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How does a short marriage affect a divorce settlement?

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Texas is one of the “community property” states, which means that marital assets belong equally to both spouses. However, when your marriage ends after just a year or two, it may not seem fair that your spouse who contributed very little to the household finances could end up with half the assets.

Fortunately, he or she probably won’t.

Dividing up the family assets is seldom as simple as splitting everything down the middle. There are a lot of factors that can ultimately affect the financial consequences of a divorce — including the length of the marriage itself.

Community property rules only apply to the assets that are either earned during the marriage or otherwise mingled together. If you owned your house prior to the start of your short marriage, for example, you will likely still own the house after the marriage ends.

In addition, alimony is unlikely to be awarded when a marriage lasts less than a decade. While there are always exceptions, you probably can expect that to be off the table if your marriage was brief — even if your income is significantly higher than your spouse’s.

If you’re concerned about your retirement accounts, you should consider talking to a forensic accountant so that you can establish how much of them might be subject to a split — and fight to keep them out of the settlement if the marriage was particularly brief. The judge has some flexibility in how the financial split is ordered and a brief marriage should operate in your favor when it comes to your retirement funds.

Unfortunately, you can’t get back any financial gifts you made to your spouse. That includes payments you made on any debts that he or she brought into the marriage (no matter how significant they were). That’s something that you decided to do while planning your future together and was a choice you made at the time.

If there’s a lot of money at stake in the split, consider getting a financial adviser on your divorce team in addition to your attorney. It’s probably the best investment you can make under the circumstances.

Source: MarketWatch, “I paid off my wife’s student loans — then she filed for divorce after two years of marriage,” Quentin Fottrell, May 06, 2018

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