Getting Divorced in a Communal Property State: Here’s What You Need to Know

Provided by Tessmer Law Firm

If you’re facing a divorce, you already know you’ll have to speak with a lawyer to determine your custody arrangements and alimony payments, but what about dividing your assets? While you might think that division of assets is a fairly simple process, the truth is that things can quickly become complicated if you live in a communal property state. This is because in a communal property state, everything you and your spouse own is considered joint property. If you have a boat, a car, or even a business, this may be considered to be shared property. If you’re new to the concept of communal property, here’s what you need to know.

First off, it’s important to understand the definition of communal property. Typically, anything you purchased or acquired during your marriage is considered communal property. Even if your spouse’s name is not on the deed or paperwork for something, such as a second home, it may be considered joint property by the courts. Exclusions to this rule typically include property acquired prior to your marriage and anything that was given to you and not your spouse. You will need supporting paperwork to show that the item only belongs to you, however. Gifted items may include things a friend or colleague gave you, but can also include things that were inherited from a relative during your marriage.

Even if you and your partner have shared communal property, it’s not always possible to divide things evenly. If you only have one house, for example, you can’t receive equal portions of that. In cases where the assets cannot be divided equally, there are two options. The first option is to sell the asset and split the proceeds. This could mean that you sell your summer home and share the profits, but it could also mean you sell your car. In cases where one or both parties are not interested in selling the asset, you may have to pay an equalization payment. This is where one person pays the other party money equal to half of an item’s value. For example, if your house is valued at $100,000, you may keep the house and pay your former spouse $50,000.

Finally, understand that communal property doesn’t just refer to physical possessions. It also includes financial assets and debts. This means that if your partner has credit card debt, you’ll be responsible for paying half of that debt after your divorce. Because of these strict laws, it’s vital that you speak with your attorney prior to filing for divorce. They’ll be able to guide you throughout the process and will be able to help you navigate the world of communal property laws in your state.

Remember that although communal property laws may be daunting, there are sometimes exceptions to the rules and ways to minimize your out-of-pocket cost. Establishing single ownership, for example, is a possibility for some items. Your attorney will be able to advise you how to best proceed when it comes to dealing with communal property, so make sure you reach out to talk with them as quickly as possible.


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