I have a question about my right to equity earned in the house.

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I have a question about my right to equity earned in the house.

We have been married for 9 years and I have been helping to pay the bills for over
10 years including the mortgage. I have helped to raise my three stepchildren also
they are all over 18 and out of the house. My wife and I work for the same
employer making the same wage with the same pension and benefits. My wife had
the house in her fathers name for several years and then refinanced recently and
has the house in her name. What rights do I have to the equity earned in the
house?

Asked on September 23, 2016 under Family Law, Texas

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Texas is a community property state.  This means that anything acquired during the marriage is community property.  Your question implies that the house in question was acquired prior to the marriage.  If the house was purchased or obtained prior to the marriage, then the house would be considered your wife's separate property because it was acquired prior to marriage.  If this is your situation, you are not without some recourse though.  You may be able to make a community reimbursement claim.  Basically, the community estate (your income and her income combined) asks the court to order her separate estate to reimburse the community estate for the funds used by the community estate to pay for the mortgage. 
If the house was acquired during the marriage, then is would be considered community property and you would be entitled to a fair and equitable portion of the equity.  Considering that the title did not shift to her name until some point during the marriage, you can potentially make the argument that the house was acquired during the marriage.  In Texas, the name on the title isn't nearly as important as the when.  This means that even though she titled the house in her name, if the property was officially acquired during the marriage, then it's community property subject to being divided between the husband and wife.
You really need to get copies of any of the documents relating to the transfer and let a family law attorney review them.  They can help you decide which approach is best for your situation.   She may not be willing to share any of the docs with you, but you can obtain a good share of the docs needed by a trip to the county clerk's office where title documents are recorded.


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