Community Property vs. Equitable Distribution

There are many issues involved in a Wisconsin divorce. From child custody to alimony payments, you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse may disagree with one another of one or several terms.

One of the most common subjects that are hotly contested during divorce involves how property and assets are divided. In the United States, there are two types of laws that determine property division: community property laws and equitable distribution laws.

The Difference between Community Property & Equitable Distribution

Wisconsin and eight other states (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington) follow community property laws. In these states, both parties are assumed to an equal share of all income, property, and debts accumulated during the course of the marriage.

While this simple method eliminates a substantial amount of time spent on determining which items are considered separate property or figuring out the value of non-tangible items, community property laws can be considered as unequal and can result in higher alimony payments. Since everything is split 50/50, each spouse must make pay half of their mortgage or credit card payments on their own.

The rest of the states abide by equitable distribution laws, where assets are not divided down the middle. Instead, the court looks at various factors in determining a “fair and equitable” division of all marital property.

First, the court must decide what is considered marital property and separate property (assets gained before marriage). Next, the court needs to apply a monetary value for all assets and property. Lastly, the court can determine a fair and equitable division.

If you are interested in filing for divorce in Wisconsin, contact our Madison divorce attorney at Balisle Family Law Legal Counsel, S.C. today.