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Understanding Wisconsin’s Community Property Laws

D'Angelo & Grabow, LLP April 6, 2020

Couple’s split more than just their lives together during divorce. Depending on the marriage’s length, couples share many valuables. Those can include a home, vehicles and other items. During the separation process, figuring out who owns what comes with many challenges.

Several factors play into how marital property gets divided. And it often depends on where couples live.

As Wisconsin is a community property state, spouses here play by a different set of rules than many others across the U.S..

What Is Community Property?

Most states have equitable-distribution laws. That means judges can play a significant role in how marital property gets split. In many cases, judges in equitable distribution states base their decisions not on what’s equal but rather what’s fair.

But in community property states like Wisconsin, marital assets get split in half, unless otherwise stated in a prenup. However, assets acquired before or after the marriage are separate property.

Which Assets Are Community Property?

Even if one spouse buys something on their own, it’s a shared asset. Possessions labeled as community property typically must:

  • Get purchased by either spouse during the marriage.

  • Provide exceptional value to each spouse during the marriage.

  • Be income earned by each spouse during the marriage.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, it’s difficult for each spouse to maintain partial ownership of a house. Because of this, one spouse may get the home while the other keeps assets that are equal to half of the home’s value.

Dividing Property Comes with Challenges

Ending a marriage can be difficult, especially if spouses share a lot. But when it’s all said and done, couples can start a new and exciting chapter in their lives. However, going through this transition is never easy. Luckily, a trusted legal partner can help couples maneuver through the complexities of the property division process.