What are the Community Property States?

A community property state refers to the types of laws surrounding marital rights to property due to death or divorce. If someone is considered married in a community property state, whether by legal marriage or common law marriage, if so recognized in that state, then that person is legally entitled to one-half of his or her spouse’s property that is not considered separate property. Separate property is property that was received or earned prior to the date of marriage as well as any gifts received during the marriage. Any other property received or earned during marriage belongs to the ‘community’ and thus must be divided equally between each spouse at the time of death or divorce. In addition, any contributions made by the ‘community’ to one’s separate property creates a community property interest in that separate property. An example would be the income earned by either spouse during marriage which then is spent toward the mortgage on a home that is the separate property of one spouse creates a community property interest which must be returned to the community upon divorce or death of a spouse.