Community and Separate Property

Though February may be an “interesting” choice to post two articles concerning divorce, The New York Post reports that there is a 40 percent spike in divorce rates around this time of year. For this reason, we’ve opted to continue on with the topic of our last post and focus on an issue that is nearly universal to all divorces; community property.

Arizona is a community property state, which means the law presumes that all property acquired during the course of a marriage is community property. On the other hand, all property that is acquired before marriage, or after the divorce papers are served, is considered to be separate property.

If an item is classified as community property then both you and your spouse have an equal ownership in that item. This property includes most assets acquired during the marriage, as well as any income generated by either you or your spouse.

Separate property belongs solely to either yourself or your spouse. Typically, separate property is anything that you brought into the marriage, or acquired as a gift or through inheritance to you personally. These items will generally remain your separate property throughout the course of the marriage, as long as you keep them separate, but there are certain actions or events that may grant your spouse an interest in your separate property, or even change it to community property entirely (such as depositing money into a joint account used for the good of the community).

The presumption that everything acquired during marriage is community property is very broad, but there are ways to defeat it. Certain exceptions exist that allow some items or earnings can to be viewed by the courts as separate property, though the method of proving these exceptions is often complex, and usually necessitates the use of an attorney.

Along with child custody and spousal maintenance, concerns about the fate of assets gained both during and after the marriage lead to some of the most common questions asked in divorce proceedings. If you find that you and your spouse seem to be spiraling out of love rather than relishing the romance this Valentine’s Day, feel free to speak to any of our attorneys who will be happy to help answer all of your questions.


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