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Decide which assets to pursue in your divorce settlement

Divorce is an emotional event in a person's life. Some people display their baser natures when going through a divorce. Especially if the divorce was unwanted or sprung on them out of the blue, spouses may attempt to retaliate via the divorce process.

This is almost universally unwise, but perhaps not for the reasons you might expect. When in the throes of a divorce, whether it is an amicable uncontested divorce or a hotly contested courtroom battle, it's important to keep your eye on the ball and bring your "A" game.

Strategy is everything

Once you make the decision to divorce — or get served with the papers — every move that you make going forth needs to be strategic. Lashing out at your ex and lobbing legal salvos without considering the collateral damage do nothing to advance your agenda.

Define your goals

If you have young children, remaining their primary custodial parent may be your top goal. In that event, every action you take should be in line with this goal. For older couples who are divorcing in mid-life or beyond, the focus generally shifts to asset retention.

But even here, the process can be imperiled by a spouse's failure to carefully weigh both the present and future values of an asset.

Get what you need

When you sit down with your Houston family law attorney, you need to be forthright about what you would like to take away from your marriage. Many spouses seek to retain the largest asset, which is typically the family home. There may be very good reasons to cling to this asset — but there are likely opposing reasons to let it go on the market or trade your interest in it for something else of value.

Divide the debts fairly

Couples often overlook that along with dividing the community property assets, the same must be done with the shared debts. But there is good news here, too. Debts can be leveraged to offset asset distribution if the parties agree.

Here's how it might work. Perhaps you want to retain the bulk of your retirement pension. Here in a community property state like Texas, you might have to agree to accept a far larger share of the community debts to walk away with the retirement pie.

Alternatively, you might be able to arrange to pay a large, lump sum of spousal support that will help your spouse get back on their financial feet after the divorce is finalized.

The bottom line? Never engage in the divorce process without being fully informed and aware of your rights and responsibilities under the law. Once you understand what you need and which assets you can take away from the marriage, your strategy can reflect these goals.

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