Dear Dr. Don,
My wife and I are married and live in Texas. She was given a house three years ago as a gift (we were already married) and it was put in her name only. I have an ongoing argument with a friend of mine. I say that according to community property rules, the house is half mine if we were to ever split up. He says, "No way." Who is correct?
-- Glenn Grab
Your friend is correct. Gifts can remain separate property in a community property state even if they are received during the marriage. You'll have to find a new topic for discussion. May I suggest the Dallas Cowboys' probable opponents in the post-season?
There can be mitigating circumstances, like whether there was a mortgage on the property and community assets were used to make the mortgage payments. Even then, your claim would be based on the amount of community assets spent on the mortgage, not an equal division of the asset.
In community property states, assets brought into the marriage -- or gifts or inheritances received during the marriage -- can be kept separate from the couple's community property. The community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Alaska allows couples to elect community property treatment.
Thanks to Texas attorney Aubrey M. Connatser -- a partner at Koons, Fuller, Vanden Eykel & Robertson in Dallas -- for her help in answering this reader's question.
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