When couples get married, they take vows and make promises to be there for each other through sickness and in health, and for richer or for poorer. As a married couple, they become one unit in the eyes of the court. Because of this, their individual property, money, and even debt is usually shared between both parties. There are certain classifications of community property, as well as rules and regulations for such. There are instances in which property is not deemed as community property, and those legal differences can get confusing. Let’s go through what community property is and what it is not, so you can be better prepared for that potential step in your relationship.

When Does It Apply?

Louisiana Civil Code articles 2325-2376 define the assets, income, and debt as shared, unless legally deemed separate, as “community property.” This applies to all couples married within the State of Louisiana or ones that move into the state. The community property definition becomes effective immediately. However, a married couple can opt out of this classification by entering into a prenuptial agreement (pre-nup), or a postnuptial agreement (post-nup). This legal document defines what property belongs to which party and other legal agreements. 

What is Considered Separate Property?

Though community property is the usual classification of property between two married parties, there are instances in which that property is legally deemed as separate. Property deemed as separate in the following instances:

  • Property acquired by a spouse prior to the marriage
  • Property acquired by one spouse through an inheritance or by donation
  • Property acquired during the marriage but is legally classified as separate property by a marital agreement (prenup) 
  • Property acquired with funds of one spouse that is separate from the other
  • Cost of damages caused by one spouse due to that person’s fraud or mishandling of individual property
  • Personal injury settlement awards minus the spouses’ shared cost of medical expenses

What is Considered Community Property?

When a couple are married, their commitment to each other also extends to the commitment to combine their property, assets, income, and even debts. Other than those few exceptions, the following are considered classifications of what becomes community property upon and during a marriage:

  • Property acquired during the marriage through combined effort and/or skills of the couple
  • Property acquired with community things
  • Property acquired with community and separate property when the value of the separate property is minor compared to the value of the community property
  • Damages for loss or injury to community property
  • All other property not legally classified as separate

What Are the Rules?

When property becomes community property, there are many stipulations and guidelines that define such. Generally, all assets that are acquired during the marriage, unless legally defined as separate property, is presumed to be community property. If the assets are purchased using community funds, then those assets are usually considered community property as well. Specifically, the courts look at three factors when considering whether property is community or separate:

  1. Source of funds (used to purchase item or funds in general)
  2. Conditions (how the property was obtained, specifics, etc.)
  3. Timing of Purchase (before/after marriage, etc.)

Marriage is a commitment made between two parties to spend of the rest of their lives together. With this commitment to each other, also comes the commitment to shared goals, dreams, and property. In Louisiana, upon marriage, certain assets, property, and debt becomes shared between the two parties. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, and some property can remain separate property. If you are considering marriage, married with property questions, or have general questions regarding community property laws in Louisiana, contact one of the knowledgeable law professionals at Latiolais Law Firm.