What Is Community Property?

In general, anything acquired by either spouse during the marriage is considered community property. Community property is owned by both spouses equally. This includes wages of either spouse earned during the marriage, retirement benefits earned during the marriage, and property purchased during the marriage. One spouse’s wages during the marriage are still considered community property even if the other spouse did not earn any wages during the marriage.

Exceptions to Community Property Rule

There are some exceptions to the general rule mentioned above. For example, gifts to one spouse alone, even if received during the marriage, are the separate property of the receiving spouse. The same is true of an inheritance received by only one spouse during the marriage.

Although property acquired before marriage is considered separate property, it is possible for the asset/funds to get so commingled with community property that a court cannot distinguish the separate property from community property.

If you have separate property going into a marriage, it is best to try to keep the separate property segregated as much as possible. Also, you may want to consider a prenuptial agreement to protect your separate property. The prenuptial agreement may also address the creation of community and separate property during your marriage.

Nicole M. Bolan, Attorney at Law
Blado Kiger Bolan, Tacoma, Wash.

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