What is community property?

One of the first questions people ask when facing a divorce in Wisconsin often involves how the courts will divide their assets and debts. Every divorce is different, so the courts must look at family circumstances when trying to decide how to divide the assets and debts accumulated by the couple during their marriage.

Wisconsin applies a  form of the community property standard to the division of marital assets. Community property laws make acquisitions and earnings during a marriage shared assets between both spouses, except in circumstances involving prenuptial or postnuptial agreements or when the assets are a gift or inheritance.

What assets will constitute marital property during a divorce and therefore be subject to division?

Knowing what the court will divide can help you plan better for the future. As previously mentioned, the courts will typically treat all of the income you earn, the assets you acquire and the debts you accrue prior to and during your marriage as marital property. You and your spouse will both share an ownership interest in the assets, as well as the responsibility for the debts. If you inherited assets during your marriage or prior to your marriage, that inheritance will typically remain separate property unless you shared it with your spouse or placed it into shared accounts. Gifts that you receive are also often separate property in a divorce.

The courts can get creative in how they split things in a divorce, but they must limit what they divide to the pool of your marital property. Separate property isn’t subject to division. Almost everything else will be community property, regardless of whose name is on the account or the title.

Before you start the divorce process, considering talking over your situation with an experienced professional who can help you better understand how the state’s laws apply to your case.