How Is Property Divided?
As if divorce isn’t stressful enough, it also requires the division of property.
In Arizona, you’ll need to agree on how to split up your assets and debts. Failing to agree on property division will then put the decision with the Superior Court.
This means that the court will determine how the assets you own as a couple should be divided fairly. However, fairness doesn’t always amount to an equal 50/50 split when it comes to community property.
What Is Community Property?
All property that you have accumulated during your marriage is considered marital or community property. In other words, you and your spouse share these acquired assets. Under Arizona law, property that is purchased by either spouse during the time of marriage is acknowledged as marital property.
This covers homes, land, bank accounts, investments, stock options, vehicles, furniture, jewelry, the earnings of either spouse and pensions or retirement plans. Exempt items under the Arizona community property laws include any property or assets that were acquired before marriage as well as anything acquired by a will, gifts, or inheritance. Any assets that the couple agrees to keep separate property will also be exempt.
If you owned the property before marrying your spouse, this can also be exempted from the community property laws. However, you must be able to provide proof through financial records and other documents.
Dividing Assets in a Divorce
Regardless of who purchased the assets or whose name they are registered to, Arizona divides accumulated marital assets under its community property law. You will retain any assets you acquired before the marriage. Several key elements come into play during the process of dividing up property in a divorce.
Community Property or Separate Property
As the courts only have jurisdiction over community property, it must be shown which assets fall into community property. Each spouse will need to show proof through documents and financial records to be submitted as evidence to make separate property claims.
Sometimes, what was originally considered a separate property can be considered community property during the marriage. For example, a house that was owned by one spouse before the marriage may be deemed community property after marriage if both spouses are listed as owners on the deed.
Value Agreement for Marital Property
For both community or separate property items, all accrued assets as well as debts must be assigned a monetary value before the property is divided in a divorce. A common way to do this is through appraisals. With an appraisal, a dollar amount is assigned to homes, cars, works of art, and other assets. While each spouse can do this themselves, if there is a disagreement on the financial amount of the asset, the court can step in and value it.
Trouble tends to arise with retirement accounts as it may be difficult to assign a monetary value. Professional appraisers are generally called in to determine the value of this type of account as well as how much it has increased since the marriage began.
Dividing the Property Appropriately
There are different ways that the courts can divide up property during a divorce. If the property in question is not completely separate, the option may be given for one spouse to buy out the other spouse’s share. If you’re preparing to file for divorce, you may also be advised to sell your assets and then split the proceeds from those sales.
Exceptions are granted in certain cases as well. For example, if your spouse was irresponsible with money and frittered it away on gambling, the court may find you in favor. When huge debts are present, the court may go against the spouse who racked up the debts.
Divorce and the division of property can become very complex and intricate issues. In these cases, it is advised that you contact a divorce lawyer to help resolve matters involving property division. By doing so, you will have the help you need in putting the divorce behind you.