What is Community Property?

Community Property is a marital property regime that originated in civil law jurisdictions, and is now also found in some common law jurisdictions. In a community property jurisdiction, all property acquired during the marriage (except for gifts or inheritances) is owned jointly by both spouses and is divided upon divorce, annulment or death. Joint ownership is automatically presumed by law in the absence of specific evidence that would point to a contrary conclusion for a particular piece of property. The community property system is usually justified by the idea that such joint ownership recognizes the theoretically equal contributions of both spouses to the creation and operation of the family unit.

Division of Community Property may take place by item, by splitting all items or by value. In some jurisdictions, a 50/50 division of community property is mandated by law; in others a divorce court may decree an unequal division of community property. In non-community property states property may be divided by equitable distribution. Generally speaking, the property that each partner brings into the marriage or receives by gift, bequest or devise during marriage is called separate property. See division of property.

United States

In the United States there are nine community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. In addition, Puerto Rico is a community property jurisdiction. Married couples in Alaska can also adopt community property rules, at least for the purposes of that state’s law, by signing an agreement to that effect.

Community Property has certain Federal Tax Implications, which the IRS discusses in its Publication 555.