A very long time ago, a wise person said, "All good things must come to an end." That's a bit of a sad thought, but surely the opposite is true as well, that all not-so-good things must also come to an end. Perhaps your marriage falls into the second category.
Even if you are looking forward to ending your marriage, the process may be less than pleasant. There are many details to take care of, and it's possible that you and your spouse will find yourselves in a high-conflict divorce. One of the most hotly contested aspects of a divorce may be the division of marital property. If you're not sure what to expect, here is an overview of property division in Arizona.
Welcome to the community
Arizona is one of just a handful of states that recognize the concept of community property. This means that everything you owned before you got married remained your separate property during your marriage, and will be yours to keep after the divorce. The same is true for your spouse's separate property. For example, if you owned a classic car before your marriage, you will still own that car following the divorce.
Everything you and your spouse accumulate during the marriage is marital, or community property. Examples of community property include:
- Income earned by either spouse, including wages and returns on investments
- All property and assets purchased with the above income during the marriage
- Anything both parties agree in writing is community property
Some assets acquired during the marriage may still count as separate property. It may be necessary to offer definitive proof for recognition as separate property, however. Assets that commonly fall into this category are:
- Inheritances bequeathed to a single party
- Gifts given to a single party
- Anything both parties agree in writing is separate property
Dividing community property
Now that you know what assets are up for distribution, it may be helpful to understand how the decisions are made as to who gets what. If you and your spouse can come to your own agreement on property division, it is likely the court will approve it.
In the event you cannot agree, a judge will make the decision for you. According to the principles of community property, the judge will most likely divide the marital assets (and debts) equally between you and your spouse.
Rather than literally divide assets or split the ownership of assets, the judge awards assets based on value. While one spouse may end up with a larger number of assets than the other, the value should work out to be the same.
Get what's coming to you in your Arizona divorce
Next to child custody, there are probably more arguments over property division than any other aspect of a divorce. This is entirely understandable: there may be a lot of emotion, time and money tied up in your community and separate property. No one wants to walk away with less than he or she feels is deserved.
As with all facets of a divorce, being prepared will make the process of property division easier, and make it more likely that you will achieve your goals. The support of a skilled Tempe lawyer can help ensure that you keep what is rightfully yours.