- I’m contemplating divorce from my wife, and I have sizable retirement accounts and investments. How can I protect these from her during the divorce proceedings here in Texas?

Texas is a community property state. Community property is defined as property that either spouse acquired during marriage. According to state law, all property is presumed to be community property unless and until the party claiming otherwise can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it is separate property. You will definitely need an experienced Houston divorce lawyer, one with particular and specific expertise in advocating on behalf of high net worth and asset laden clients to guide you through the process of this divorce.

Point blank – it is highly unlikely that you will not be required by Texas law to share your retirement accounts with your spouse if the two of you have been married for at least 10 years. To the extent that a married person accumulates an interest in a pension, retirement, profit sharing, or other employee benefit plan during the marriage, it is community property and subject to division upon divorce. If a court awards a portion of one spouse’s retirement benefits to the other spouse, the attorneys will prepare a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to be sent to the employer, who will be ordered to distribute benefits to each spouse in accordance with the court’s order.

In the case of a 401(k), the employer usually disburses the funds in 30 to 90 days. In the case of benefits to be paid upon retirement, such as a pension plan, the employer will be given a calculation of a percentage to be applied when payments begin, and the employer will be ordered to send the appropriate amounts to the other spouse in accordance with the court’s order.

Like other community property assets, retirement and pension accounts do not have to be divided exactly equally between the spouses. If each spouse has a separate retirement account or pension for his or her own job, for example, the court might simply award each spouse his or her own account, particularly if the amounts in each are relatively similar or the award of other community property makes up the difference.

In terms of protecting your financial assets, many lawyers advise freezing or closing joint bank and credit card accounts to prevent you from being responsible for buying sprees by your soon-to-be former spouse. Car insurance policies and the like should also be changed to reflect your new solo status.

With your attorney’s help, ask for a full disclosure of all joint and individually owned financial assets so you can know where your money is and where it goes. Make copies for safekeeping of loans and credit card accounts.  Also make copies of documents such as home equity lines, past tax returns,  and business debts. Identify all non-marital assets that are considered to belong to only one spouse, such as property brought to the marriage, inheritances and gifts given specifically to one person.

If you enlist the counsel of Lacy LaFour and her team at LaFour Law, you can be assured of rock-solid advocacy on your behalf throughout this entire, complex divorce process.  Reach us today at 713.223.7700 for a private consultation.

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