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What differs community property from equitable distribution?

Louisiana is one of only a handful of states in the U.S. that follow community property laws. What does this mean for a divorcing couple?

Well, other states follow "equitable distribution" of property. This means that a judge will look at a couple's divorce and decide what is fair in terms of property division. We bring this up to make the distinction between equitable distribution and community property. In community property, assets acquired during the marriage are deemed "marital property" (with certain exemptions for gifts and other scenarios) and, thus, each spouse gets a 50 percent stake in each piece of marital property.

Now, the community property laws in each state differ from place to place. But, in general, these are the types of assets and pieces of property that usually show up in community property:

  • Wages earned by the spouses, as well as any furniture purchased and interest earned by the spouses during the marriage
  • Mortgages and business interests
  • The family home

As we mentioned above, there are gifts that can't be included in community property. For example, if a spouse received a valuable birthday present that was specific to him or her, then the other spouse can not claim a 50 percent stake in it.

Community property can be a confusing concept, especially in practice. It also has a penchant for causing some serious property division discussions among the splitting spouse. If you are getting divorced in the state of Louisiana, you should talk with an experienced family law attorney. 

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