Texas, it goes without saying, is a pretty unique state that takes a lot of pride in being different from the rest of the country. That sense of uniqueness also extends to the state’s marriage and divorce laws. Because of its unusual history, Texas is home to a mix of divorce laws that are hard to find in too many other states. From property division to alimony, divorce in Texas really is different. Below are just three of the biggest ways Texas divorce laws stand out, for better or worse.
Grounds for divorce
While Texas, along with every other state, now offers a no-fault grounds for divorce, it also continues to permit fault divorces. A no-fault divorce simply means that a couple’s relationship has broken down and shows no reasonable signs of reconciliation. In addition to the no-fault option, Texas also offers six other grounds for divorce, all of which are fault options. The fault options of divorce include cruelty, adultery, felony conviction, abandonment, living separately, and confinement in a mental institution.
While fault divorces are not unusual, Texas’ divorce laws almost seem set up to encourage filing for fault divorces. That’s because when it comes to division of property and alimony, the behavior of either spouse during the marriage and the grounds for divorce can make a big difference. For example, while many states no longer consider adultery when dividing a couple’s marital estate, in Texas a person who commits adultery could still find him or herself punished for that behavior when a court divides the marital estate. For this reason, many people have a financial incentive for divorcing on fault grounds. While fault grounds cannot be used to determine child custody and visitation, they could nonetheless affect child custody rulings indirectly. For example, if one person is accused of abandoning the marriage then the other spouse could argue that such abandonment alone proves that the couple’s child should be placed primarily in the care of the person who stayed with the child.
Finally, Texas is one of just a handful of states that divides property according to community property guidelines. Community property essentially means that the estate that a couple has built up over their marriage–including both assets and debts–belongs equally to both partners. So even if only one person in a marriage has an income, that income is deemed to have been owned equally by both spouses. Most other states use a separate property formula, whereby courts strive to divide property in an equitable (which may not be equal) fashion. Some items, however, are excluded from community property calculations, such as inheritances, gifts, and assets that were owned prior to the marriage.
Texas, needless to say, is a very special and unique state. What may surprise a lot of people, however, is that that independent streak also extends to the state’s divorce laws. Divorce in Texas differs substantially from what is found in other states and it is important for people to keep those differences in mind, especially if they have just moved to the Lone Star State or are reading up on divorce advice that may be targeted towards a non-Texan audience.