Frequently Asked Questions

What is Community Property? / What Are Community Debts?

Community property is property acquired by either spouse during the marriage, except by gift, inheritance or as income from property owned prior to the marriage. In a dissolution of marriage, the community and jointly owned property is divided "equitably" between the parties. Generally equitably is defined as equally. Community property may be waived by a pre-marital agreement.

Separate property is property owned before the marriage, inheritances, gifts, and income from separate property. In a dissolution of a marriage, each party is awarded his or her separate property.

Debts incurred during the marriage are also generally community debts, even if only one of the spouses signed for the debt. The exceptions are debts incurred for the purchase of real estate, leases and guarantees on debts which must be signed for by both spouses. Community debts are the obligation of both of the spouses and both are liable for them in the event of a dissolution of marriage. The judge or the parties can allocate responsibility for payment of the community debts in a dissolution of marriage decree. However, the other spouse may still be liable to the creditor for the debt if it is not paid, as a contract liability.

by: Sandra Tedlock

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