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Heather Jones

Wisconsin is a community property state. What that means is that in the event of a divorce the court can divide martial property 50/50 between divorcing spouses.  

Why is Wisconsin a community property state?

Wisconsin is a community property state because its laws dictate that both spouses contribute equally to the marriage and therefore have an ownership right to half the marital assets. It is important to recognize that not all assets are classified as community and some assets are excluded from a division in a divorce.  

What is considered community property in Wisconsin?

Generally any property, debt or asset that is acquired during the marriage will be considered community property by the court and will be divided equally.  

Property that comes to one spouse by gift, will or devise will be considered separate property unless the spouse either intentionally or accidentally co-mingles it with marital property and then the court considers it community property and subject to division.  

For example, if one spouse receives a monetary inheritance from a deceased relative and uses that money to pay off the mortgage on the marital home, those funds are now community and subject to division. Another example would be if the spouse took the inheritance money and deposited it into a joint saving account, it has now become community property.  

As another example, a friend of one spouse gives them a classic car as a gift. That car would not be considered community property and would belong solely to the spouse who received it.  

Division of community property by the divorcing spouses

It is worth noting that if the divorcing spouses can agree to a division themselves or with the assistance of an attorney negotiating on their behalf, the court has the power to enter an order for that division, what that means in practical terms is if the spouses can work out a no-contest division of the property, assets and debts between themselves the issue of community property division will not be an issue.  


It’s not always easy to classify what is and is not community property in Wisconsin

At times the classification of property as separate or community can be difficult, especially when the marriage is considered “short term” which would be a marriage of fifteen years or less. Additional issues that could arise are accidental co-mingling of separate and community property, division of retirement benefits or if there is a pre-marital agreement in place that is now being disputed by one spouse. Furthermore, any debts or assets that existed prior to the marriage could become issues through inadvertent co-mingling.  

What is the effect of a pre-marital agreement on community property in Wisconsin?

A pre-nuptial agreement can dictate the division of property in the event of a divorce which is intended to alleviate many potential disputes. There is always the possibility that the pre-nuptial agreement will be challenged and the parties will either have to reach a settlement agreement in regard to the assets or debts or seek the court’s intervention. Your Wisconsin family law attorney can advise you of rights in regard to a challenge to the division of property in a pre-nuptial agreement.  

Consult with a Wisconsin Family Law attorney

While this article has given you a basic overview of community property in Wisconsin, you should consult with a Wisconsin family law attorney who can properly advise you as to the classification of the property and your rights in regard to that property. If you have questions regarding community property division or family law in Wisconsin, please don’t hesitate to give us a call if we can be of assistance to you.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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