How community property laws affect your marriage
Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin are all community property states. Learn what this means when it comes to your property and assets.
What is community property?All property acquired during the marriage is considered community property except property that was:
- Acquired by gift, devise, or descent (e.g. inheritance)
- Acquired after the service of the petition for dissolution/legal separation
This means that every paycheck received, every contribution into a retirement account, every vehicle purchased, etc., that is acquired during the marriage is considered community property.
What is separate property?Separate property is that property acquired prior to the marriage, acquired by gift, devise, or descent, any increase on separate property, and that property acquired after the date of service of the petition for dissolution/legal separation.
What about debts?The same idea applies to debts. All obligations acquired during the marriage, before the service of a petition for dissolution/legal separation, are considered community obligations. In order to prove that a debt incurred during the marriage was not a community obligation, one would have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the debt was not intended to benefit the community. One example of a separate obligation incurred during the marriage would be a debt incurred in conducting an extramarital affair.
Who controls community property?Both spouses, husband and wife, have the equal management and control of community property. With few exceptions, both spouses have an equal ability to bind the community to an obligation. The fact that the other spouse knew of or consented to a debt is not necessarily required.
How is community property divided?In general, community property and debts are going to be divided equitably between the parties. More often than not, equitably means equally.