Complex Property Settlements


Think about the assets in your marriage. Do you have a home? Do you have retirement accounts? Do you have vacation property or equipment? Do you own a portion of a business? Divorces come in all sizes based on the amount and type of assets involved. In most cases, the marital residence is the most valuable asset in the marriage. But often there are other properties involved. There are family businesses and business interests that may or may not be divided. Each property may need to be characterized as either community or separate property. There are stock options that may or may not be vested. And there are claims against retirement income to consider.

The largest and most complex business deal most people will ever be involved in is a divorce. Even clients who live modestly may divide a net worth of several million dollars when they take into consideration the value of homes, retirement accounts and closely held businesses.

Many Texas family law attorneys can handle divorces involving small estates. But Aubrey Connatser and her people have the experience required to successfully handle complex property issues. She works closely with experts in real estate, business valuation and appraisal to determine what property is worth and to secure a just division. When necessary, she will put together a team of experts in personal finance, wealth management, taxation and business valuation.

Here are some of the assets the attorneys of Connatser Family Law have secured for her clients during complex divorce proceedings:

  • Real estate: residential, commercial, farm and ranch
  • Oil and gas royalties and other mineral interests
  • Employer benefits and retirement plans
  • Stock options
  • Inheritances
  • Separate property characterization and tracing
  • Deferred compensation plans
  • Economic contribution and reimbursement claims
  • Insurance issues
  • Intellectual property issues, copyrights and patents


A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is one of the primary tools used to partition retirement benefits. It divides employee benefits earned by a participant and shows what percentage or amount is awarded to an alternate payee (spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent).

Drafting a QDRO is a complex and technical process that must navigate a variety of complicated rules and regulations. The requirements differ greatly for corporations, teacher retirements, local, state and federal government plans, and military plans. In addition, Defined Contribution Plans, such as 401(k) Plans, and Defined Benefit Plans, such as pension plans, each have different and complex drafting requirements.

Texas has two general categories of property; community property and separate property. Separate property is acquired prior to marriage, or during marriage by gift, inheritance, or from a personal injury recovery. Community property is all property acquired during the marriage, except for separate property. It is extremely important that property is properly characterized prior to a divorce proceeding, because the only property that a court can divide at the time of divorce is community property.

All property possessed by either spouse during, or on dissolution of marriage, is presumed to be community property, unless it is proven to be separate property. The burden of proof rests on the spouse who wishes to declare the property separate. That spouse must establish with clear and convincing evidence that a particular item is separate property, not community property.

Under Texas family law, a court shall order a division of the community assets and liabilities 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. Once property is established with the court as separate property, it will not be subject to division.