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Key Terms You Should Know in Texas Family Law

Family Law

Community Property

The division of the marital estate for divorce cases is governed by certain principles and values in the State of Texas. Under the Texas Family Code § 7.001, “…the court shall order a division of the estate of the parties in a manner that the court deems just and right...” Texas courts have interpreted estate in this context to mean community property.

Texas Family Code § 3.002 defines community property to mean “…property, other than separate property, acquired by either spouse during marriage.” Thus, certain property acquired upon the parties’ marriage and during divorce proceedings can qualify as community property.

Separate Property

Section 3.001 of the Texas Family Code defines separate property as:

  • “The property owned or claimed by the spouse before marriage;”
  • “The property acquired by the spouse during marriage by gift, devise, or descent and;”
  • “The recovery for personal injuries sustained by the spouse during marriage, except any recovery for loss of earning capacity during marriage.”

Under most circumstances, a Court will not divide a party’s separate property upon divorce but rather confirm that property as separate. However, depending on the circumstances, it is very important to discuss your separate property claims with a licensed attorney and possibly a financial expert to confirm this property is separate.

Just and Right Division of Property

A court may consider certain circumstances when conducting a just and right division of the community estate. As a result, the court will not necessarily divide the marital estate equally between spouses. Rather, a court will look at certain circumstances such as children born or adopted during the marriage, physical abuse, adultery, amongst many other things, which, deviate from a fifty-fifty division. It is important to discuss your situation with one of our attorney’s today to gather their experience on what a Court is likely to do.

Spousal Maintenance

Texas Family Code § 8.001 defines spousal maintenance as “…an award in a suit for dissolution of a marriage of periodic payments from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse.” Similar to how other states define spousal support, Texas law provides that a spouse may be entitled to temporary future payments from the other spouse that will allow them to provide for their minimum reasonable needs.


Upon divorce, a spouse can access the proceeds of their spouse’s employee benefit plans—such as a retirement or pension plan—pursuant to a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (hereinafter QDRO).

Federal law defines a QDRO to mean a state court order or decree that:

  • Affects child support, alimony payments, or the marital property rights of a spouse or other dependents of the employee;
  • Establishes the right of a spouse or dependent child to receive all or part of the employee’s pension benefits;
  • Identifies the name and mailing address of the employee, and each person to whom payments from the employee benefits plan will be made;
  • Determines the monetary amount or percentage of benefits to be paid;
  • Establishes the number of payments or periods;
  • Does not alter the form or amount of the employee’s benefits;


According to Texas Family Code § 101.032, a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship—or SAPCR—means a lawsuit “in which the appointment of a managing conservator or a possessory conservator, access to or support of a child, or establishment or termination of the parent-child relationship is requested.” A SAPCR is an umbrella term that encompasses various legal proceedings involving a child.

Examples of legal actions that involve SAPCR proceedings include:

  • Child custody determination
  • Possession and Access
  • Child Support
  • Paternity Determination
  • Adoption
  • Termination of Parental Rights

Sole Managing Conservator

In general, conservatorship refers to what many people know as child custody. The sole managing conservator means a person with whom a child primarily resides and has the ability to make exclusive decisions on behalf of the child. Other jurisdictions call such a person the custodial parent or parent with primary custody.

Joint Managing Conservatorship

Texas Family Code § 101.013 defines joint managing conservatorship to mean “…the sharing of the rights and duties of a parent by two parties, ordinarily the parents, even if the exclusive right to make certain decisions may be awarded to one party.” The counterpart term that other jurisdictions might use would be joint custody.

Possessory Conservator

The term possessory conservator refers to someone whom the court awarded possessory rights over the child and has limited decision-making abilities, if at all for the child.

Possession and Access to a Child

Although the Texas Family Code uses the term access to a child, it does not define this phrase. However, courts have held the term to embody the same principle that the phrase visitation once did. A parent who is a possessory conservator may have a possession schedule that details supervised possession or a step-up schedule. Whereas another parent may have a possession and access schedule in accordance with a Standard Possession Schedule.

For Quality Legal Counsel, Call Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers

Family law cases in Texas have many complex terms and it is vital for you to consult an experienced attorney to help explain these terms and how they are used in your case. An experienced family law attorney can further help you navigate your case and help define your possible legal outcome. At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we have the experience and sophisticated understanding of Texas family law to help protect you and your family’s best interests.

To schedule a consultation about your case, call us at (940) 293-2313 or contact us online today.