community property

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Related to community property: separate property

Community Property

The holdings and resources owned in common by a Husband and Wife.

Community Property Law concerns the distribution of property acquired by a couple during marriage in the event of the end of the marriage, whether by Divorce or death of one of the parties. In community property states all property accumulated by a husband and wife during their marriage becomes joint property even if it was originally acquired in the name of only one partner. The states that utilize a community property method of dividing resources were influenced by the Civil Law system of France, Spain, and Mexico.

Laws vary among the states that recognize community property; however, the basic idea is that a husband and wife each acquire a one-half interest in what is labeled community property. A determining factor in the classification of a particular asset as community property is the time of acquisition. Community property is ordinarily defined as everything the couple owns that is acquired during the marriage with the exception of separate property owned by either of them individually. Separate property is that property that each individual brings into the marriage, in addition to anything that either spouse acquires by inheritance during the marriage.

Generally, four types of property acquired after marriage amount to community property: earnings, damages obtained from a personal injury suit, damages awarded in an industrial accident action, and rents and profits from separate property.


In many community property law states, a husband and wife may enter into a Premarital Agreement that there will be no community property. Divorce terminates the community relationship in all community property states; however, the manner in which the property is divided differs.

Upon the dissolution of a marriage, the source of property becomes important in determining whether an asset is community or separate property. Ordinarily, separate property includes that which is acquired through gift, Descent and Distribution, and devise or bequest. Each partner in a Property Settlement reacquires whatever he or she owned prior to the marriage.

In some states, community property is divided equally; in others, the division is based on the court's discretion. In certain jurisdictions, the guilt of a spouse in a divorce action can be a factor in reducing his or her share of the community property.

Inheritance Laws

Each spouse owns one-half of the couple's property in community property states, and, therefore, when a husband or wife dies only one-half of the marital property is inheritable since the surviving spouse owns in his or her own right one-half of the marital property.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

community property

n. property and profits received by a husband and wife during the marriage, with the exception of inheritances, specific gifts to one of the spouses, and property and profits clearly traceable to property owned before marriage, all of which is separate property. Community property is a concept which began in Spain to protect rich women from losing everything to profligate husbands, and is only officially recognized in some states which were once under or influenced by Spanish or Mexican control, including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Idaho, Washington and Louisiana. Community property recognizes the equal contribution of both parties to the marriage even though one or the other may earn more income through employment. By agreement or action the married couple can turn (transmute) separate property into community property, including by commingling community and separate funds in one account. Community property is recognized based on fact or agreement of the parties, rather than holding of title. The state courts have wavered on what constitutes proof of community property, including the issue of whether joint tenancy is evidence of community property or not. Many states have adopted statutes which provide for equal distribution which parallel the community property system. Upon the death of one spouse all the community property goes to the other except in Texas surviving children get one half and in obvious sexual discrimination Nevada and New Mexico allow the husband to will a half to someone other than his wife. (See: separate property, descent, descent and distribution)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

community property

in some of the states of the USA and elsewhere in the world, there is a form of implied partnership in the profits resulting from a marriage. Premarital property remains the individual property of each party, but property acquired during the marriage is common property. A similar result obtains in the UK on divorce.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
References in periodicals archive ?
In 1998, Alaska passed a law allowing for formation of a community property trust: a statutorily defined trust providing that property transferred to the trust becomes community property held by the decedent and surviving spouse under the law of Alaska if the trust satisfies the requirements of the Alaska legislation.
But now, the retroactive vesting of community property rights in the real estate in favor of the other spouse threatens to seriously undermine these expectations and potentially upset the rights of third parties.
The Court agreed with the trial court: the policy was community property. It ruled the transmutation requirement of an express written declaration applied to Randy's claim, and Frankie never expressly declared in writing that he gave up his community interest in the policy bought with community funds.
Washington law generally defines community property to be all 1) earnings during the marriage of each spouse; 2) property acquired with earnings during marriage; and 3) any property acquired with "community funds." This gives each spouse an equal interest in all community property.
(4) Their marriage initiated a community property regime under Louisiana marital law.
2) property devolved to a spouse by succession or gift during the marriage, unless the will or donation agreement indicates that the property is devolved as joint community property;
By way of contrast with the law in other community property states, it has been held under Louisiana law that the presumption of community generally applicable to property acquired with community funds during marriage does not apply to life insurance acquired by a spouse (a) on his own life payable to his spouse irrevocably, or (b) on his spouse's life where he has named himself policy owner and revocable beneficiary.
Community property generally consists of: (1) property purchased during the marriage; (2) earned income during marriage; (3) fringe benefits derived from employment; (4) dividends, interest, and capital gains earned on community property; and (5) dividends and interest earned on separate property during the marriage (Texas, Louisiana, and Idaho).
In the states of Idaho, Louisiana, and Texas, income from separate property is community property. (In Wisconsin, under the Marital Property Act, income from individual (separate) property is marital (community) property.
In a community property state, each spouse owns a one-half interest in property acquired while the spouses are married.
Constitution preempted a state court from dividing military retirement pay pursuant to state community property laws.

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