thing that I hear, “that was his account” and “that’s her account” and they get stuck in this fact that it’s not a community account. Texas is a Community Property state which means that everything that you own at the time of divorce is assumed that it is community, now I’m not going to talk in this video about the difference between community and separate property so for sake of argument let’s say that everything that you own today is in fact community. I want you to get out of the idea of thinking that there’s this ‘his account’ ‘her account’ mentality because it’ll confuse you and it forces people to get stuck in negotiation unnecessarily.

How to Divide the Pie

When you think about community you need to think of it like a pie; it could be any kind of pie that you want, I like apple pie so let’s assume it’s apple pie. Everything that we own is inside this apple pie and when you are negotiating your divorce it doesn’t matter if it’s his account in his name or her name or y’all’s name is on it, it’s all in the pie including all the debts. Everything is in this pie! When you are going through and negotiating things, you’re going to actually each cut out different pieces of the pie. You may have smaller pieces you may have bigger pieces but at the end of the day you’re going to get to a just and right division, now I did not say a 50/50. You have to be really careful because in the state of Texas it is common that there is not an actual 50/50 division, again that a discussion for another video on why that is, but it it’s not always 50/50 so there may be a slight variation. Now, I want to preface that with I have not seen, others might have, but I don’t believe that I’ve seen anything above a 60/40 division, so we are going be close to a 50/50. It’s going to be a ‘just and right’ division but you’re going to each have different pieces of that pie, different sizes, you may have a sliver of this account and a sliver of that account at the end of the day you’re each going to have your portions and you’re going to then have to retitle or transfer things so that everything goes into the proper name at the end of the day.

When you’re thinking about your property division think of everything in the pie, we’re going to put everything in the pie, don’t get stuck on ‘his account’ or ‘her account’ or ‘y’all’s’ account, everything is community. If you have additional questions or want to understand how this impacts your specific situation, give us a call at Next Step Divorce Solutions and we will be happy to explain it more to you. Have a good one!

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How A Pre-Nuptial Agreement Can Save Your Marriage

This guest post is offered by former Family Law student Rachel E. Barron of Bloodworth Law Firm, PLLC, and was originally posted on the Regent Family Restoration blog.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements, or “prenups” have a bad reputation for being a document that people only get before marriage because they either: assume the marriage will not last, or, because they do not fully trust their future spouse. Unfortunately, this bad reputation has placed such a stigma on prenups that many people believe that it is better to not get married than to marry someone who is asking for a prenup. This is not only a potentially bad decision financially, but it can also spell disaster for the potential relationship quality of a couple. This blog will go through two myths and misconceptions people have about prenuptial agreements.

Myth One: “I don’t have significant assets, so a prenup would be a waste of money.” Financially speaking, prenups are well-known to be a common method of protection for individuals who are well-off financially prior to marriage. A prenup is generally a good idea, even if you do not have significant financial assets, and especially if you live in a “community property” state. In Texas for example, there is a presumption that any property acquired during a marriage is “community property,” regardless of the source of funding used to acquire the property.[1] This presents a problem, because it requires someone claiming separate property to prove the property is separate by tracing its origins, and that generally requires litigation. I can affirm that this process is expensive, and litigants sometimes spend more money proving their separate property, than they would have paid for a prenup. If you have any property that carries a license, title, or deed before getting married, including bank accounts, investment funds, a vehicle, or real estate, you need to speak to a licensed attorney, and probably a financial advisor about how a prenup can protect your assets. Prenups can also minimize litigation over issues like spousal maintenance, or alimony, and division of liabilities. Here’s the bottom line: no one buys insurance expecting to actually use it, but it is a huge relief when it is needed, because you’re covered. Prenups work much like insurance; for a relatively low “premium,” you can save a small fortune if litigation is needed. In fact, speaking from someone who has spent the better part of the last decade composing invoices for divorce litigation, prenups can be the wisest “insurance” available.

Myth Two: “A prenup means I don’t trust my future spouse.” A prenup is not about a lack of trust.  Rather, it is about being a good steward of what you have. Stewardship is not simply about finances or property; it is also about your relationship. A prenup by nature is a contract. The beauty of the contractual nature of a prenup is that, barring state rules, you can put almost anything into the document you want, provided that it is not illegal. The reality of marriage is that it is not only one of the most beautiful gifts God gave humanity, but it is also hard work. There are no two, perfect people, and there is no perfect marriage. It is not a question of “if” hard times will hit, it is a question of “when.”  A prenup can help prepare you for when those hard times come up. Every human has a pre-disposition towards “fight” or “flight.” Personally, I have a “flight” response. I despise confrontation (ironic for a future family law attorney, I know!) My husband is also, very anti-confrontational. Despite how well we balance one-another out, that’s a bad combination. In fact, Psychology Today™ argues that until we “do the work,” we are doomed to “recycle” our bad habits.[2] For my husband and I, a propensity to flight, nearly ended our marriage. We had to lower our own egos to allow ourselves to be humble enough to do the work. My husband and I do not have a prenup; but we both think that a prenup is a good idea for any couple who is considering marriage, and it is precisely because of our own experience, and how easy it was for both of us to ignore the problems until they exploded, after which a divorce was an easy solution.

Counseling can also minimize your chances of divorce, so a pre-divorce counseling requirement written into your prenup can be most helpful. I don’t mean simply saying “We agree to go to counseling before filing for divorce.” I mean, a detailed, spelled-out disaster response plan. Meet with your pastor, or current couples’ therapist. If you don’t have a couples’ therapist, get one! If you need a recommendation, contact your pastor to find a therapist who has the same belief-system as you and your future spouse. If you are not religious, find a therapist who specializes in couples’ counseling and who has good reviews from current, and former patients. The professional you choose can help you jointly craft a plan that works for your relationship.

Another consideration is to add a requirement that prior to filing for divorce, you both must attend, and successfully complete a Marriage Intensive Program through The Smalley Institute. The Smalley Institute provides a 3-to-5-day Marriage Intensive Program, that is designed to identify issues, and help you and your spouse communicate in a safe space and learn the tools to communicate well at home. The program is usually booked at least 8 weeks out, and it is not cheap, but it is worth the price, and the wait. I do not receive any referral payment, endorsement monies, or other incentive for referring you to this company, but I have seen them save several couples that I know from what even I believed to be an irreparable situation.

By carefully planning how you will resolve potentially detrimental conflicts before you say “I do,” both you and your future spouse can ensure that your marriage has the best chance for survival, and that your relationship actually survives “until death do[es] you part.”

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The Top 3 Foolish Divorce Settlement Mistakes

When you are facing a life changing decision like divorce, what do you think you will find more valuable:  Someone to make you feel better by saying that nothing has to change, or someone who will give it to you straight?  It worries me that not enough people in the world of divorce professionals will truly tell it like it is. They tell you what you want to hear, which can lead you to make some big mistakes.  Easily avoidable mistakes: Mistakes that need not happen!

This process is not easy but I want to properly prepare you for the tough decisions you will have to make. When necessary, I will tell it just like it is. Your household income as a couple will now be supporting two households, so yes, things will change.  Let me guide you through that change with some simple points. 

Here are a few things that I see when it comes to divorce.  Settlements are agreed to (and sometimes even ordered by a judge!) then the people come to me after-the-fact confused and bewildered and I read through their decree and just shake my head. Please, please, please – don’t make these mistakes!! 

#3 – The settlement doesn’t take taxes into effect – AT ALL!

          We all know that Uncle Sam will dive into our pockets at every opportunity. Absolutely do not agree to a settlement without knowing and understanding the tax implications! What people often find is that the tax burden on their half of the marital assets is significantly higher than their spouse’s, making their “half” of the assets worth significantly less than they thought.  More specifically, don’t expect your attorney to do this! Attorneys are not accountants or financial advisors and unfortunately there are some that won’t bother to warn you of that or emphasize the importance to consult with one.

#2 – Pensions are split 50/50 but no one knows what that really means.

                    Over and over and over I see divorce decrees that order pensions split 50/50 but no one has any idea what will actually happen or any clue as to what the pension is actually worth. An ‘X’ marking a 50/50 division with no dollar associated with it is not a proper division of a pension. You need to get answers to several questions like, when can you start collecting? Is there an option to take a lump sum? Will there be a cost of living increase each year? What if you or your spouse dies? Will it keep paying? Will it double? When I ask these questions, no one has ANY IDEA what the answers are? Really? How can you possibly agree to a settlement without understanding something so crucial to your retirement? Again, do not expect attorneys or mediators to be of much help here. Every Pension is different, and you need to have someone guide you through answering these questions for the specific pension in question.

#1 – Drum Roll – The biggest mistake I see is keeping a house you can’t afford.

          I understand you can get emotionally tied to the family home and really want to stay. Before you even consider this option, you must do a budget.  I also strongly suggest you meet with a financial planner and more specifically a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®.  I have witnessed where one or two years down the road the spouse who “won the house” has run out of cash and realized that they can’t sell a window to put food on the table, they can’t refinance because now they don’t have enough income, and they have no choice but to sell. The selling costs are about 8% of the sale – all of which would have been split 50/50 with the ex if they had sold as part of the divorce. The primary home is normally one of the bigger assets to split, before agreeing to keep or not keep the house make sure to do your homework and consult professional guidance.

As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® my goal is to help bring to light those things “you don’t know, you don’t know”. The purpose of the points above is to outline that there are areas where big and costly mistakes can be made, even in “simple” cases. Do your homework and seek advice before agreeing to any settlement. Don’t go this alone. You only have one chance to get it right!  Let us at Next Step Divorce Solutions help you.

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Divorce: How to Keep Your Money

As soon as you begin to contemplate divorce, the nauseating, panic-attack-inducing realization of losing half of your net worth and then having to figure out how to manage it all kicks in and you find yourself wondering if it’s even worth it to consider leaving if you’re just going to end up broke and starving.

There are ways to ensure that your financial future is not destined for disaster. First and foremost, be sure you involve a financial advisor that specializes in divorce, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® to be precise, on your team so that you will be fully informed of all the creative settlement possibilities that may be open to you.

A couple married 24 years were referred together to a colleague for assistance with their divorce. They had gone to an attorney together and were completely amicable. The attorney made it clear that he could only do their document preparation since he was ethically bound to represent only one party. That was ok, but they asked how they would determine their property division. He responded, “This is a community property state so we’ll just divide each asset and each debt exactly 50/50.”  The couple just didn’t feel like that was the smart thing to do. They were referred to the CDFA®, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, to explore options.

After gathering all of their financial documents and completing the analysis, the CDFA® put together two reports for the clients. The first reflected an exact 50/50 split as the attorney had suggested. The second was a creative settlement solution that also resulted in a net 50/50 split but took into consideration tax planning and consequences as well as the needs of each party as they planned for the next phase of their lives. One of the most crucial pieces that is often left out of negotiation talks is finding out what each party needs to be okay post-divorce. This step requires a financial advisor who understands the importance of forward planning and can identify those creative solutions that considers taxes and the desires both short term and long term of each party.

This couple had less than $800k in total net worth and the creative settlement solution resulted in an additional $20,000 EACH to their bottom line just because some financial intelligence was used to determine their settlement. That’s real money!  Needless to say, the couple was thrilled knowing that they saved $40,000!

Don’t go into this blind. There are so many ways to ensure that both of you get to keep more of your own money and that you negotiate for the money that is right for your situation and your needs. Get the right experts on your team.  We’d love to help you!  Call us today.

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Creating a Fair Divorce Settlement

As soon as you decide that divorce is a potential reality, immediately your thoughts will turn to your future and fears of your new reality. “I can’t support myself.” “I haven’t worked in 20+ years.” Or “How much of my income will I have to give up supporting my spouse and the kids?” “I’ll be living in poverty!”  A world of unknowns reveals itself in an avalanche of financial and emotional realities that must be dealt with. Despite the stereotypes around vindictive nasty divorces, my experience is that many couples truly and sincerely want what’s fair for all involved.

The problem here is that every person’s idea of fair is different. Depending on how much emotional wounding may have happened in the marriage, perceived wrongs that demand to be righted, apologies that remained unspoken, “fair” may be on the peaks of two separate mountains cut deeply by a river of conflict and resentments. This is the simple truth that has created a multi-billion-dollar divorce industry. I think there is a different answer.

What if you let go of the need for fairness? I know, sounds crazy but try this on for size. What if each party didn’t worry about what the other person was getting and sat down with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® and simply figured out what they need for themselves to be able to be ok? You may find that what’s important is not getting everything equal but keeping certain things that are important to you. Consider this example, what if everything up for division could be depicted by a jar of marbles. You may find that you really care less about receiving the exact same number of marbles because what you really want are all the green marbles or all the small marbles and your spouse wants all the red marbles. Now coming to the table can look a lot different. Now, consider that you sit down with a mediator and start there? Maybe it’s not exactly equal. Maybe it’s not “fair” but it’s creative. Maybe it just works! For everyone involved! Now that is a win/win solution!

Focus on the next phase of your life and how you can move on in a healthy happy way that will preserve your family unit for the future. My goal is to help you be the best divorced family you can be, because you’re still a family.

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Common Money Mistakes Made During Divorce

For most people, the divorce process is emotionally draining and mentally exhausting.  Many people describe it as a time of being frozen, numb, being in a mental fog, or moving in slow motion. Despite that emotional and mental trauma, you will be expected to go through your finances with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that your settlement agreement is fair and equitable.  With divorce brain, that’s easier said than done, even for the financially educated!

Even if you feel like you are clear headed, here are a few of the most common money mistakes to look out for when getting divorced. 

  1. Underestimating post-divorce expenses.

You will be asked to do a financial disclosure that reflects your expenses AFTER the divorce. It is critical that you are realistic and don’t leave anything out. This information will be used to determine if spousal maintenance is necessary or not. You must be sure to include everything from your health care deductibles to anticipated home repair charges for the roof you need to replace next year. If you underestimate your expenses by $200 per month, that’s $2400 per year. Where are you going to get that extra money? When you’re the primary breadwinner this mistake could lead you to agree to pay maintenance that you ultimately can’t afford.  A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ will help you scrub your affidavit for errors and make sure that you don’t leave anything out.

  1. Believing that your attorney will handle everything. 

Your attorney is an expert in the law, not finances. Would you ask your doctor for advice about your car? No, so why would you expect your attorney to be an expert in finances?  The attorney’s job is to ask you to fill out your financial disclosure and take your word for it that it is correct. A good attorney will glance over it looking for any glaring errors but that’s about it.  The most commonly miss-valued asset is a pension. In some situations, the value has been left out all together and just assumed as a 50/50 split. There is so much wrong with that solution, but most people don’t find out until it’s too late. This is crucial when in some cases the pension is the most valuable asset in a marriage. I often see attorneys accept a present value statement from a pension as the correct value to include as marital property. It’s not. Not by a long shot.  A CDFA® can value it properly and make sure that tax ramifications are considered as well.

  1. Not Understanding Tax Implications

Not all assets are created equal. This is at least a common understanding however I still regular see houses be trades for equity in a 401k.  Not only do you need to understand the tax ramifications of that decision, that taxation on a home is different than taxation on a 401k, but also what quick cash you will need to get back on your feet and how you will access it. Getting cash out of a home is not easy and requires equity and the ability to refinance. Getting cash out of a 401k may be easier than the home BUT there are tax ramifications and it also takes time, in some cases months, through the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to access the funds. You need to at least have a basic understanding of the after-tax settlement division.

  1. Letting attorneys do the talking for you.  

The more you and your spouse can work out by just communicating, the more money you’ll save. I’ve seen many couples that could not bear to be in the same room, but consider the cost. If you have your attorney relay information to the other spouse’s attorney, you’re racking up bills upwards of $600 an hour because you refuse to talk. This makes sense to no one. Get over any anger and talk about what will work.

  1. Letting your emotions make your decisions.

So many people going through divorce just want to “get it over with.”  This is not the time to just throw your hands up and agree to a settlement just to be done with it.  This kind of thinking is why divorce so often leads to bankruptcy! A 50/50 split of assets is almost NEVER a truly equitable settlement. So, put the emotions aside, talk to your spouse.  Take your time and make sure you thoroughly understand what your future will look like after your divorce and be sure to hire the right experts to help you.

To avoid making financial mistakes in your divorce contact Next Step Divorce Solutions today to speak with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®.

-Tessa Elrod, CFP®, CDFA®

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Getting Started: Divorce Support

Lost. Scared. Lonely. Shaken. Sad. Angry. Bitter. Relieved. Hopeful. These are just some of the stops along the emotional roller coaster that is divorce. It’s not anything that anyone should have to endure alone. As Divorce has become more common, there are now tons of resources available to help you survive the process with at least some level of dignity.

First, let me tell you the one resource not to rely on– friends and family!  They are trying to offer help but sadly, they are often misguided, uninformed, and can be downright damaging to your ability to think straight. Be particularly cautious of leaning heavily on friends or family that have walked their own divorce. It’s great to learn from someone’s experiences but I cannot stress enough that every couple and situation is different, especially in divorce.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re great for a shoulder and to keep you distracted and to remind you that you are loved.  All of which you will need during this ride.  But do your best to get advice from objective professionals and not biased family and friends. You’ll come out of this better for it.

A resource that I think everyone needs during the process and for at least a little while after is:

  1. A Good Therapist – There is just so much emotional trauma caused by divorce that you really need to talk it through with a qualified professional. A therapist will help you explore your role in the end of your marriage so you can get clear about your goals for the next phase of your life. This is the only way you can hope to form new relationships that aren’t doomed to repeat your past.
  • CDFA® or Financial Planner (CFP®) – The most common and paralyzing fear that nearly everyone feels in divorce is “Will I be ok financially?” It’s inevitable. Before you agree to any settlement, you really need a second set of eyes and some financial projections, so you know what you’re going to be looking at. It can be overwhelming to make such big decisions independently, knowing they are final and can’t be undone. Working with a financial offers you peace of mind that you’re making the best financial decisions possible, given the situation. Of course, I’m biased and would prefer that you find a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) that has been trained specifically in the finances of divorce but like I said, I’m biased.
  • Consult with a Family Law Attorney – Divorce is done within a legal process, so it is important to at least consult with your local family law attorney for guidance. There are options in Texas the do not require you to retain an attorney, but if you choose to go that route you want to make sure you have done a lot of homework. Not all divorces or complicated but you want to make sure a DIY divorce doesn’t land you back in court post-decree and costing you more time and money than had you worked with professionals from the get go. If you determine hiring your own mediator is the best for your situation be sure they well versed in divorce.
  • Non-Profits – Almost every community in the country have non-profit organizations that offer divorce support. In Houston, Texas, we have the Houston Legal Aid Center | Houston Legal Aid Center.  Check your local community for similar resources in your area.
  • The Internet – Divorce has become big business. New resource sites pop up every day offering a wealth of free information, downloads, blogs, referrals, directories, etc. It can be somewhat overwhelming so just pick out what you connect with and leave the rest. Go slow. Be kind to yourself.  Also, Meetup.com is a great resource for local divorce support groups. Going to a few is a good idea but don’t let yourself sink in too long. Recovery is supposed to be about getting better and I know too many people that stay stuck in grieving and never move on. Use a support group to move through the process and then – move on.

This is going to be a challenging time in your life. Ultimately, you will be stronger, happier, and ok – as long as you choose to. Use the resources available to you to make good decisions for yourself. Today truly is the first day of the rest of your life.

For more information about working with a CDFA® contact us at Next Step Divorce Solutions.

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3 Tips to Surviving Divorce During the Holidays (in 2020)

In a year like 2020 it may be impossible to identify the one stress that ultimately found you in the middle of divorce. Combatting a pandemic, job loss, financial stress, never ending hurricanes, and the countless other phenomena that have caused even the most average of humans to explain 2020 with a hashtag. Now here you are staring the holidays in the face and probably wishing we could just skip ahead and jump right into 2021. Since time travel is not an option and burying your head in the sand until it all passes likely is not a choice either then I would suggest these tips to help manage the short period of 2020 we all have left to survive.

  1. Find the good!

My preschool aged children are memorizing a verse for Sunday church, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good”. (Psalm 107:1) When we are faced with challenges it is so easy to focus on only that, and then tack on all the other things that are also going wrong. I’m not suggesting you should put on a happy face and pretend your divorce is not happening or that it is easy, but I am suggesting that you instead try to focus on the good things in your life. Each morning think of ONE thing you are thankful for and instead CHOOSE to focus on that the remainder of your day.

  • Treat Yourself

The holidays are a wonderful time to connect with family and friends, but it is also a time we tend to run ourselves ragged trying to do for everyone else.  It is so easy to forget about caring for ourselves in a time that is all about giving. It is ok to give a little to yourself as well. Consider a spa day or a lunch date with girlfriends. Find the thing that calms you and make sure it is added to the calendar.

  • Choose to Celebrate your way

You may not be celebrating the Holidays the same way this year but that is okay. Consider making new traditions and reinvent how you celebrate. If you will be spending Christmas day without your children for the first time, then find another way to celebrate YOUR WAY. During a pandemic you may have to be a little more creative in your festivities, but just roll with it, you may enjoy something new more than you expected.

You may have been dreading the time between Halloween to New Year’s this year but trying the steps above may make it a little more bearable. For more tips and financial guidance in your divorce contact us, your Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, at Next Step Divorce Solutions.

Author – Tessa Elrod CFP®, CDFA®

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Saving Money in Divorce

A cheap divorce sounds like an oxymoron but with these 3 tips you can save yourself time and resources from filing to settlement.

  1. Understand the various ways you can get a divorce in your state and which route is the most appropriate for you and your spouse.

In many cases you have five options. The cheapest is a DIY divorce, although it is the cheapest it can come with the highest risk for error. Some couples that attempt a DIY divorce find themselves paying more money in the future to fix what was not done properly in the beginning.  There is an online option that provides a turbo tax like experience. A third option is to hire a mediator (preferably one that specializes in divorce) to help the couple negotiate the terms of their settlement. Going direct to the mediator, even if you have consulting attorneys, can and will in many cases save money in the long run. The most common option, and often the most expensive, is a litigated route. This option typically has both parties hiring their own attorney and any additional experts. A litigated route is most expensive when the couple is unwilling to work together to come to an agreement and are forced to “fight it out” in a court setting. The fifth and final option is a collaborative divorce. The collaborative process requires the couple to build a team that works together with them to come to a settlement. The team typically consists of each party having an attorney, a mental health professional, and a financial expert. The collaborative process is beneficial for a couple that wants to keep their divorce private. The options outlined above come with varying costs, so it is important to understand them and choose the option that best fits the couple’s situation.

  • Limit the fighting!

It is in the couple’s best interest to reach a settlement with as little drama as possible. The more fighting, bullying, and digging in of heels only ends up costing more money, time and damage to the overall family unit. I encourage my clients to choose their battles and remain as professional as possible with their spouse throughout the process. Only the attorney’s win in cases where the couple does not work together.

  • Picking the right team from the start.

The best way to combat all the moving parts in a divorce is to hire a full team. I encourage my clients to, at a minimum, include a family law attorney, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, and a family therapist. With this team you hit the legal, financial and emotional areas of divorce.  All too often attorneys are put in the position of wearing all three hats, legal, financial and emotional support, that in many cases they have no business wearing. Of those three professionals the attorneys are also the ones that often have the highest per hour rate. It seems counterintuitive that you should hire more people to save money but the fact is that if you hire the right professionals for their lane of expertise, you will save money initially and in the long run. The other side of that is choosing the right individuals to fill those roles.  You want to find a professional you trust and work well with to help guide you through the process. If you do not trust your team you will never feel confident to take their advice which will cause more stress, time and money.

The above are the three areas in which I believe couples can save themselves money in divorce, choose the right route, work together to get to a settlement, and have a complete divorce team.

Contact Next Step Divorce Solutions to learn how we can assist you in your divorce.

Author – Tessa Elrod CFP®, CDFA®

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What is Community Property?

Texas is one of nine Community Property states, which essentially means that any property acquired during marriage is equally owned by both spouses.  Sounds simple, right?  Far from it. An important thing to keep in mind about property division during divorce is that it may not end up an equal 50/50, even though you are in a community property state. There are so many more moving pieces and often there are assets on the table to divide that can’t be severed down the middle, like a house.

For this article I am going to focus on two different types of property, marital and separate. We defined community property above, everything acquired during the marriage is considered marital and owned equally. What if you have property that you brought into the marriage or was gifted or inherited during the marriage, then what?

Let’s start by defining separate property.

Separate property is anything that was owned before marriage and kept in separate name, gifted, or inherited during the marriage and kept separate. Some examples would be an inheritance that was never put into an account or titled in both spouse’s name, or a savings that you had before marriage and never moved into a joint account. Seems straightforward.

Anything that is not deemed separate property is considered marital property and up for division.

As you begin to either plan or go through your divorce you want to make sure you are very clear on what is marital and what is separate. If you have a separate property claim it is best that you have evidence to back up that claim. There are additional nuances you need to be careful with here, commingling or combining separate with a joint asset, and/or separate property that has any income attached to it.

For more clarity and understanding on exactly how these factors affect your situation contact our Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® at Next Step Divorce Solutions.

Author – Tessa Elrod, CDFA®

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