Is Wisconsin a marital property state?

Wisconsin is known as a community property state. Everything acquired during the marriage will be divided equally after the divorce. This includes income, property, and debts. It doesn't matter who earns more or had less at the start of the marriage. The spouses can decide to come to an agreement that the court will consider under an uncontested divorce.

What is the definition of marital property?

In the state of Wisconsin, marital property is the term used during divorce proceedings to describe properties that were acquired after the marriage took place and are shared between both parties. These types of properties are eligible for division under state law.

Marital Property

Simply put, marital property is property acquired by either spouse after two parties are married. In the event of a divorce the court has the authority to distribute marital property and no authority over individual property so it's important

Property acquired before marriage is considered individual property of the spouse who acquired it. However, property can lose its “individual property” status if it has been co-mingled with marital property. For example, if property was acquired before the marriage by one spouse but has risen in value due to the efforts and/or labor of the other or both spouses, the appreciated value is considered marital property.

Property inherited or given as a gift by a third party are considered individual property. Keep in mind that although inherited and gifted property is considered separate property, if it is co-mingled with marital property it loses its separate property status. For example, if inherited money is deposited into a joint bank account it is very likely that it is considered marital property.

What is a marital property agreement under Wisconsin law?

A marital property agreement is a term that the state of Wisconsin uses to describe a standard pre or postnuptial agreement. In these agreements, decisions are made regarding the division of marital property in the event of a divorce. Marital property agreements are flexible and can be revised under applicable state law.

Benefits of a marital property agreement:

  • To distinguish individual debts and credit
  • Avoid Wisconsin's marital property system
  • Partially or completely separate property, as individual property
  • Reclassify individual property as marital property.

It's important to use a professional to help you draft a marital property agreement. If the prospective agreement makes only minor changes to the Wisconsin community property law, it is likely safe to hire one attorney to work on both spouses' behalf. However, if an agreement will overwhelmingly benefit one spouse over the other it is important for both parties to hire separate attorney's to draft the document.

Can Married People in WI own separate property?

Yes. Under certain circumstances, it is possible for two married people to own separate property. Examples of property which is not subject to community property laws include:

  • Property owned by one spouse before marriage
  • Any property given as a gift to just one spouse
  • Property inherited by just one spouse

It's important to remember that it is far more likely that the marital property will be subject to community property laws rather than qualify as separate property. This is true even when only one spouses name appears on a title or deed. In some instances, property owned by one spouse before the marriage can be considered as community property if that property can be shown to have benefitted both individuals during the marriage.

Complicated right?

It's only natural to enter the divorce process with a laundry list of questions. We recommend discussing your property rights with an expert that knows the law inside & out, and you can trust to act in your best interests.

As with most things in a divorce, the Wisconsin marital property laws are generally fair and reasonable, allowing for the easy division of property if both parties are in can come to an agreement. However, if the parties are not in agreement, the circuit court will divide the marital estate upon granting the judgement of divorce. 

Although it can be difficult, the fairest property settlements are typically achieved through negotiation facilitated by qualified trustworthy attorneys.

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