When a married couple decides to separate, figuring out who gets what can be confusing. Sometimes, a separation ends up with court battles, especially with a lot of marital property involved.
Basically, dividing those assets depends on where the couple lives. In general, US states either follow community property or equitable distribution rules. So, is Colorado a community property state? Is everything bought during marriage usually split evenly, or do things go differently?
In this article, we’ll know the answer to those questions. By the end, you should have an idea of how Colorado deals with property issues to protect people’s rights.
What Is Community Property?
Community property is a legal concept determining how assets acquired during a marriage are treated through divorce. It doesn’t apply to all US states, only some of them.
Generally, the idea behind community property is that everything bought by either spouse during a marriage is considered owned by both of them. Even if only one spouse is the actual owner of a particular asset, everything is divided equally.
So, when the time for separation comes, the court assumes all property obtained during a marriage is marital property. This includes income, real estate, cars, savings, bank credit points, unused flying miles, etc.
That said, it’s essential to understand that divorced couples share debts too. In community property states, both spouses are responsible for debts sustained during their marriage, whether related to mortgages, credit cards, or loans.
Is Colorado a Community Property State?
Only nine US states use the community property concept to divide marital assets during a divorce, and Colorado isn’t one of them. Instead, Colorado is one of the 40 states that follow the legal principle of equitable distribution. As for the remaining state, Alaska, it uses both options.
While community property divides assets and debts equally between the divorcing spouses, the approach in states like Colorado is different.
What Is Equitable Distribution?
Mainly, a state’s equitable distribution system aims to achieve a fair and just division of marital property. This doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split. That’s because the court considers various factors to determine the best-suited percentage possible.
Such factors may include:
- The length of the marriage.
- The incomes and financial status of both spouses.
- The number of minor children, if any.
- The cost of healthcare and kids’ education, if any.
- Each spouse’s financial contribution, including savings and investments.
What Are the Exceptions To Marital Property?
Marital property is usually subject to division during a separation, whether in a community property or equitable distribution state. However, some exceptions may affect how the court treats certain assets.
Generally, these exceptions vary by jurisdiction. Therefore, it’s essential to consult with an attorney familiar with your state’s laws.
Overall, here are a few common exceptions to marital property.
1. Separate Property
Separate property (non-marital property) are assets owned by one spouse and aren’t subject to division after separations. This typically includes:
- Possessions owned before marriage, such as personal belongings, real estate, investments, or savings accounts.
- Assets received through inheritance, whether before or during the marriage. Even if a spouse uses inheritance money to buy something, it can also be considered separate property.
- Gifts obtained by a spouse through a third party as long as this spouse keeps those funds separate (away from the joint account) to avoid commingling.
- Property acquired after the separation (or after the cut-off date).
2. Commingled Assets
Commingled assets refer to the situation where separate and community property become intertwined. This makes it challenging to distinguish between the two and complicates property division during a divorce.
For example, a spouse having a savings account with a significant balance before marriage adds the other spouse to this account. Then, both of them start to deposit their income into it. Over time, what once was a separate property becomes mixed with marital funds.
This also applies to investments in an already established business, the renovations of a pre-owned house, mortgage payments, etc.
3. Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreements
If a couple chooses to enter a prenuptial (before marriage) or postnuptial (after marriage) agreement, things can go differently during divorce. Such agreements specify how property should be divided in case of divorce, and the court usually upholds their terms.
So, even if an asset is considered marital property under state law, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can change that.
4. Terms of Divorce Settlement
Sometimes, divorcing couples reach a settlement agreement that specifies how they want to split property. If both spouses accept such an agreement, it can change the standard rules of marital property division.
Understanding the ins and outs of property division during a separation is vital. While you can answer the question “Is Colorado a community property state?” with a no, much more details go into that matter.
Colorado follows equitable distribution rules when it comes to divorce. These rules add to the complexities related to dividing property as they require careful consideration of individual circumstances.
In all cases, seeking legal guidance is always the right way to protect one’s interests through such a tough time.