When a Phoenix resident buys something he may simply believe that the acquired asset is his and his alone. However, if that individual is married, his spouse is likely also an owner of the item he purchased. This is because Arizona is a community property state. Though there are exceptions to the laws that will be discussed in this post, generally any property that a married person acquires during the course of his marriage will be considered the property of both he and his spouse.
The state's community property laws are codified in Title 25, Article 2 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. Particularly, community property is defined in section 25-211 of Article 2. What makes this section of the law helpful to read is its inclusion of instances when acquired property is not considered that of both spouses.
For example, consider the ways that a married couple could acquire a piece of artwork. They could buy it together and since the property was obtained during the marriage it would probably be considered community property. However, if only one of the parties to the marriage was given the art as a gift, then the piece of art may be considered the separate property of the recipient. Assets acquired during marriage but through inheritance are also often considered the separate property of the receiving individuals.
During a marriage it might not matter much whether an asset is considered community property or separate property, but the distinction can make a big difference if a couple decides to end its marriage in divorce. Property divisions undertaken in Arizona are based on community property laws and how property is classified can impact how it is distributed to divorcing individuals. Readers of this blog are encouraged to speak with private family law attorneys to better understand how their property divisions may be impacted by the state's community property laws.