WE PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY INTERESTS
Unlike many issues in family court, property division usually cannot be modified at a later date. That means you need to get it right the first time and property division is an area of family law where inexperienced attorneys frequently make costly and sometimes irreversible mistakes.
FAST FACTS ABOUT
Arizona is a community property state. That means most property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is presumed to belong to both spouses. This includes intangible property like income earned by either spouse during the marriage, contributions to retirement or investment accounts, certain employment benefits, and even to businesses started or formed during the marriage. Gifts to one spouse or inheritance may be exceptions to the community property presumption. Community property is divided equitably, and usually equally, during divorce or legal separation.
Property acquired by one spouse prior to the marriage or during the marriage by gift or inheritance is the sole and separate property of that spouse. Generally, unless commingled with community property, sole and separate property will not be divided during divorce or legal separation.
A spouse may have a financial interest in separate property. A community lien is an equitable interest created when community funds are used to pay for or improve a spouse’s separate property. Community liens most commonly exist in the context of real estate when community funds are used to pay a mortgage payment or to make improvements to a home or property that enhance the property’s value. The community is entitled to reimbursement of a portion of the community funds expended and a portion of the appreciation proportional to the community’s investment.
The idea of community debt is similar. Generally, the marital community is liable for debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage. Like with property, it is possible to rebut the community presumption, but it requires nearly conclusive evidence that the debt incurred was not intended to benefit the community in any way.
A claim for community waste may exist when a spouse excessively or fraudulently “wastes” or spends community funds during a marriage. Usually, but not always, these claims involve an element of concealment because if a spouse knows the other spouse is wasting funds and takes no action for years, he or she may be barred from claiming community waste in an eventual divorce or legal separation. Although Arizona is a “no fault” divorce state, a spouse may have a claim for community waste if the other spouse used funds to advance of facilitate an extramarital affair.