Does Community Property Mean "50/50"? 6

The Basic Rules for Dividing Community Property

Community property is a term used to describe property and assets acquired after the marriage. Currently, there are nine community property states.

In addition, Puerto Rico operates under a community property doctrine and Alaska allows couples to choose to designate specific items as community property.

So, what does all this mean when you divorce? Does “community property” mean a 50/50 split?

In general terms, yes. During the property distribution process in a community property state, the court will attempt to divide the property as equally as possible between the two parties. This distribution is usually done using monetary values so that if the divorcing couple came in with $100,000 in assets, each should leave with approximately 50% or $50,000.

Of course, splitting up the assets isn’t always easy since they often include the family home, retirement accounts, art collections and other items that can’t just be split down the middle.

In this case, the court typically has a few options: the items can be sold or cashed in and the proceeds split between the parties; the items can be awarded in whole to one party with something of near equal value going to the other (Mary gets the family home and John gets the art collection and retirement account); or the parties can agree to an unequal split to preserve the items in question.

There are however, a number of variations to these rules since no two community property states work the same. Some states for example, require that all property be split right down the middle while others leave the split to the discretion of the court which can result in an uneven distribution of property.

In addition, while most states treat income from separate property as separate, Idaho, Louisiana, Texas and Wisconsin do not. In these states, any income from separate property would be considered as community property and subject to the normal property distribution laws of your state.

But perhaps the most difficult task in property distribution is determining where separate property ends and community property begins. Its not uncommon for couples to convert or invest separate property into community property at some point during the marriage. This can occur for a number of reasons, including everything from buying a new home to paying off community debt.

Again, handling such property will depend upon the laws of your state but as a general rule, the more commingled the funds, the harder it will be to distinguish separate property from community property.

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Discussion

  • Renee

    I have been divorced since Jan 2009. My former husband signed off on a 50-45% return when our house sells He was to pay half of the bills until the house sold. I have had 3 different realtors and have lowered the selling amount from$450,000 to $349,000 over the course of the listings and also paid to refinance. He has not paid any of the bills since the divorce and claiming is has had a hard time finding a job. He lives w/his girlfriend. He is claiming that he was medicated when he signed the papers and is accusing me of delibertly causing the house not sell. We both have attorney’s but just want to know what you think the outcome might be. I have back-up for all payments and listings. I have also taken 3 loans out of my 401K just trying to keep the house out of foreclosure until I can get it sold.
    Many thanks

  • arizona lady

    what if someone KNOWINGLY took avantage of you, KNOWING you new nothing about the arizona divorce laws, partly because they are 19 years older. there’s a 19 year age difference, at time of marriage. this person was just a young kid when they married the other person 19 older.

  • commgirl

    I remarried in 2001. My husband last year received garnishment from his pay from a debt that was his way before we met. The judgement was set in 1997 & was renewed every 5 years. He has now moved to another state for a job opportunity. I am here still waiting to move however, the garnishment is still out standing. Can they garnish my wages or bank account being that Idaho is a community state? Is this debt consider to be mine as well even though it was not my debt prior to our marriage?

  • cynthia

    my exhusband and i were married 24 years its been 3 years of divorce ,he is 19 yeras older than i, im 45 hes 64 so u can figure how old i was when we married anyways,he took advantage of me being young and not knowing the court system,he had been married once already. i asked for certain things in our home that we bought together and he refused and he still wont divide. he tells me no. he planned on leaving me with nothing and he did. he had a lawyer i didnt . i was lost and didnt know what to do at the time. he screwed me from alot of things that are rightfuly mine.he doesnt need 4 tv;s or 2 stereo systems or kitchen ware when he doesnt cook. he is very narsisstict.is there anything i can do after 3 years of divorce ? im still haunted by all this its not right he kept EVERYTHING and i was left out in the cold. he lied to lawyer and to courts about me.he commited infedelity, conspiracy throughout our marrige and is a pathological liar.

  • kahill1918

    My husband and I had been married 40 years (and we are still married) when I came into a substantial inheritance from my parents. I then purchased a cabin. We took out a mortgage to finance the cabin in part. I asked the lender to put the cabin in my name only, and they said they could not do it as my income (as opposed to assets) was not enough.

    My husband will quit-claim the house to me, but does this mean that he can still get it back if I die first? Wisconsin is a community-property state. I want to leave the cabin to our children. I know if I die first, my husband, being a nice man, will remarry and likely unwittingly leave it to his second wife who will then leave it to her children. So what this means is that my parents’ money will go to his second wife’s children.

  • michael stapleton

    me and my wife live in the state of texas and i wont to know if my wife own the property where we live before we got married and im not on the loan or the deeds of the house if we got a divorce were would that leave me will i get half of the property or do i get screwed and walk away with nothing but im the one thats been paying the house note every month or do i really need to be on the deeds in order to get my half can sum one please tell me how this works thanks.