Arizona is what’s called a “community property” state. Community property is a concept inextricably connected to marriage and divorce (dissolution of marriage). The idea behind community property is that when two people get married, they become a community; and, as such, the property that either spouse acquires or earns during the marriage should be split evenly between the two spouses — in other words, the property is owned as community property. See A.R.S. §§ 25-211 and 25-213.
But not all property in a marriage is community property. Property that a spouse acquired before the marriage is considered “separate property” of that spouse, and the other spouse, generally, does not have an interest in that property. Also, some property that is acquired by a spouse during marriage will nevertheless be considered separate property of that spouse and not owned by the community. For example, property that is received by one spouse during the marriage as a gift or inheritance will be considered separate property of that spouse. A.R.S. § 25-213.
However, in Arizona, there is a presumption that all property owned by either spouse is community property. Therefore, if a person claims that a certain piece of property is separate property, he or she will have the burden of proving that the property is indeed separate property.
In the event of a divorce, and if the parties have not reached a property settlement agreement, the court will need to determine which property is separate property and which property is community property. After making that determination, the court will generally divide the community property (and debts) consistent with an equitable distribution. Retirement accounts, for example, are one type of property that is often involved in a divorce and that must be divided by the court. Because retirement accounts are subject to community property principles, the court will divide the retirement accounts into separate and community property, and distribute the property accordingly.
Giordano Spanier & Heckele, PLLC, has experienced family law attorneys who can help you with your family law matter, including issues regarding separate and community property. CALL TODAY for a consultation: (520) 495-0869 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org