I heard that a lot of people in the United States avoid marriage because they are afraid that they will lose half of their property if they get divorced.

Does this only happen in the United States?

Why did such division of assets become the law in the United States?

  • i dont get why do i get negative feedback. can you explain the comment. i thought this is question have a big relation with finance and money, since money and finance are also the type of properties usually get split in half in this case. Feb 5, 2019 at 0:24

4 Answers 4


Each state in the USA has its own divorce law.

What you are most likely thinking about is that several states, including California, are what are called community property states, where (with some exceptions) assets acquired during the marriage are split 50/50 in case of divorce, absent some pre-nuptial agreement.

The community property states are largely those which were colonized by Spain and used Spanish civil law at one time, which incorporates this rule.

  • so i guess this 50/50 are only being enforce on a country / state that have a been colonized by spain right? does that mean countries that have not been touch by spain colonization did not have this law? example vietnam, south korea, etc. Feb 5, 2019 at 0:21
  • I know pretty much nothing about divorce law outside the US/UK. But I should mention that at least one US state that was nowhere near Spanish-colonized land (Wisconsin) found the community property system better (it's certainly much simpler) that they adopted it fairly recently in preference to the system adopted from English law (which of course was what we had pre-Revolution), that was often rough for a non-working spouse. For those other countries, I guess Google might know. Feb 5, 2019 at 19:55

This isn't a law in the united states and is somewhat of an exaggeration. A divorce is a negotiated division of assets mediated by the court (or an arbitrator) and facilitated by lawyers. While it is definitely possible to split assets 50/50, you can protect assets going into the marriage with an agreement in advance.

As to assets gained during the marriage, a 50/50 split doesn't seem unreasonable as it is a partnership.

I think you are misinformed that a lot of people are avoiding marriage for this reason. The premise of the question seems invalid.

Here is an article with more specifics: Property Division by State

  • so for an illustrative example, if you don't have assets and get a 30 year mortgage, of which some portion of your life likely involves a marriage during that same 30 years, then yes all of your assets will be split. This is the reality for most people. So you can be exempt from this outcome entirely by being rich or privileged enough to own assets beforehand.
    – CQM
    Jan 27, 2019 at 23:51

It is a very jaded view that you bring to the institution of marriage. Your assumption is that people marry people that are useless. Perhaps some do, but psychologically we tend to seek mates that are different from us which is a good thing. The reality is that a spouse tends to make up for one's weak points making the whole much greater then twice its parts.

Even in a situation where one person works, and the other one is a stay-at-home parent (SAHP). That SAHP can contribute mightily to the net worth and well being of the family. There are the obvious things like saving on daycare expenses and saving on eating out by preparing nutritious meals at home. However, can that SAHP might also bootstrap a business that can be turned into a significant revenue stream when the children are a bit older? Can that SAHP invest the family's money wisely out performing that person's working peers?

You may want to give The Millionaire Next Door a read. Married couples tend to have a much higher net worth then their unmarried counterparts. True divorce destroy's wealth, but a good marriage can create so much more.

In my own case, my wife and I tend to defy traditional gender roles. While I make a nice salary, my wife is significantly younger and earns more than I do. The bottom line is that she is a much better business person that I am. Perhaps in your view, I would be labeled the useless one? Thankfully, my wife does not see it that way. We work together and compliment each other. Frankly, if I lost her, and kept all the family wealth, I would have lost everything. Money can always be earned, but finding an excellent spouse is a far greater treasure.

Before you decide to enter into a significant relationship you may want to do some soul searching on marriage. Why do you think that a significant other will be so meaningless to your health, well being, and earning potential?


Divorce laws are set by the states, so different states have different rules. But in general, the principle is that any assets acquired during a marriage are split 50/50 in a divorce. So for example, if you had $100,000 in a retirement fund when you got married, and during the marriage this grew to $150,000, then in a divorce you would keep the original $100,000 and half of the increase, and your spouse would get the other half of the increase. That is, you would get $125,000 and your spouse would get $25,000.

Of course I'm just using one asset here as an example. In real life you presumably have many assets and possibly many debts. This all has to be added up and treated as a whole. Courts are generally realistic about this and don't say that every asset must be divided in half. Like if during the marriage you acquired two cars each worth $20,000, the court would likely say that one of you gets one car and the other gets the other car, not that you have to cut both cars in half or sell both cars and split the money.

This rule is generally applied regardless of the relative income of the parties. In the common case where the husband has a job and the wife stays home to take care of the house and the children, she might contribute $0 of cash, but it is assumed that her efforts contribute half of the family's "well-being". As another poster on here said, by taking care of the children she is saving the family child-care expenses, by cooking meals at home she is saving the cost of eating out. She may be contributing in less tangible ways, like running errands to allow him to concentrate on work or providing moral support and encouragement. (Of course it's possible for it to be the other way around, for the wife to have a paying job and the husband to stay home, but in real life that's much less common.)

Of course it's difficult to compare the value of what one person contributes by having a job to what another contributes by taking care of the home. That's why the law generally calls for a simple 50/50 split. No doubt in some marriages one person contributes far more than the other. Maybe this is part of why they're getting divorced.

None of this is hard-and-fast rules. Couples can generally negotiate any division of property that they think is fair, and unless the court thinks that one of them has been tricked or brow-beaten into accepting an unfair settlement, the court will usually honor such an agreement. Or the court may say that the circumstances call for some other division of property. I was briefly married to a woman with a physical handicap who divorced me. My lawyer told me that if she wasn't handicapped, our marriage was so short -- less than a year -- that she would have gotten nothing, but even though she initiated the divorce, her handicap made her more sympathetic so that I ended up being stuck with a debt she had brought into the marriage as well as having to pay alimony.

I don't doubt that some number of people are cautious about getting married for fear of what the spouse would get in a divorce settlement, especially people who have a lot of money. I'm not aware of any surveys that would say how many, and even if you tried to take such a survey, it could be hard for a person to say just why they didn't marry in any particular case. I mean, if someone says "I will never marry because I don't want someone to get half my money in a divorce" and who sticks to that, okay, simple case. But in real life there are surely people who say, "I didn't marry Bob because I started to worry that he just wanted me for my money". Money there is part of the issue, but such a statement indicates she might have been willing to marry him, even with the risk of losing money in a divorce, if she had been convinced that he truly loved her. That is, money is just part of the issue, a symptom.

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