When you get married, you do not anticipate that your union will end in divorce. Yet, divorce happens frequently and for many reasons. Couples accumulate many assets when they are married, especially if they are married for a long time. If you are ending your marriage, you will want to understand how property is divided in a Wisconsin divorce. A knowledgeable Wisconsin divorce attorney will help guide the process and answer any questions you have.
What is Community Property?
States handle divorce differently. Wisconsin is a community property state. This means that if your marriage ends in divorce, you and your spouse will need to divide your assets and debts equally. Community property includes any property or assets that you and your spouse accumulated during your marriage. Both partners are considered to have contributed equally during the marriage, and therefore, they are both entitled to half of their assets. Couples must also equally divide debts that they incurred during their marriage.
Defining Community Property
Community property includes everything that you and your spouse obtained while you were married. Property includes money, savings, investments, and physical property such as a house, car, furniture, and more. It also includes pension plans, 401(k)s, and insurance policies that have cash values. A business may also be included as community property. It is helpful to make a list of your marital assets and debts so you can review it with your attorney. Both spouses must provide a disclosure of their assets.
Exceptions to Community Property Rules
There are a few exceptions to the community property rules. Property that you owned before you entered into the marriage is yours alone and is not generally included as community property. If you received an inheritance, it is yours alone. Any gifts that you received from a third party to you alone are not considered community property. Some situations are more complex than others. For example, if you owned a home before marriage but then both spouses contribute to the mortgage payments, the property may be considered community or mixed. These matters can become a source of disagreement among spouses.
Negotiating the Distribution of Assets
Generally, the courts encourage spouses to negotiate a distribution settlement to which they both agree. The court will typically support an agreement that is fair to both parties as long as they agree. If couples cannot come to an agreement, the court may order mediation. If they still cannot agree to the settlement, the judge will decide. It is important to know that the judge will take various factors into consideration, such as the length of the marriage, the property that each had before the marriage, and the contribution of each spouse to the marriage, among others. A short-term marriage is one that is less than five years in length. Commingled property may be property that couples shared before marriage. Each situation is different and requires a complete review to ensure a fair and equal distribution in divorce.
The distribution of assets is one of the most complex areas of a divorce settlement and one that can cause disagreements. An experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney will assist you in obtaining a fair settlement. Call us today at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. at (608) 784-8310 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.