Separate or Marital Property?
A few practical examples illustrate the logic behind designating property separate or marital.
Suppose, right after her wedding to Rufus, Rhonda’s great-aunt leaves her a Tiffany’s jade necklace appraised at $5,000. That inheritance is Rhonda’s separate property. By the same logic, that big-screen television set Rufus got from his brother as a birthday gift belongs to Rufus and is his separate property.
However, when Rufus deposits a $10,000 gift from his folks in his and Rhonda’s joint checking account, that money becomes community property and is marital. And in a community property state, if Rufus buys a motorcycle for himself with money from his income, that motorcycle is community property because he bought it with money earned during he marriage.
Rhonda’s part-time travel agency, which she started before she married Rufus, may become part community property because Rufus can demonstrate that during their marriage he added value to the business.
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COMMUNITY PROPERTY VERSUS EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION -- There are two basic ways to handle divorce property division: Community Property: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Puerto Rico are community property states. This means that all marital property is typically defined as community property or separate property. When divorcing, community property is typically divided evenly, and each spouse keeps his or her separate property. Equitable Distribution: All other states follow equitable distribution. This means that a judge decides what is equitable, or fair, rather than simply splitting the property in two. In practice, this may mean that two-thirds of the property goes to the higher earning spouse, with the other spouse getting one-third.
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