While deciding ahead of time is always better, in some cases you and your spouse may be at odds over the division of your debts and your property. You should understand that if you allow the family courts to make the big decisions about these two issues, the state of your residence will influence how things turn out. Most states follow the equitable distribution rules about the division of debt and property, but some follow community property rules. To learn more about one of these models, community property, and more read on.
If you live in one of the below 9 (or 10) states, your family law judge will be following community property rules when it's time to divide debt and property. Property, in this instance, can be anything purchased during the marriage, such as homes, cars, artwork and even pets. The community in the term refers to you two; you form a community for legal purposes when it comes to dividing the marital estate.
- New Mexico
- Alaska is considered a wild card state where the divorcing couples can choose to have their marital estate divided using either community property or equitable distribution.
Debt and Community Property
When you consider how debt is divided using community property rules, you may wish that you had made your own arrangements to address this issue. That is because no matter who actually took on the debt, you are both equally responsible for paying it off. That's right; you are 50% responsible for all of your spouse's debts, even if you had no knowledge of the debt, you were not on the account, nothing was ever purchased for you or you never even had a second card for the account. Fortunately, any debt held by your spouse prior to the marriage date won't be your responsibility. But wait, there's more: if you had your name added to the account after the marriage, you will be responsible for any pre-marriage debt on that card.
Property and Community Property
If you followed along with the way debt is treated (above), then you may begin to envision the way property is treated using this model. Fortunately, depending your exact circumstances, this model of community property could be beneficial to certain people. For spouses who did not work or was not able to buy property during the marriage, this aspect of community property allows those spouses to take 50% of all marital property. Even if only one party purchased the property and even if only one party paid for the property, it is considered to be owned equally by both parties. There are some exceptions, such as property given as gifts specifically to one party and property held prior to the marriage, however.
For more information, contact a business such as Marlene Dancer Adams.