Gilbert Arizona Community Property Laws

One of the three major issues couples in Gilbert Arizona have to deal with when they get divorced is how to divide the property and debts they have accumulated during the course of their marriage. In the case of long marriages, this can sometimes be very difficult. After all, the longer a couple is married the more they accumulate. Regardless of the duration of the marriage splitting property and debts can be very emotional and stressful. Some of the difficult issues can involve: who will get the furniture? How do we divide a pension or a 401(k)? Or, who will be responsible for paying the parties’ outstanding credit card debt?

Because of the complex nature of the division of property and debts at the time of divorce, it is very important to understand your rights and obligations under Arizona law regarding property and debts.

Arizona is a community property state. In its simplest terms; community property is defined as all the assets and debts accumulated by a married couple from the date of their marriage to the date that one of the parties is served with a Petition for Dissolution. Each spouse is entitled to a one-half interest in any community assets and is responsible for one-half of any community debts. Community property can include any real property, personal property items(such as home furnishings, tools, art collections, etc.), cash, retirement accounts, 401(k)s, bank accounts, stock, pensions, etc.

Not all property is considered community property. Some property may be considered the sole and separate property of an individual spouse. Property that is the sole and separate property of one spouse is not subject to Arizona’s community property laws. Sole and separate property can include property owned by a spouse prior to the marriage. It can also include property that is gifted to a spouse or inherited by spouse at any time, including during the marriage. A party claiming a specific piece of property as his\her sole and separate property has the burden of proving to the family law judge that it is his or her sole and separate property. This usually means that the spouse claiming some property item as his\her sole and separate property must provide specific evidence that the property was either obtained prior to the marriage or was a gift or was inherited. Failure to provide this type of evidence to a criminal defense attorney will usually result in the judge making the determination that the specific item of property is community property and dividing it according to Arizona’s community property laws. Many divorce cases involve complicated disputes over what is and what is not community property.

There are a number of additional complex issues that can arise when dividing the property during a divorce. Issues such as co-mingling separate property with community property (thus making it difficult to determine if it is a community asset or the sole and separate property of one spouse), in some instances spouses hiding assets, or even determining the value of an asset, such as a home. In any divorce case in Arizona, the judge is required to try to divide the property in such a way that each spouse receives an equitable distribution of the property.  This can be achieved in an endless number of ways.  If agreements regarding property and debts cannot be reached, or if the parties disagree on whether an asset or debt should be characterized as community property or sole and separate property, the family court judge may have to sift through complicated evidence related to the property and make a final determination regarding the property. Ultimately, it is the court’s goal to divide the property and/or debts as equitably as possible. This can sometimes result in one party not receiving exactly 50% of the property or the debts.

As divorce attorneys in Gilbert Arizona we have handled numerous cases involving complex property issues.  These have included the complexities of dividing retirement accounts and pensions, negotiating the equitable division of community debts, fighting for client’s sole and separate property to be excluded from the divorce and aggressively pursuing assets that are being hidden by one spouse. In many cases these issues can be resolved without court intervention.  Sometimes, especially when one spouse might be hiding assets, it may become necessary to litigate to protect your rights. Jensen Law will aggressively protect your property division rights through passionate and compassionate legal service.