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What does “fair and equitable” mean?

As you and your spouse begin your Texas divorce, your property settlement agreement likely will become one of your main concerns. Texas requires that the way in which you and your spouse divide your marital assets between you must be a fair and equitable one. But what exactly constitutes “fair and equitable?”

The Huffington Post points out that while many people consider “fair and equitable” to mean a 50-50 split, that does not mean that you and your spouse must divide everything exactly down the middle. Other considerations apply.

Marital versus nonmarital property

To begin with, not everything you and your spouse own must be part of your property settlement agreement. For instance, each of you owns separate property such as the following:

  • The assets you or (s)he already owned at the time of your marriage
  • The inheritances you or (s)he received during your marriage
  • The gifts you or (s)he personally received during your marriage
  • Any settlement or jury award you or (s)he received as a result of a personal injury or other lawsuit

Under most circumstances, these pieces of separate property belong solely to each of you respectively. However, sometimes one of you has a partial claim on the other’s separate property. For instance, if you owned a house before you got married, but you and your spouse have lived in it during your marriage and (s)he helped you make the mortgage payments, etc., a court likely will consider the house’s appreciation in value during your marriage as a marital asset, not a separate asset of yours. It is these marital assets that you and your spouse must divide fairly and equitably between you.

Factors involved

Numerous factors come into play when determining what amounts to a fair and equitable property settlement, including the following:

  • The respective age and health status of you and your spouse
  • The respective salary each of you earns
  • The respective earning potential each of you possesses
  • The standard of living established during your marriage
  • Whether and to what extent one of you contributed to the other’s education, training or career potential
  • The length of your marriage

A court can likewise consider any other factor it deems appropriate when determining if your property settlement agreement is fair and equitable with respect to both of you.

This educational information is not legal advice, but it can help you understand the factors involved in a fair and equitable property settlement agreement.

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