Characterization - What is it?

Posted by Helene Parker | Mar 30, 2018 | 0 Comments

Characterization is defined as a process to determine whether a property belonging to a party in a divorce is that party's separate property, community property, or mixed separate and community property.  During the marriage, the character of a property determines each spouse's ownership interest.  The spouse may control, convey, encumber, or dictate what property can be used to satisfy a creditor's claim.  After marriage, the character of the property determines what the court can divide between the spouses and what property the court must confirm.  The court may only divide a community property and must confirm separate property.

What propert(ies) can be characterized?

Income from separate property;

Wages from employment, stock options, restricted stock plans, severance pay;

Employee benefits, such as retirement benefits (401(k), pension plans), social security benefits, thrift savings plan, disability retirement benefits, retirement annuity, military benefits, VA disability benefits, life insurance benefits, separation benefits, railroad retirement benefits, federal worker's compensation benefits;

Personal injury recovery, such as actual damages, exemplary damages, prejudgment and postjudgment interest, attorney fees and court costs.

Real property (such as the land or the house situated on the land), fixtures and improvements to real property, oil and gas under the land, royalties, rental payments, and crops.

Corporations, such as stocks and distributions from the company, partnerships, and joint ventures, sole proprietorships, and goodwill.

Appreciation of property.


Gambling winnings.


Livestock and horses, including their offspring.


Trusts, such as the trust corpus and the trust income.

About the Author

Helene Parker

Ms. Parker has been a licensed attorney in Texas since 1997.  She is Board Certified in Family Law. Ms. Parker received her B.A. from California State University, Fullerton in History and Art.  Cal State Fullerton was not Ms. Parkers first university; she spent her freshman year at American Uni...


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