Property in Arizona Divorce: Who Gets What?
Arizona is a community property state. This means that spouses generally share equal ownership of anything earned, purchased, acquired, or paid for during the marriage. It does not matter if only one spouse uses the property, or which spouse paid for the property, or whose name a title is under — if it was earned or acquired during the marriage, it probably belongs to both spouses equally. Only certain belongings are considered the separate property of one spouse.
In a divorce, community property is generally divided equitably — roughly, though not necessarily exactly, equally — between the spouses, while each spouse keeps his or her separate property.
AZ Statewide Paralegal has decades of experience preparing documents for divorces in Arizona. We can ensure that your documentation is prepared and filed correctly through our offices in Pima County and Maricopa County. We know what to ask and provide this service to hundreds of clients each year. Contact us today for help with your Arizona divorce process and paperwork.
What Counts as Community Property and What Counts as Separate Property?
In general, everything earned by either spouse during the marriage and everything purchased with those earnings is considered community property. Similarly, debts incurred during the marriage are generally considered community property debts.
Examples of community property in Arizona could include the following, though it may depend on how and when they were acquired:
- Bank accounts, whether held jointly or in each party’s separate names
- Personal property including furniture, pets, and household appliances
- Motor vehicles including cars, boats, motorcycles, mobile homes, and trailers
- Real estate
- Life insurance policies
- Business interests
- Credit card debts
- Student loans
- Auto loans
- Home mortgages
A spouse’s separate property includes any gifts or inheritances given to that spouse alone, any personal injury awards received by that spouse, and the proceeds of a pension that was vested prior to the marriage. Also, anything purchased using a spouse’s separate funds is that spouse’s separate property. Generally, items acquired after the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is served on the Respondent are also separate property.
If one spouse owns a business prior to the marriage, it will remain his or her separate property. However, if the business increases in value during the marriage or if both spouses work at the business, a portion of the business may be considered community property.
Items owned by one spouse prior to the marriage are generally considered separate property. However, if separate property is commingled (combined or mixed together) with community property during the marriage, it may become community property — entirely or in part — depending on the circumstances. Also, any property purchased with a combination of separate and community funds is considered partly community and partly separate property.
The Petitioner and Respondent Request a Division of Property and Debt
In the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the Petitioner requests that the court order a division of property and debt consistent with the Petitioner’s statements in the pleading. The Petitioner’s statements include whether or not any community property was acquired during the marriage, whether either spouse has property acquired prior to the marriage or other types of separate property, whether any debts were incurred during the marriage, and whether either spouse has any separate debts.
If you and your spouse have already separated and divided your property, some counties’ Petition for Dissolution of Marriage forms allow the Petitioner to request that community property be divided based on the property in each party’s possession at the time the petition is served.
Otherwise, if there is community property, the Petitioner lists all property including its value and which spouse the Petitioner is requesting that it be awarded to. Similarly, if there is separate property, the Petitioner lists it and indicates which spouse should be considered its owner. For community and separate debts, the Petitioner provides a description and amount and indicates which spouse should be responsible for each. If the spouses have been separated, the Petitioner may also ask that each spouse be responsible for debts incurred since the separation.
In the Response to the divorce petition, the Respondent will either agree to the Petitioner’s proposed division of property or ask the court to order a different division based on the Respondent’s statements. The Respondent has the opportunity to list all community and separate property and debts and request how each should be allocated. The Respondent also provides a summary of what he or she is asking for on property and debts that is different from what the Petitioner asked for.
Can One Spouse Hide or Dispose of Community Property During the Divorce Process?
Per Arizona Law, ARS 25-315, “In all actions for dissolution of marriage, for legal separation or for annulment, the clerk of the court shall pursuant to order of the superior court issue a preliminary injunction.” This preliminary injunction constrains both parties to the action in various ways, including: “both parties are enjoined from transferring, encumbering, concealing, selling or otherwise disposing of any of the joint, common or community property of the parties except if related to the usual course of business, the necessities of life or court fees and reasonable attorney fees associated with an action filed under this article, without the written consent of the parties or the permission of the court.”
This means that neither spouse can hide, sell, or otherwise dispose of community property once the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been served on the Respondent without the written consent of the other spouse or the permission of the court. The only exceptions to this is “the usual course of business, the necessities of life or court fees and reasonable attorney fees” associated with the divorce process.
Determination of Property Division by the Court
If you and your spouse agree on the division of property, the court will ordinarily approve the division. If you and your spouse are not able to agree on the division of property, or any other terms of the divorce, your case will need to go to trial. At the trial, the judge will hear from both sides and then make a decision about an equitable division of property. The court may order that particular items be awarded to one spouse or the other, and the court may also order that contested property be sold and the proceeds divided between you and your spouse.
Prior to a trial, you will need to prepare paperwork listing, among other details, uncontested details of fact —such as items that you both agree are the separate property of one spouse or the other — as well as a detailed inventory of property and debts and a proposal for their distribution.
AZ Statewide Paralegal offers professional legal document preparation services. We have decades of experience preparing documents for divorces in Arizona. By using our service you can avoid the expense of a high priced attorney so that you can focus your resources on helping your family make necessary transitions after your divorce. There is no need to worry about deadlines and properly completing the forms. We know what to ask and provide this service to hundreds of clients each year. Contact our office in Tucson, Phoenix, or Mesa today so that we can walk you through the divorce legal document preparation services we offer.