Sometimes the situation arises in a Texas divorce where a spouse purchased real estate prior to marriage (or, less commonly, purchased it during the marriage with separate funds or property). For example, suppose a home was purchased by A in 1999, the parties were married in 2002 and are getting divorced in 2017. Further suppose that the home was originally purchased for $200,000 but is now valued at $350,000. Is spouse B entitled to any portion of the $150,000 increase in the separate property house?
Absent a valid and enforceable agreement to the contrary, the answer is no. Since the home was purchased by A prior to marriage, the home was and remains A’s separate property. Texas law provides that the separate character of the house was established at the time of purchase, prior to marriage, and a subsequent marriage does not, in and of itself, alter the character of the separate property house. In other words, no portion of the increase in value of the separate property house constitutes community property.
However, to the extent the community made improvements to the separate property house during the marriage or otherwise expended funds during the marriage to benefit the house, the community may possess a reimbursement claim against A’s separate estate. Reimbursement issues can get tricky and complicated, so it is important to have the guidance of an experienced Texas family law attorney to assist in this analysis.