Some couples getting divorced in Texas, such as military or Federal civil service families, own real property outside of Texas. This begs the question of whether a Texas divorce decree can dispose of real property located outside of Texas when dividing the marital estate. The answer is, yes, as long as the court has personal jurisdiction over the spouse ordered to covey title. The most clear example of a court acquiring personal jurisdiction over a spouse is when the spouse either filed the suit for divorce (i.e. they are the Petitioner) or the spouse responded to suit by filing an answer or otherwise participating in the proceeding (i.e. they are the Respondent).
With personal jurisdiction established, a Texas court can hear evidence to characterize the property (i.e. determine whether it’s one spouse’s separate property or both spouses’ community property), value the property, and order one of the spouses to convey title to the other. The key point is that the court’s power to order a spouse to convey title rests on the court’s personal jurisdiction over that spouse. If the spouse refuses to convey title, he or she can be found in contempt.
What a Texas court cannot do is render judgment affecting title to real property outside of Texas (or, for that matter, outside of the court’s jurisdiction if the property is in some other Texas county). For example, a divorce court in Bexar County, Texas, could not render judgment in a suit to quiet title (i.e. determine the true owner) for real property located in some other State.
Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm. The Cramp Law Firm provides a spectrum of family-related legal services in the greater San Antonio Region.