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Community property, equitable distribution: How do they differ?

Divorce is a formal legal process that ends a marriage under the eyes of the law. The broad definition is the same in all 50 states. As for the details, that is where everything starts to differ depending on where you file those divorce papers.

When it comes to property division, the process and a spouse’s rights can vary greatly from one jurisdiction to another. In the United States, there are essentially two basic theories for the division of marital property by a court: equitable distribution and community property. What is the difference between the two?

Most states follow the equitable distribution theory. While the name includes the root word “equal,” it does not necessarily mean that each spouse will end up with a numerically equal portion of the assets.

Under the equitable distribution theory, a judge will include a number of factors to determine what would be a “fair” distribution. For instance, the length of the marriage or the fact that one spouse gave up career opportunities to help at home could alter the final distribution.

Texas, on the other hand, is a community property state. This theory presumes that each couple has a 50 percent interest in all property. The judge takes a look at the list of joint assets and in basic terms, divides it in half. The “other” factors are not completely excluded, however. A couples’ age or stay at home status may be factored into a spousal or child support order.

Even those states that follow the same theory have variations in the controlling laws and the application of those laws. This is why it is so prudent to ensure that your interests are protected by an experienced divorce attorney in Dallas.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Why Where You Divorce Matters: Equitable Distribution vs. Community Property,” David Centeno, Aug. 28, 2013

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