Asset Division and Wisconsin Community Property Laws
A lot goes into building a marriage, and untangling years of a life together in a divorce can be a difficult emotional and logistical task. Between filing paperwork, determining custody and adjusting to a new routine and way of living, the experience can be overwhelming to try and handle on your own.
The division of assets in particular can be an enormous source of stress when ending a marriage. Assets like houses, income, retirement funds and even debt need to be considered, and it doesn’t take much for the process to get complicated and confusing. A divorce attorney can provide invaluable knowledge and support so that the process can proceed as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Here’s what you should know about asset division and property laws in Wisconsin while navigating a divorce.
Wisconsin Property Division Laws
Property division laws will vary state by state, and it’s important to be familiar with your local laws. Wisconsin is a community property state - meaning that all property acquired during marriage by either spouse is presumed to be marital property and, in the event of a divorce, will be divided equally.
The same guidelines apply to debt, and it is presumed that all debt accrued during marriage be divided equally, even if accrued solely by one spouse.
Property acquired by a spouse received as a personal gift or inheritance is presumed by law to be individual property. It is important that the spouse who received the gift or inheritance maintains very clear records that prove it was received as a gift or inheritance, and that the spouse has maintained it apart from marital property. Commingling gifted or inherited property could change the asset into a divisible asset.
The presumption is that equal division does mean equal, 50/50, regardless of the individual contributions of a spouse towards the income or the debt. In many instances, spousal contributions to property will not have been totally equal, and this can cause major strains during the divorce process.
While the court can consider contributions during the marriage as a reason to deviate from 50/50 property division, it isn’t always the case. If you are worried about how assets will be divided in the event of a divorce, it may be wise to consider a marital property agreement.
Marital Property Agreements
Marital property agreements, or pre or postnuptial agreements, are contracts that determine how property will be divided in the event of a divorce. Rather than dividing all marital property equally, spouses can determine which assets will remain individual property, meaning they will not be subject to equal division in the case of divorce.
The agreement can be tailored to the needs of the spouses and the situation. It may be the case that most property will remain marital property and only a handful of assets will be exempt from division. In other situations, the agreement may be more comprehensive, keeping a large portion or all assets separate. In unions where one spouse is bringing significantly more assets - or significantly more debt - a marital property agreement can ensure an equitable division. Another common consideration is when there are children from a prior marriage that a spouse wishes to consider as part of the division of assets in the event of a divorce or death.
Marital property agreements need to be agreed upon and signed by both spouses. An attorney will be a major asset when deciding on the terms of a marital property agreement. Everson Law Firm’s family law attorneys are well-versed in drafting prenuptial agreements and marital property division and can be invaluable resources and advocates when determining how marital assets will be handled.
In order to distribute the property, a court must first know the value of all the property that needs to be considered, including bank accounts, houses, retirement accounts and businesses. Experts will likely be brought in to determine values. Attorneys at Everson Law Firm have extensive experience in coordinating with appraisers and can serve as a useful ally and resource.
Consult a Divorce Attorney
Dividing up assets can be one of the most difficult steps in the divorce process. Attorneys at Everson Law Firm are experts in handling divorces with complex marital property division and can help you navigate asset division so you can focus on more important matters. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more about how Everson Law Firm can assist.