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Community Property States

Community Property States
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Introduction

In the realm of marital property law in the United States, states primarily adhere to either a common-law property system or a community property system. This article looks into the status of community property systems across the country. Community property laws, stemming from Spanish legal tradition, decree that all property - with certain exceptions like separately owned assets before marriage and certain types of gifts and inheritances - acquired during marriage is co-owned by both spouses, and in the event of a divorce, this property is typically divided equally. The exceptions to this co-ownership, however, may vary greatly from state to state.

  • Out of the 50 states in the U.S., only nine employ community property laws: Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Wisconsin, California, Louisiana, New Mexico, Washington, and Idaho.
  • The origin of the regime in some states can be traced back to their Spanish or French colonial history. Notably, Louisiana's civil law system has links to the French Napoleonic Code, and Spain's colonial legacy influenced the systems in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
  • In other states, such as Wisconsin, the introduction of community property laws was a later development and represents a deliberate legislative choice.
  • Beyond these nine states, Alaska, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Florida have adopted optional community property systems, expanding the influence of such laws.

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