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What Is Community Property



When a marriage fails, the parties must divide the assets they have spent years commingling. The first step in dividing the property is determining which of their assets are community property.

What Is Community Property Considered

In general, anything the couple acquired during the marriage is considered community property. Financially speaking, the law considers husbands and wives to be one entity. Both are entitled to all of their spouse's earnings, and both are liable for all of their spouse's debts. Courts have held all of the following to be community property:

  • Wages
  • Interest on investments
  • Money saved in joint accounts
  • Rental income

What Is Community Property Not Considered

Property that one spouse owned before entering the marriage is not considered community property, and neither are assets received as gifts or inheritance. However, couples often inadvertently convert private property into community property. The law prefers to treat all assets as if they were jointly owned, so the couple should avoid mixing private assets with shared assets. For example, if your wife receives an inheritance check, it will initially be considered private property. If she deposits the money into your joint checking account and begins using it to pay household bills, however, the court will likely conclude that it is community property.

Why It Matters

Following a divorce, the court will try to divide the assets in a manner that is fair to both parties. However, the judge will only consider community property. Each spouse has the right to keep their private assets. If one party entered the marriage with significant assets or received a substantial inheritance, the community property assessment can determine the financial well-being of the other party for decades into the future.

How An Attorney Can Help

Courts consider many factors when distributing marital property, and every rule has numerous exceptions. Whether you are trying to protect your property or ensure that your spouse pays you a fair proportion of the money you helped earn, you need to contact a qualified divorce lawyer. An experienced attorney can help you assess the strength of your case, argue for a larger settlement and present your case to the judge.