Ashley Donovan Law, PLLC
Tempe Family Law Attorney
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Understanding community property in an Arizona divorce

One of the most pressing concerns for couples facing a divorce is often deciding how to divide your assets. If you have a prenuptial agreement or if you and your spouse can agree on terms for asset division, you already know what to expect. If you aren't able to agree about who should get what, however, the courts may need to step in and make certain decisions for you.

In general, Arizona looks to fairly divide all marital assets during a divorce. Regardless of income, both spouses will receive a portion of all accumulated assets, from retirement accounts to accrued equity in your home. Debts acquired during the marriage will also get divided between both spouses. In order to understand what assets you may receive, you need to understand what qualifies as community property in Arizona.

What is community property in a divorce?

Generally speaking, most assets that you acquire while married are community property. Even if one spouse worked and the other stayed home to care for the household or any minor children, the income and assets from the marriage should be fairly split between both. After all, the work and support from the stay-at-home spouse not only saved money for the household but also made it possible for the primary wage earner to focus more fully on his or her career.

Regardless of who made the deposits, retirement funds built during marriage are subject to division. The equity in your home, the furniture within it and even your collectibles purchased during the marriage could get divided up by the courts as part of the asset division process. Even if the assets themselves aren't split between spouses, their value will impact the division of other assets in your divorce.

What is separate property in a divorce?

Typically, possessions owned before the marriage remain the sole possession of the individual claiming ownership. The courts may also consider some assets acquired during marriage as separate property. Typically, if an item is given as a gift or as part of an estate or inheritance, that asset belongs solely to the person who received or inherited it.

The same is true of items purchased or acquired after filing for divorce. Once you have separated, any new property you acquire will be separate property. Any rents or payments resulting from assets owned separately will also remain the separate property during a divorce.

A thorough asset inventory is critical to fairness

In order to ensure that they divide assets properly and fairly, the courts need information about the marital property for your family. Creating a thorough and accurate inventory of all assets is the best way to ensure that the division process is fair.

There can be many complications, like pricing unusual assets or locating hidden assets secreted away by your spouse. Cutting corners, however, will end up costing you in the long run by limiting the pool of community property.

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