Dick Price, the Fort Worth-based lawyer and collaborative law proponent, who was one of the first contributors on our blog covering Texas divorce, recently posted an excellent article on his blog about dividing assets in a divorce. One of the biggest questions that comes up in a divorce is how to divide things fairly — and there’s a conception out there that dividing everything in half is what’s most fair.
But that’s not always the case. As he rightly notes, “Texas law does not mandate, or even suggest, an equal division. Texas law requires that property division be ‘just and right.’ That leaves a lot of wiggle room.”
His points about asset division remind us of this recent image making its rounds around the Internet:
Price cites some reasons that an “equal” distribution — giving everyone the same-sized box to stand on, to draw from the picture — might not be the best solution. If one spouse makes much less than the other, if one spouse has separate property or other separate assets, or if one party’s dealing with health issues, an equal division doesn’t make for a fair one.
In collaborative divorce, the team looks at a couple’s financial picture from the perspective of one financial professional — it’s open in a process that encourages full disclosure, and it gives everyone a clearer picture of what’s on the table. Then, the lawyers work with the couple for a creative divorce solution. To use the picture above, it’s akin to determine how many boxes each person needs to stand on so they can each get a view over the fence.
When a ‘just and right’ decision is left to the court in a litigated divorce, it might need feel just or right to one of the parties. But in a collaborative divorce, both parties sign off on the decision after discussing what they feel is just and right, and have the flexibility to distribute assets and determine support amounts as they see fit.
As Price noted, “Both parties need to adjust their expectations when dividing property and debts. There are rarely equal divisions in divorces. Instead, it makes sense to focus on actual needs and abilities of each party.” And in the collaborative process, couples actually have ownership in determining those needs and abilities — which helps both parties arrive at a solution they feel to be fair.