Arizona Marital Property Laws
Although the issue rarely arises in everyday life, the concept of marital property becomes important when entering into a marriage -- and because Arizona is a community property state, it becomes even more important at a marriage’s end.
Marital (Community Property) vs. Separate Property
In Arizona, if a divorcing couple is not able to come up with their own agreement on how their assets should be split, the court will divide their property for them according to community property principles. In the community property system, there are generally two types of property: 1) marital (community) property; and 2) separate property.
The term "marital property" refers to all possessions and interests acquired by a couple during the period of their marriage. Examples of assets that may be considered marital property include:
- Wages or income earned by either spouse during the course of the marriage;
- Property or assets acquired during the marriage using this income; and
- Property that both parties agree in writing is community property.
Except under specific circumstances, “separate property” encompasses assets that do not fall under the category of community property. More specifically, the most common examples of separate property include:
- Property a spouse owned prior to marriage;
- Inheritance received by one spouse during the marriage;
- Gifts received by one spouse (and intended only for that spouse) during the marriage; and
- Property that both parties agree in writing is one spouse’s separate property.
Distributing Marital Property
Under the community property system, each spouse’s separate property remains separate after getting married -- and remain separate after divorce. However, a couple’s community property, the assets and debts acquired during the length of the marriage, are generally presumed to be owned equally by both spouses.
When it comes time to dividing up marital property upon divorce, community property principles generally instruct the court to divide a couple’s assets equally (50/50). Keep in mind that unless it is feasible to do so, the judge usually does not require an asset to be physically split between the two spouses. Instead, he or she looks to the net value of the couple’s community property, and distributes individual marital property assets between spouses. In this way, each spouse walks away with approximately the same amount of overall assets or debts.
To learn more about property division and the community property system, in general, feel free to browse through FindLaw’s section on Divorce and Property. General information relating to state divorce laws, spousal support, and divorce forms can be found under the general topic of Divorce. Finally, if you find you need individualized legal help or assistance, consider hiring an experienced divorce attorney.