Marital Property Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Marital Property, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Marital Property?

The property or income that was acquired during marriage and therefore considered to be owned by both spouses equally. Not recognized in all states.

History and Meaning of Marital Property

Marital property is a legal term used in divorce proceedings and refers to all assets that were acquired by either spouse during the duration of their marriage. In some states, marital property is also known as community property. The idea behind marital property is that both parties to a marriage share equally in the assets that were acquired together during the course of the marriage. However, not all states recognize marital property, and instead may follow equitable distribution laws.

In order to determine what is considered marital property, a court will often look at the specific laws of the state where the divorce is being filed. Generally, any property that is acquired after the wedding ceremony is considered marital property, regardless of whose name is on the title or deed. This includes bank accounts, real estate, stocks, and even intangible assets like intellectual property.

Examples of Marital Property

  1. John and Jane bought a house after they were married. Even though the house is only in John's name, it is considered marital property because it was acquired during the marriage.

  2. Mary was working and saving for a down payment on a car, which she bought shortly after getting married. Despite the car being in Mary's name, it is considered marital property because it was acquired during the marriage.

  3. Tom and Sarah started a business together during their marriage. Even though Sarah provided the initial investment funds, the business is still considered marital property because it was started during their marriage.

Legal Terms Similar to Marital Property

  1. Community Property - Similar to marital property, community property is a legal term used in some states to describe assets that were acquired during a marriage.

  2. Equitable Distribution - This term refers to the legal principle used in some states to divide marital property during a divorce. Unlike community property states, equitable distribution states may not split assets exactly 50/50 between spouses, but instead ensure that the division of assets is fair and equitable based on a variety of factors.

  3. Separate Property - This term refers to assets that were acquired by an individual before the marriage, or are considered to be gifts or inheritances to one spouse, and therefore are not considered marital property.