If you and your spouse have decided to call it quits, you should realize that how your assets are legally divided depends on several factors. For example, regardless of what state you live in, if you and your spouse can agree on a property division plan between the two of you, this agreement could serve you well when it comes to how much time and money it takes to settle your divorce. If you cannot agree and the court has to decide, however, the way your state determines property ownership could become an integral part of the way your divorce is settled. Read on to learn more about how property is divided in one particular type of divorce, the community property divorce.

Who lives in a community property state?

Everyone in the U.S. lives in either an equitable distribution state or a community property state. As you can tell from the relatively short list below, most people will abide by the laws of an equitable distribution states and fewer people abide by the laws in their community property states. Only 9 states actually are considered community property states, with the 10th state, Alaska, giving divorcing couples the opportunity to choose between the two types of divorce. At present, the following states abide by community property laws:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

What is meant by marital property?

Each and every item purchased between the time of the marriage and the divorce comes under the community property umbrella. That means the home, cars, furniture, pets (yes, they are considered property), and just about everything else. In a community property state, marital property is jointly owned no matter who bought it, whose money was used to buy it, whose name is on the deed or title, or who it was bought for. There are a few exceptions to know about that can address some types of property that falls outside of the community property guidelines, such as:

  • If the property was owned by one party prior to the date of the marriage, it's not considered marital property.
  • If the property was a gift given to one party and not the other, or if it was clearly a gift from one party to another, it is not included in the marital property bucket.
  • If the property was an inheritance, it belongs only to the beneficiary.

It should be noted that while the subject here is community property, the way that the martial debts are treated are also different in community property states, with the debt obligation being considered to be owned equally by both parties in the marriage.

Contact a law office like Franklin & Rapp for more information and assistance.