Marital property states are those states that follow certain principles for dividing property in a divorce.  Also known as “community property” states, these rules usually split marital property evenly between spouses upon divorce.  Marital or community property refers to property that was obtained by either spouse during the course of their marriage.  Other property (separate property) is retained by its owner after the divorce.

In contrast, non-marital property state may exercise other principles for dividing property.  This is usually some form of “equitable distribution” process, which analyzes a wide range of factors to reach a property distribution scheme.

How Many States are Marital Property States?

Nine states employ marital property or community property rules.  These are: Arizona, California, Louisiana, Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.  The rest of the remaining states employ different schemes, which can actually vary quite widely from state to state.

Also, distribution of property can be made more complicated if the couple is moving to a different state during their marriage.  For instance, if they acquired property in one state, then moved to another, it can affect martial property distribution later on.

Is it Possible to Choose a Different Set of Marital Property Rules?

Generally not- the parties are usually bound to the family laws in the area where they file the case.  Thus, distribution of property can vary from place to place.  However, the parties generally cannot simply choose a location to file for divorce only because it may yield a more favorable distribution outcome for them.  They are usually limited to filing in the jurisdiction where they live.  If the other party is out of state, they may need to notify them through serving process or by publication. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Marital Property State Laws?

The laws governing divorce property can often be different in each area.  If you are filing for divorce or legal separation, you may wish to hire a divorce lawyer or a family lawyer to determine what your options are in terms of your property rights.  Your lawyer can provide you with the advice you need, and can represent you in court during the actual proceedings.