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- Separating finances in a divorce can be messy.
- In 9 US states, everything acquired throughout the marriage from real estate to income is considered joint property.
- Residents in these states are entitled to a 50/50 split of all assets during a divorce.
If your partner is the breadwinner, you’ll be better off post-divorce in states that observe community property law, where a 50/50 split applies to your marital estate.
Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin (and Alaska by opt-in agreement) are community property states.
Here, everything acquired throughout the marriage is considered joint property (except assets given as a gift or inherited, or separate property owned before marriage, so long as it stayed separate throughout the marriage), so when a couple separates, each spouse is entitled to exactly half of the assets. That includes real estate, income, cars, furniture, stocks, and retirement accounts.
So if your partner has been earning six figures for the entirety of your 10-year marriage and you have earned significantly less – perhaps your industry isn’t high-paying or you chose to forgo a career to care for young children – you’ll more than likely be better off post-divorce if you live in a community property state, where your spouse’s wealth is considered joint property in a marriage.
In contrast, in the other US 41 states, a marital estate is made up of assets acquired under each spouse’s name; they’re not technically considered joint or community property unless both names are on the deed. Upon divorce, the assets are divided “fairly” at a judge’s discretion, taking into account each person’s earning potential or income, financial needs, contributions, and personal assets, rather than simply splitting it 50/50.
To protect personal assets in either case, couples can set up a prenuptial agreement, which establishes terms for a division of assets in the event of a divorce.
Check the map below to find out if the state you live in observes equitable distribution or community property law.
- Skye Gould/Business Insider