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Property Division and Debts in a Divorce

Home Family Law Property Division and Debts in a Divorce


Property Division

You’ve worked hard your whole life. You and your spouse saved for a down payment on a house and filled it with furniture, trinkets, and memories. You have vehicles parked in the garage and pictures hung on the walls. But what happens to all of your stuff now that you’ve filed for divorce?

How are property and debts divided at divorce?

Division of property (and debt) does not necessarily mean a physical division. Rather, the court may award each spouse a percentage of the total value of the property. Each spouse will get personal property, assets, and debts whose worth adds up to his or her percentage.

Wisconsin is a community property state. This means that most property is equally owned by both spouses. As a general rule, things that were purchased or financed during the marriage fall into the community property category regardless of whom did the purchasing. There are some instances where something just belongs to just one spouse, however.

How do we distinguish between community and non-community property?

Very generally, here are the rules for determining what’s community property and what isn’t:

  • Community property includes all earnings during marriage and everything acquired with those earnings. All debts incurred during marriage, unless the creditor was specifically looking to the separate property of one spouse for payment, are community property debts.
  • Separate property of one spouse includes gifts and inheritances given just to that spouse, personal injury awards received by that spouse, and the proceeds of a pension that vested before marriage. Property purchased with the separate funds of a spouse remain that spouse’s separate property. A business owned by one spouse before the marriage remains his or her separate property during the marriage, although a portion of it may be considered community property if the business increased in value during the marriage or both spouses worked at it.

Need help securing your belongings? Call GCW.

GCW Lawyers is a team of compassionate and experienced Wisconsin attorneys who have helped clients over the years to navigate the complicated arena of family law and property division. Contact our family law attorneys at GCW today for a free consultation.

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