When preparing for a divorce, one of the first steps in the process is to familiarize yourself with the terminology involved. During your divorce, you will likely become intimately familiar with a number of terms that you don’t know now. Clearly understanding these terms will be important to making informed decisions; and, while your divorce lawyer can explain everything you need to know, many people find it helpful to familiarize themselves with some of the key terms prior to their initial consultation.

Here are some of the key terms that you will encounter when going through a divorce in Texas:

Community Property

Texas is a “community property” state. This means that any assets that one or both spouses acquire during their marriage (with a few exceptions) are deemed to be owned equally by both spouses. During a divorce, the spouses’ community assets are subject to equitable distribution (more on this below).


“Conservatorship” is the legal term for child custody in Texas. If you have children from your current marriage, establishing both managing conservatorship (the right to make important decisions about your children’s lives) and possessory conservatorship (physical custody and visitation rights) will be a significant component of the divorce process.

Contested (and Uncontested)

A divorce is considered “contested” if the spouses are in disagreement regarding any aspect of terminating their marriage. As a result, most divorces are contested in at least some respect, and rarely is a divorce truly “uncontested.” However, a contested divorce does not necessarily have to be contentious, and there are various means for amicably resolving contested divorces in Texas. 

Equitable Distribution

In Texas, the principle of “equitable distribution” requires spouses’ community property to be distributed based upon what is “just and right.” While the law presumes a 50/50 split to be equitable, various circumstances may call for an unequal (but still equitable) distribution. 

Final Decree of Divorce

The divorce process ends when the court issues a “Final Decree of Divorce.” This is a formal court order that dissolves the marriage and makes the terms of the spouses’ divorce legally binding.

Marital Settlement Agreement

When divorcing spouses are able to come to terms amicably, they will establish the terms of their divorce in a “marital settlement agreement.” The marital settlement will be incorporated into the Final Divorce Degree and will govern the distribution of their community property, payment of child support and spousal maintenance (more on this below), and conservatorship of their children.  

Separate Property

Any assets that do not qualify as community property will be classified as “separate property.” Under Texas law, assets classified as separate property are not subject to division in a divorce.

Spousal Maintenance

“Spousal maintenance” is the legal term for spousal support (or alimony) in Texas. Under Texas law, spousal maintenance may be awarded only under certain defined circumstances.

Speak With a McKinney, TX Divorce Lawyer for Free

If you are contemplating a divorce and would like to speak with one of our lawyers about the process, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To schedule an appointment at your convenience, please call 214-726-1450 or inquire online today.