In 1985 the State of Wisconsin enacted Chapter 766 of the Statutes commonly referred to as the Marital Property Act. This sweeping law dictates ownership interests and rights in property as to married persons. It also affects third party creditors rights reference collection of obligations from both spouses.
marital property equal interests
Basically, the law creates a presumed equal interest in property owned by either spouse and a presumed equal obligation for debts to third parties. This applies to property acquired during the marriage as well as property brought into the marriage by either spouse.
exclusions from marital property
Chapter 766 does allow parties to “opt out” of some or virtually all of the provisions of Chapter 766 by way of Marital Property Agreements. Any such agreement must be in writing, freely entered into and based upon full financial disclosure between the parties. There are additional conditions developed through case law that require each party understand the effects of the agreement and that the agreement is equitable under all of the circumstances.
control and management of assets
Marital property agreements define not only the classification of assets but also the right to manage and control assets during the marriage. The agreement also affects the distribution of property upon dissolution of the marriage and in certain instances upon the death of either party.
responsibility for debts upon divorce
The agreement may also define and assign debts as marital or non-marital and incorporate provisions regarding any claims for maintenance (alimony) upon divorce.
Many people avoid even the notion of a pre-nuptial agreement for they are, to be sure, not terribly romantic. However, marriage is more than a commitment of love faith and devotion. It is also a legal contract and economic partnership. Parties entering into marriage with significant assets or debts or liabilities are well served by setting forth their rights and obligations in a pre-nuptial agreement. These agreements also serve to protect a non-debtor party from incurring responsibility for the pre-marital debts or liabilities of the other party.
Those entering into a second marriage particularly with children from a first should absolutely consult an attorney regarding the benefits of a pre-marital agreement.
Again, absent a pre-marital agreement, all property brought into a marriage with the usual exception of gifted and inherited property is deemed marital and divisible upon divorce. Further even property that might otherwise be deemed separate can through the unintentional acts of a party or parties become marital. In order for gifted or inherited property to maintain its status as separate property the owning spouse must avoid any mixing of separate and marital property and must further be able to document the origin and source of the individual property. A marital property agreement allows parties to in most instances avoid any unintentional creation of a marital property interest in individual property.
Contact Riley Law Office
If Attorney Tim Riley can be of assistance to you with your legal situation, please call Riley Law Office for a free initial consultation at (608) 833-3880 or email Attorney Riley. Attorney Riley will be happy to speak with you with no obligation on your part.