If an Arizona resident wants to understand the classification of property pursuant to a divorce, they must first be familiar with the legal concept of “community property.” Community property is a theory of property ownership between marital partners that is recognized in Arizona and a handful of other jurisdictions. At its core, the recognition of community property in Arizona means that property that individuals acquire during their marriages is owned “50-50” and will be divided as such when they divorce.
There are special circumstances that modify this general rule. For example, it only applies to property acquired during a marriage. If a person owned property before their marriage and maintained it as separate property throughout the relationship, then it may remain the separate property of the owner. Similarly, property that is received as a gift or inheritance and is maintained by the individual owner as such may remain separate property.
Community property contrasts with another form of property ownership between marital partners, which is equitable distribution. Under this theory, courts have the discretion to look at what is “fair” before they decide to give the parties certain parcels and items of shared property ownership.
No matter how many possessions a couple owns as community property and what the parties bring to the table as separate property, it is difficult to divide up the items and establish the ownership of contested personal, real and other property. Working through these complex matters can be challenging for a person who is also trying to settle the many other important issues that accompany the finalization of a divorce, but getting the right information about options can help.