Distribution of Community Property
Arguably the most important statute in the Texas Family Code pertaining to divorce actions, excluding matters related to children, is section 7.001, which reads in full: In a decree of divorce or annulment, the court shall order a division of the estate of the parties in a manner that the court deems just and right, having due regard for the rights of each party and any children of the marriage. A mere 44 words serve as the bedrock for every divorce granted in Texas. Throughout the years, the appellate courts have attempted to provide guidance as to what are acceptable factors to consider in making a "just and right" division. In 1981, the Texas Supreme Court set out an non-exhaustive list of factors to consider in its seminal decision Murff v. Murff. The 11 Murff factors are as follows:
- The disparity of incomes or earning capacities of the spouses.
- The spouses' capacities and abilities.
- Benefits which the party not at fault would have derived from a continuation of the marriage.
- Business opportunities of the spouses.
- Education of the spouses.
- Relative physical condition of the spouses.
- Relative financial conditions of the spouses.
- Differences in the size of each spouse's separate estate.
- The nature of the property to be divided.
- Fault in the break up of the marriage.
- Attorneys fees of the parties.
The Murff court further stated that "mathematical precision in dividing property in a divorce is usually not possible;" therefore, empowering trial courts with "wide latitude and discretion" to divide the marital property.
As illustrated above, even though Texas is a community property state, a 50/50 or equal division is not a given; instead, due to numerous factors, it is likely that the court will order a disproportionate distribution of the marital estate.