What does "community property" mean?
Texas is a community property state. Although there are exceptions to every rule, community property is subject to a division in the event of a divorce, including debts. Before the community estate can be divided, it must be characterized. The estate is not merely divided by giving each side 50%. Instead, several questions are asked to determine what a "fair and equitable" division of that estate should be. For example, items that would be considered as part of the community estate could consist of cars, houses and other property obtained during the marriage.
In Texas, property that is considered the separate asset of a party is generally not divided. It is only the community estate that gets divided. For instance, if one party owned a house before the marriage, that house would remain the property of that person after the divorce is settled. However, there are also rules that might give the other spouse a claim of reimbursement if certain criteria are met. Other separate property items may include such things as stocks, businesses, inheritance and gifts. Whether each item of the marriage is characterized as community or separate is one of the keys to the final outcome of the division of property.
Many times, the determination of how an article of property will be categorized can be difficult. In these circumstances, "tracing" is often used to make these determinations. Tracing develops relevant evidence for the tracking of an individual's separate property through the entanglement with community property. Often when tracing is used, expert witnesses are needed to testify to the evidence or give appropriate appraisals of the property's value.