Academy Award Winner Sandra Bullock has filed for divorce and is proceeding with the adoption of an infant boy, Louis Bardot Bullock, even though she’s living in Los Angeles. Question: Why did she file in Austin Texas even though she’s got a home in Hollywood? Well, for one thing, she also has a residence in Austin, so, at least for part of the year, she is a resident of Austin Texas. But she easily could have filed for divorce in California too. One reason I think she filed in Austin, is to evade the press. And she almost did by using initials in her divorce caption as opposed to her full name. But why else would filing in Austin Texas have been advantageous to the Hollywood hottie?
Divorce in California v. Divorce in Texas
Residency Requirements– In both Texas and California, it is required that a party be a resident of the state for at least six months in order to legally file divorce. Without meeting the residency requirement, a divorce cannot be granted since the court does not have jurisdiction. Both states require that a party also be a resident of the county for at least 90 days. That may be why Sandra filed in Austin as opposed to Dallas or some other county.
Grounds: In California, there are only, seemingly (and surprisingly) two grounds upon which a divorce can be obtained. The grounds in California are 1) irreconcilable differences and 2) incurable insanity. In Texas, in order to obtain a divorce, a party must allege one of the following grounds: 1) incurable insanity; 2) no fault (irreconcilable differences); 3) abandonment; 4) imprisonment; 5) conviction of a felony; 6) living apart at least 3 years; 7) adultery and 8) cruelty.
So it seems that Ms. Bullock had ample grounds to sue for divorce in Texas (adultery, cruelty, no fault) and in California, she pretty much had only one option “no fault.” I think the term she used is that the marriage had become insupportable, which is basically the same as saying it is a no fault divorce, or “irreconcilable differences.” Still, in California, it seems the grounds issue would have been easier. They don’t call California the Divorce Capital of the United States for nothing. (Actually, no one has called California that. We actually coined the term, piggy-backing off of London which is called the Divorce Capital of the World.)
Property Distribution: Both California and Texas are community property states. What that means is that anything that is not “separate property” such as inheritances, gifts and personal injury awards, belong (almost equally) to both spouses. This is true in both Texas and California. It does not matter whose name is on the deed, contract, title, or what other evidence of ownership. Technically speaking, even Sandra Bullock’s Oscar is community property and belongs to both Sandra and Jesse (unless, of course, the law considers the Oscar a “gift” which I doubt very strongly.)
How is property actually divided?
Community property is divided in a just and right manner. This does not necessarily mean equally; there are factors such as differences in earnings of the spouses, the nature of the property involved, and fault in the breakup that the Court can consider in the determination of “just and right.” However, an equal division is a good rule of thumb. (Texas Family Code; Raggio & Raggio, Dallas Texas)
2550. Except upon the written agreement of the parties, or on oral
stipulation of the parties in open court, or as otherwise provided in
this division, in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or for
legal separation of the parties, the court shall, either in its
judgment of dissolution of the marriage, in its judgment of legal
separation of the parties, or at a later time if it expressly
reserves jurisdiction to make such a property division, divide the
community estate of the parties equally. (California Family Code)
If hanging on to more of her assets was a concern, it would appear that Ms. Bullock was smart to file in Texas. Unlike California, Texas takes factors such as the conduct of a spouse in its asset distribution scheme. The courts could very well decide that it was not “right and just” for Jesse James to receive 50% of the community property given his adulterous conduct during the marriage. Whereas in California, it appears that no matter the conduct of the parties, the courts are likely to award a 50-50 split of community property, unless, of course, the parties had a pre or post nuptial agreement that stipulated a different percentage split.
……..Is her Oscar community property or separate property? And what is the value of it? I believe I read or heard somewhere that Oscar winners are contractually forbidden to sell the statuette. If true, then the value of it may be zero and it is a non-issue whether or not it is community property. If not true, that would be an interesting fight since it does not fit one of the exceptions that would make it her “separate property (such as gift, inheritance, the like) and since it was clearly earned during their marriage.
For more on California Divorce Laws, check out the California Family Code here.
For more on Texas Divorce Laws, check out the Texas Family Code here.