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breaking a lease during divorce

Spouses contemplating or proceeding with a divorce who have a residential lease obligation should read the lease agreement to determine if both spouses are named as tenants, and whether there are early termination provisions that may be available—if the spouses are interested in early termination of the lease.

If the spouses live in a community property state (as opposed to a common law state), both spouses may be liable for the lease payments even if both spouses are not named as tenants in the lease agreement. Community property states generally include Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

In Texas, which is a community property state, both spouses may be held responsible for lease payments during a divorce, even if only one spouse is named on the lease agreement. This is because debts incurred during the marriage are generally considered community obligations. When contemplating or proceeding with a divorce, it is important for spouses to review their lease agreement to understand their rights and obligations. The lease may contain early termination provisions that could be utilized if both parties agree to end the lease early. However, if the lease does not have such provisions, or if the landlord is not willing to negotiate, both parties may remain liable for the lease payments until the lease term expires or until they come to an agreement with the landlord. An attorney can provide guidance on how to handle the lease obligation during a divorce and may assist in negotiating with the landlord or in court proceedings if necessary.


Texas Statutes & Rules

Texas Family Code, Section 3.001 - Community Property
This statute is relevant because Texas is a community property state, which affects how property and debts, including lease obligations, are treated during a divorce.

Under Texas law, property acquired by either spouse during marriage is considered community property, with some exceptions. This means that both spouses may be liable for debts incurred during the marriage, such as lease payments, regardless of whose name is on the lease agreement. This statute establishes the presumption that property acquired during marriage is community property, which is important for spouses to understand when dealing with lease obligations during a divorce.

Texas Family Code, Section 3.102 - Division of Community Property
This statute is relevant as it outlines how community property is divided upon divorce, which can include the responsibility for lease obligations.

In a divorce, the court is tasked with dividing the community property in a manner that the court deems 'just and right,' having due regard for the rights of each party. This can include the division of lease obligations, and the court may order one spouse to be responsible for the lease payments, even if both are not named on the lease agreement.

Texas Property Code, Section 91.006 - Tenant's Right to Early Termination
This statute is relevant for spouses who are contemplating or proceeding with a divorce and are interested in early termination of their residential lease.

Texas law provides tenants with the right to terminate their lease early under certain conditions, such as a tenant who is a victim of certain sexual offenses or stalking, subject to specific requirements and procedures. While this statute does not directly address divorce, it is important for spouses to review their lease agreement for any early termination provisions that may be applicable to their situation.

Texas Property Code, Section 92.016 - Rights of a Tenant Who is a Victim of Family Violence
This statute is relevant for spouses who are victims of family violence and are seeking to terminate their lease early as part of the divorce process.

This section of the Texas Property Code allows a tenant who is a victim of family violence to terminate their lease early without penalty by providing certain documentation to the landlord. This could be relevant in a divorce situation where one spouse is a victim of family violence and needs to terminate the lease as part of separating from the other spouse.

Federal Statutes & Rules

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) - 50 U.S.C. §§ 3901-4043
While not directly related to divorce, the SCRA provides protections for military servicemembers that can affect residential lease obligations, which may be relevant for divorcing military spouses.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allows active duty military members to terminate a residential lease under certain conditions, such as receiving orders for a permanent change of station or deployment for a period of not less than 90 days. This federal law could be relevant if one or both spouses in a divorce are military servicemembers and are seeking to terminate a lease early. The SCRA also provides other protections, such as capping interest rates on pre-service obligations and preventing default judgments in certain circumstances. It is important for military spouses to be aware of these rights, especially during a divorce, as they may impact financial obligations and housing arrangements.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) - 34 U.S.C. § 12491
VAWA includes provisions that may affect the ability of a spouse to terminate a residential lease without penalty in cases involving domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

The Violence Against Women Act provides certain housing protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. These protections can include the ability to terminate a lease early without penalty, the right to have locks changed, and protection against being evicted or denied housing based on the actions of an abuser. If a spouse involved in a divorce is a victim of such actions, VAWA's provisions may allow for early termination of the lease. This is particularly relevant for ensuring the safety and housing stability of the victimized spouse during and after the divorce process.

Fair Housing Act (FHA) - 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619
The FHA prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability, which may be relevant in the context of divorce and housing.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability. While the FHA does not directly address divorce and lease obligations, it ensures that individuals going through a divorce are not discriminated against when seeking new housing or attempting to modify existing housing arrangements. This is important for divorcing spouses to understand, as it protects their rights to fair housing regardless of their marital status.