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Community Property Law


When filing for divorce, the divorce court will determine property distribution usually by two sets of laws: community property or equitable distribution.

In community property laws, the divorce court considers all property acquired during the marriage to be marital property. Typically, community property is money earned, debt incurred and property gained, but doesn't usually include gifts or inheritances.

The theory behind community property law is that each spouse contributes labor and capital to benefit the community or marriage, so both spouses should benefit equally from the profits of the community or marriage. Each spouse has a 50% share in all community property, regardless of which spouse actually acquired it, unlike in equitable distribution law where the divorce court divides property by what's considered fair in the situation.

Spouses also incur shared debts. Depending on divorce laws in your state, creditors may have the right to any or all community property to satisfy debts, regardless of who incurred the debt and who the divorce court assigns property to.

Separate Property

What isn't considered marital property by the divorce court? Sometimes spouses may have separate or nonmarital property, which may not be part of the debt and asset division, but community property law and the divorce court don't typically rule in favor of separate property in a community property state.

Some property that may be considered separate property includes any property:

  • Owned by a spouse before the marriage
  • Obtained after a legal separation
  • Received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage

For property received as a gift or inheritance, the property needs have stayed separate from the rest of the marital property for the divorce court to consider it separate.

Community Property States

More state follow equitable division laws when it comes to state property division laws. The states that follow community property laws include:

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

In Alaska, couples have the option of requesting in writing to follow community property laws.

Speak to a Local Divorce Attorney about Community Property Laws

Learn how community property laws could after you during divorce by working with a divorce lawyer near you. A local divorce attorney can help advise you on how to handle negotiates with your spouse over property since in most cases property is sold unless the couple can agree on property division. Connect today by calling 877-349-1310 or filling out a divorce case review form.

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The above summary of community property is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on these laws, speak to a local divorce lawyer in your state.