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Community property is a marital property regime that originated in civil law jurisdictions, and is now also found in some common law jurisdictions. The portions of the United States that recognize community property, which are primarily the western States, acquired this body of law from the law of Mexico which was derived from Spanish law, derived ultimately from the Visigoths.
In a community property jurisdiction, most property acquired during the marriage (except for gifts or inheritances) is owned jointly by both spouses and is divided upon divorce, annulment or death. Joint ownership is automatically presumed by law in the absence of specific evidence that would point to a contrary conclusion for a particular piece of property. The community property system is usually justified by the idea that such joint ownership recognizes the theoretically equal contributions of both spouses to the creation and operation of the family unit.
Division of community property may take place by item, by splitting all items or by value. In some jurisdictions, such as California, a 50/50 division of community property is mandated by law; in others, such as Texas, a divorce court may decree an "equitable distribution" of community property, which may result in an unequal division of such. In non-community property states property may be divided by equitable distribution. Generally speaking, the property that each partner brings into the marriage or receives by gift, bequest or devise during marriage is called separate property (i.e., not community property). See division of property. Division of community debts may not be the same as division of community property. For example, in California, community property is required to be divided "equally" while community debt is required to be divided "equitably".
Property that is owned by one spouse before the marriage is the separate property of that spouse, unless the property is "transmuted" into community property. The rules for this vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.