One of the most common questions I get from somebody facing divorce is about financial threats that they plan to take all the assets and "ruin them". A client will state that their spouse, and a lot of times it's the husband, is telling them that if they try and leave and divorce them, they're going to ruin them financially. "I'm not going to get any of the stuff, I'm not going to get any money, I'm going to be completely broke, I won't be able to support myself, I won't be able to do anything for the kids."

I hear this quite a bit and it's usually from the wife because a lot of times, even today, the man may be running most of the finances in the house, though that's changing quite a bit. But either way, regardless of which spouse makes and handles the money, I do hear this concern a lot.

Something to remember, if you've never had an experience with divorce in the past, is that Texas is a community property state. What does that mean? Well, all the assets, all the debts, everything, belong to both spouses as a community and all of the assets, all the debts, everything is supposed to be divided in a fair and equitable manner by the court.

Now that property division can vary depending on how you work up the case and how you present things. But it is rare that somebody can actually follow through on those kinds of threats and really just financially ruin the other side or make sure they don't get any of the assets that actually belong to both parties in the marriage.

There is also separate property. What is separate property in any given divorce? That has to be looked at and analyzed. It depends on when it was acquired relative to when the folks got married. It also can depend on whether it was kept separate throughout the marriage, but the presumption is that everything is community property.

How do you protect yourself financially when facing divorce? There are steps you should take before filing for divorce to make sure you're getting enough money to at least get through the initial part of the divorce. But it's not realistic in the vast majority of cases that you can be financially ruined by the other side. And in fact, if the other side is controlling the finances, they're probably going to be forced by the court at some point to provide money for you to be able to hire a lawyer and take care of yourself while the divorce is going on. Talk to an attorney to see how all this applies to your situation.

David Todd
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Austin TX Family Law, Personal Injury and Eminent Domain Attorney