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Community property and property division: What should I know?

An Arizona couple that has decided to end a marriage and move forward with a divorce will have many issues to sort out. One that is often contentious is property division. This is true whether it is an affluent couple or one of more modest means. Having an understanding as to how state law views property and which party has a right to it is one of the key factors in a case.

In Arizona, there is a community property law when it comes to dividing marital property. This means that, in general, the spouses will share ownership of anything that they acquired, bought or paid for while they were married. This is independent of which party uses it, who paid for it at the time, or in whose name it is. Community property can be furniture, bank accounts, investment accounts, a vehicle, and certain retirement plans. Any property that the spouses acquire while they are married will likely be community property. However, there are exceptions.

Property that will not be considered community property is the following: something that was acquired as a gift, via descent or through a procedure; anything that was acquired after the petition to end the marriage - whether by dissolution or annulment - if the petition succeeds in ending the marriage. Filing for dissolution or annulment does not change preexisting status of community property; change the states of community property that had been used to get new property; or change the duties and rights the spouses have when managing community property.

With the end of a marriage, the litany of issues can be overwhelming. Given everything that is part of the process, certain rules such as how community property is defined can be confusing. Property that has value can be lost without understanding this essential aspect of the law. To avoid making mistakes, it is important to discuss a case with a legal professional who fully understands property division in a divorce.

Source: superiorcourt.maricopa.gov, "Is Arizona a Community property state?," accessed on July 31, 2017

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