Wisconsin Marital Property Law: Everything You Need to Know

Ever wondered how marital property laws in Wisconsin work? Whether you’re planning to tie the knot or already married, understanding these laws is crucial. Wisconsin’s marital property laws are unique and can significantly impact your financial situation during and after marriage. So, let’s dive in and demystify Wisconsin’s marital property law.

Understanding Wisconsin Marital Property Law

What is Marital Property?

In Wisconsin, marital property is any asset or debt acquired during the marriage. This includes income, real estate, personal property, and even debts. Wisconsin follows the community property system, meaning both spouses equally own marital property regardless of whose name is on the title.

Separate Property

Not all property is considered marital. Separate property includes assets acquired before marriage, inheritances, and gifts given to one spouse. However, if separate property is mixed with marital property, it can become marital property.

Community Property System

Wisconsin is one of the few states that follow the community property system. This system presumes that all assets and debts acquired during the marriage are equally owned by both spouses. This can have significant implications during a divorce or death of a spouse.

Key Aspects of Wisconsin Marital Property Law

Property Division in Divorce

When it comes to divorce, Wisconsin courts strive for an equal division of marital property. However, the court may deviate from this presumption based on several factors, including:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Property brought into the marriage by each party
  • Contributions to the marriage, including homemaking and childcare
  • Age and physical and emotional health of the parties
  • Contributions to the education or earning potential of the other spouse

Debts in Marriage

Just like assets, debts incurred during the marriage are considered marital property. Both spouses are equally responsible for marital debts, even if only one spouse incurred the debt. This can include credit card debts, mortgages, and loans.

Inheritance and Gifts

Inheritance and gifts are considered separate property in Wisconsin. However, if these assets are commingled with marital property, they may be treated as marital property. For instance, if an inheritance is deposited into a joint bank account, it may lose its separate property status.

How to Protect Your Property

Prenuptial Agreements

One way to protect your assets is through a prenuptial agreement. This legal document outlines how property will be divided in the event of divorce or death. It can also specify which assets are considered separate property.

Postnuptial Agreements

Similar to prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements are made after marriage. They can address changes in financial circumstances and protect individual assets acquired during the marriage.

Keeping Property Separate

To maintain the separate status of certain assets, it’s essential to avoid commingling. Keep separate bank accounts for inheritances or gifts and avoid using marital funds to improve separate property.

FAQs about Wisconsin Marital Property Law

What happens to marital property if one spouse dies?

Upon the death of a spouse, Wisconsin’s marital property law dictates that the surviving spouse retains ownership of their half of the marital property. The deceased spouse’s half is distributed according to their will or, if no will exists, according to state intestacy laws.

Can marital property be given away or sold by one spouse?

In Wisconsin, one spouse cannot unilaterally sell or give away marital property without the other’s consent. Both spouses have equal ownership and rights to marital property.

How does Wisconsin handle retirement accounts in divorce?

Retirement accounts are considered marital property in Wisconsin. During a divorce, these accounts are divided equally between the spouses. This includes 401(k)s, pensions, and IRAs.

Are there exceptions to the equal division of property in a divorce?

Yes, the court can deviate from the equal division presumption based on various factors, including the length of the marriage, each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, and their respective earning potentials.

What should I do if I receive an inheritance during my marriage?

To ensure an inheritance remains separate property, keep it in a separate account and avoid commingling it with marital funds. Consult with a legal professional to ensure proper handling.


Wisconsin’s marital property law can be complex, but understanding its key aspects can help you navigate your financial situation during and after marriage. Remember, Wisconsin follows the community property system, meaning all assets and debts acquired during the marriage are equally owned by both spouses. Protecting your property through prenuptial or postnuptial agreements and keeping separate property separate can help safeguard your assets.

For more information, check out these authoritative resources:

Understanding these laws can help you make informed decisions and protect your financial future. So, stay informed, protect your assets, and ensure a fair division of property in case of divorce or death.