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How to Divide International Property in a Texas Divorce?

The Challenge of Dividing Property Located Abroad During a Texas Divorce

Texas divorce cases involving property division are complicated enough to begin with, but they can be even more complex when the separation involves international property. This tends to be the case when one (or both) of the divorcing spouses is a foreign national who immigrated to the country, or when the spouses worked and lived abroad together at some point.

In any case, litigating divorce cases involving international property in Texas requires the representation of a skilled Austin divorce attorney.

One thing, however, is certain. Any property, regardless of its location, will be evaluated in a Texas divorce court under community property law. This means that any assets acquired by either spouse after their marriage are owned equally by the couple.

Listed below are a few of the most common types of property evaluated in a Texas divorce court:

  • Real property or immovable property (e.g. land, buildings, family homes)
  • Investment portfolios
  • Retirement accounts
  • Enterprises owned by one or both spouses
  • Stock options

The question of how to divide property in a foreign country in a Texas divorce ultimately depends on the nature of the property in question and where exactly it is located.

  • The division of real property depends on the laws of the country the property is located.
  • In contrast, the division of personal property such as stock options, investment accounts, and retirement accounts among others, is bound by Texas community property law, regardless of where these properties are located.

But how exactly does a Texas court approach the problem of dividing international community assets?

Options for Dividing International Property in a Texas Divorce

Assuming that the property in question has already been valued, whether through an appraisal or documents indicating its value, there are two ways to divide international property.

File for a Divorce in Texas and the Country Where the Property is Located

A ‘clean’ way to divide international property is to file for two divorces—one in Texas and another one in the country the property is located in.

Except for countries with no divorce laws (i.e. The Philippines and Vatican City), it should be possible to divide property in the country of its location. The Texas court will thus divide whatever property it has power over, while the international divorce court will divide any immovable assets under its laws.

Compelling Division of Property

While a Texas family court does not have the direct power to divide international property, it can still indirectly compel its division by acquiring jurisdiction over the party. This means that a party with assets abroad can be compelled by the court to take certain actions to transfer or divide the property, such as signing a deed of sale or executing a qualified domestic relations order (for retirement accounts).

A Texas family court may also take the shortcut of dividing property in Texas in proportions relative to the value of the international assets owned by one or both spouses. For example, if the court finds that the husband has land valued at $100,000 in Cambodia, it can credit the wife’s estate with $100,000 worth of other assets. This option, however, only works if the specific nature and value of the international property in question are clearly established in court.

In Summary

Bottom line? Just because a property is located in another country does not mean it is automatically beyond the power of a Texas court to divide during a divorce. As long as Texas can exercise personal jurisdiction over the spouses in a divorce, the courts can also compel couples to take actions to divide and transfer these assets.

For questions and further clarification about property division in Texas, get in touch with Austin family law attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225, or use our contact form to schedule a consultation.

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