Non-Community Property States
Most states are non-community property states. This means that the courts must make an equitable division of property during divorce proceedings. Although the specific definition of equitable division of property varies from state to state, it is generally the division of marital property in a fair and just manner according to the specific circumstances of the divorce/dissolution of marriage. Equitable, however, does not always mean equal.
When one spouse obtains property in a community property state, generally the other spouse automatically gains a half-interest in it. In non-community property states, on the other hand, the other spouse only has an interest in the property upon filing for divorce or upon the death of the other spouse.
Courts in non-community property jurisdictions consider numerous factors in allocating property; the factors vary from state to state. However, the courts agree on a few basic, non-financial factors that are appropriate to consider:
- Spouse's homemaking activities, including child care, food preparation, cleaning and laundry
- Spouse's forgone opportunities, including not pursuing further education/degrees or a career opportunity
- Spouse's social obligations, including hosting or attending social events in support of the other spouse's career
Prenuptial agreements can go a long way toward shaping the outcome of property distribution decisions.