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Property division in Arizona divorces: deciding who gets what

"Do I get to keep that?" This and variations of this question are some of the most asked questions in divorces. Who gets the house, the bank account, the furniture and other property? The answer depends on the state where the divorce is proceeding. In most states, the judge decides who gets what on an equitable basis, meaning the judge determines what's fair to each party. A smaller number of states follow community property rules, meaning all property is broadly characterized as either separate or community. Arizona is a community property state.

Generally speaking, everything considered separate property is kept by the spouse it belongs to and everything defined as community property could go to either spouse. Separate property includes anything received prior to the marriage and after the date of separation. It could also include a bank account held by one person, in that person's name only and used exclusively by that person. An inheritance given to one person, even while married, is usually also considered separate property.

Community property is considered property belonging to the marriage, called the community. So when the marriage dissolves, the parties usually try to decide which spouse will receive which items. If the spouses cannot agree, a judge will decide. Examples of common community property items include any property obtained during the marriage and the debts incurred while married. Who gets the house might require a bit more consideration. Courts often, but not always, like to see the spouse who will be with the children most often remain in the home, so as to maintain a sense of security for the children.

Sometimes it isn't easy to determine what property is separate and what belongs to the community. A business started by one spouse before the marriage but maintained with the help of the other spouse during the marriage might be considered comingled or quasi-community property. In such cases, one spouse might receive money as a means of recognizing his or her contribution to the other spouse's business. The exact character of the property depends on many factors.

Source: FindLaw, "Divorce Property Division FAQ," Accessed Aug. 18, 2014

Source: FindLaw, "Divorce Property Division FAQ," Accessed Aug. 18, 2014

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