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Deciding who gets what when dividing marital property

Disputes often come up at various points in the divorce process. From the very beginning at the decision to file for dissolution to the very end right before a divorce decree is signed, serious and lengthy disputes may occur throughout the divorce. One very contentious issue many divorcing Arizona spouses face is property division. In most cases, these disputes revolve around who gets what when it comes time to divide marital property.

How marital property is divided is dependent on the state the divorce occurs in. In the state of Arizona, which is a community property state, all assets acquired during the marriage are considered to be community property. In other words, community property is deemed marital property and both spouses own it equally.

Marital property in a community property state includes earnings, all property bought during the union with any earnings and all debts accrued during marriage. The categorization of community property begins when the marriage states and ends when the couple physically separates with the intention to end the union. Therefore, any earnings, property acquired and debts accrued after the time of separation is considered to be separate property.

Additionally, any assets acquired before the start of the marriage are considered to be separate property as well. That spouse will continue to own it as his or her own unless he or she transfers the title to his or her spouse. If this occurs, the property will then become marital property.

In a community property state, like Arizona, all marital property is divided evenly. However, such a split can look very different from couple to couple. Economic circumstances, future needs and the importance of a specific asset to one spouse over another can come into play during property distribution. For example, only one spouse could keep the house unless it is sold and the proceeds and split. Thus, because it is not always feasible to split assets in half, the amount of assets received is not always equal even though the value is.

Property division could cause fights about what each spouses is entitled to and who needs what. This could spark many questions. Therefore, divorcing spouses may want to seek the advice of an attorney. An attorney can help his or her clients explore ways to resolve these matters and can protect their client's interests along the way.

Source: FindLaw, "Who Owns What in Marital Property?" accessed May 21, 2017

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