Property Division in an Arizona Divorce

Property Division in an Arizona Divorce

A.R.S. 25-318 Defines the disposition of property in a divorce:

A. In a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage, or for legal separation, or in a proceeding for disposition of property following dissolution of the marriage by a court which previously lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse or previously lacked jurisdiction to dispose of the property, the court shall assign each spouse’s sole and separate property to such spouse.

What’s this mean, “sole and separate property?”

Arizona is a community property state, community property means that all property that’s been acquired during the marriage belongs to the “community.” This means that if the marriage breaks up, that property will be divided up between spouses.

“Sole and separate property” is NOT subject to division if the marriage breaks up. Property that was owned before the marriage, or a gift, or inherited property usually falls under this asset class.

Obviously, this starts to get a little complicated when you talk about assets that are acquired both before and during the marriage, like a military pension where you joined the military before you were married, and then were married for a period of time while you were in earning that pension. In this case the federal government has hard and fast rules about how long you need to be both married and in an active duty status before your spouse qualifies to take part of your retirement.

Things get more complicated when you start commingling funds, this is something you should avoid during marriage. Commingling is when you take items that are considered your sole and separate property, and start muddying the waters by mixing them with community property or debt obligations. An example of this is to take funds you earned before the marriage and use them to pay off a community property debt, like a home mortgage. Once you do that, getting those funds back might be impossible. One of the best things to do to clarify things is get a prenuptial agreement before you get married.

Property Division Basics:

  • Try to keep track of the assets you had before you got married and keep them sole and separate
  • Try NOT to use funds you had before the marriage to open joint accounts
  • Remember that if you do own property, and your spouse contributed to payments on the mortgage, or did some work on it to increase its value, your spouse may qualify for a part of it
  • If you owned a business before the marriage, and your spouse contributed by working on it, or contributing financially, then your spouse may qualify for a part of it

If you have concerns about property division, and feel you need a lawyer to handle your case, call the experienced property division attorneys at Enholm Law: (602) 889-6273