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State's property division systems can differ, confuse

When couples seek a divorce, the final outcome can depend greatly on the state in which they live. In particular, property division is affected greatly by the type of system each state uses to allocate assets. Texas is one of a minority of states to use the community property system, which differs from the equitable distribution system in use by most other states.

There are only nine states in the U.S. that utilize the community property approach to property division. Many of these are located in the western half of the country, including Idaho, Nevada and California. In this type of system, community property is not necessarily divided "in half" after parties decide to divorce. However, there is an emphasis on dividing, or at least attempting to divide, common assets that can be sold, such as a home, a car or furniture.

On the other hand, under an equitable distribution system, there is a stronger emphasis on dividing assets fairly while considering a large number and variety of factors. Such factors can include the earning power of each spouse, the number of years the pair spent married, the employment-related skills of each party, and the age and general health of each spouse. In community property states these factors aren't overlooked, but may play a lesser role in property division and a larger role in child support or alimony.

In community property states, it is important to determine if a divorce will be contested or uncontested. If a former couple can agree on certain important terms, some pieces of property may not need to be sold. However, many couples are understandably unable to communicate effectively in the midst of a divorce. As a result, family law attorneys can often help couples understand the community property system and work within it to protect assets and secure their future.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Why where you divorce matters: equitable distribution vs. community property," Aug. 28, 2013

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Attorney Christine K. Lincoln

Christine K. Lincoln offers sound counsel and legal services to protect clients and their families facing divorce and other family disputes.

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