In states with community property laws, all assets and debts obtained between spouses during marriage is equally owned. Property, excluding gifts or inheritance in some jurisdictions, is viewed as a result of a combined effort. The consequence for credit cards in community property states is that any card debt that either party racks up during a marriage becomes the property of both spouses. If there’s a death, the card debt becomes the liability of the surviving spouse. If there’s a divorce, card debts are split in equal halves.
Nine states use the community property theory: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Alaska is an “opt-in” community property state, in which couples can jointly decree what property is held in common.
Community property is the legal alternative to equitable division, which is a theory used to divide up assets based on variables relative to each spouse and his or her situation.