List of Equitable Distribution States

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Property Law

The divorce rate in the United States stands at 39% of all marriages as of June of 2020. Marriage is one of life’s great paradoxes with couples both calling marriage the greatest thing that ever happened to them and the worst.

Most nobody gets married in hopes that they will one day divorce, but it happens. When couples go their separate ways the divorce court will have to determine the best way to break the financial contract of the legal marriage.

There are two state systems of dividing the wealth and assets of a couple, equitable distribution states and community property states. So, what is ‘equitable distribution’ and how does it differ from community property law? Which system is followed by the divorce courts in your state? Keep reading to find out.

Community Property States

Community property implies that the property is owned equally between both parties. Under the community property system property acquired during the marriage is generally split 50/50 between the two parties. 

The divorced couple will also share equally in any debts accrued against the property during the time of their marriage. Community property is practiced in the states of:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

NOTE: Not all property acquired during the marriage is considered community property. Property acquired during separation (in some states) and property gifted or inherited is ‘separate property’ and owned individually.

Equitable Distribution States

The remaining 41 states are equitable distribution states. These states divide property ‘fairly’ but not necessarily equally between the two parties. The divorce court is open to hearing reasons why one party should receive a larger share of the property and/or debt.

The state of Colorado is a good equitable distribution example. For Colorado, equitable distribution in divorce begins with appraising the value of the property along with other jointly owned assets. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement the court will then need to step in and decide how to divide the equitable value of property fairly.

What constitutes “fair division” of property, assets, and debts often becomes complex with many factors to consider. The divorce court listens to arguments from both sides and rules on a percentage share of the value of the property.

The difference in equitable distribution states is that there is no assumption of an equal split of property value and debts. In order to make sure your interests are represented fully a reputable divorce attorney is highly recommended.

Consult Your Attorney

Equitable distribution law varies by state and circumstance so the best advice is to consult your attorney to learn what the law says about the division of assets for your particular case.

No matter if you live in one of the community property states or one of the equitable distribution states, you best retain a strong divorce attorney to negotiate your interests. For more useful information about all manner of challenges in life read more articles on our blog.