Why do I need a Marital Property Attorney in Phoenix, AZ?
A lot is on the line when divorce is a possibility. The emotional anguish and upheaval in your family’s life are compounded by the fact that you must also address matters that may have long-term ramifications for your financial stability. The experienced Arizona divorce and family law attorneys at Dodds Law Firm will evaluate your financial situation carefully and defend your rights in all matters on the division of property.
The division is not always a simple computation. Assets gained during a marriage in Arizona are considered marital property. However, property acquired before marriage or received as a gift or inheritance from a third party is not. During a divorce, the family court must divide this marital property fairly and equitably.
However, perspectives on what is fair and equitable and what is marital versus separate property may differ greatly. The equitable distribution also does not always indicate that marital property will be distributed equally between the parties.
Property division is determined by several factors, including each spouse’s financial situation. Occasionally, the disadvantaged spouse obtains a larger share of the property.
In general, marital property encompasses holdings and finances gained during the marriage, such as:
- Personal property (such as vehicles, jewelry, and furniture)
- Bank accounts
- Pensions and retirement savings plans
- Real estate investments
- Stock options
Debts incurred during the marriage, such as mortgages and taxes, must also be shared. After years of accumulating wealth together, splitting your assets may be one of the most demanding and contentious elements of your divorce. Our experienced divorce and family lawyers in Phoenix, Arizona, are well-known for getting positive results in complicated property partition cases. You can count on our uncompromising advocacy to safeguard what is rightfully yours.
At The Dodds Law Firm, we helped hundreds of clients with property division. We can help you with a simple division of communal property or the valuation and separation of complex financial assets. Contact us right away to set up a consultation.
Arizona Community Property Law
Your marriage is subject to “community property law” in Arizona. This means that any property gained during the marriage is considered a community or jointly owned property. This implies any property you or your ex-spouse acquire throughout your marriage is legally owned equally by both parties.
The foundations of community property law are designed to achieve fair and equitable property division outcomes after divorce. Most people grasp the notion of marriage as a 50/50 financial partnership, even if they disagree with it philosophically or ethically. At the very least, it must be recognized that an equal distribution is one of the simplest and most expedient ways of property division. One issue with community property law is that it allows little opportunity for nuance or subjectivity. Community property legislation might also seem impractical at times.
While it may be simple mathematics on paper, a 50/50 split in the courtroom can quickly change into an abstract concept. It’s not like a court can award each ex-spouse half of the same property or automobile. Analyzing every asset owned by a divorcing couple can be time-consuming and stressful, yet the property must be divided following Arizona law.
In the state of Arizona, property split after divorce follows the following basic timeline:
- The court will decide which assets (as well as debts) are communal marital property and which are the separate property of one spouse. You may be required to present documentation.
- The total worth of all assets considered to be jointly held marital property will be determined by the court.
- The court will split and distribute these assets to each party fairly.
You will undoubtedly have many specific questions regarding what will happen to your personal property and assets while you go through the divorce process. A knowledgeable divorce attorney at The Dodds Law Firm will give you answers and be a crucial resource. Call us now to set up an appointment!
What is Separate Property?
Separate property consists of:
- any property owned only by one spouse before the marriage
- property acquired by either spouse as a gift or inheritance before, during, or after the marriage
- any property or asset protected by a legitimate prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
When a spouse combines (or “commingles”) separate property with communal property, the individual property normally loses its distinct identity. For instance, if a spouse who solely owned the family home before the marriage converts the property title to community property or spends marital money to pay the mortgage, the court would recognize this proof that the owner meant to “gift” the house to the marital community.
Many assets can be both partially communal and separate, such as retirement accounts that one spouse contributed to both before and after the marriage and a business that one spouse launched before marrying and continued to operate after marriage. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-203 (2020).
How to Determine Property Value
Each asset or debt is assigned a monetary value by the spouses or the family court if the couple cannot agree. An estimated value for each property will help a judge in determining a fair property settlement. Appraisals can benefit a couple or a court in determining the value of the real property, artwork, or antiques. Retirement assets may be complicated to assess and may need the services of an actuary, CPA, or other financial specialists.
Selling Marital Property
When filing for divorce, a court will typically issue a freeze order, which restricts both spouses from selling or transferring marital assets. This implies that none of them can sell the marital property during the divorce unless the court grants permission. Most divorcing couples like to know who gets the marital residence in the event of a divorce.
Supposing the couple cannot afford the family home any longer, a court may order their home to be sold even while the divorce is proceeding. All proceeds from the home sale would be divided equally between the couple according to Arizona community property laws.
Spouses are allowed to sell any property given to them under the divorce decree after the divorce is finalized. Couples who can settle their divorces without going to court usually have greater freedom in deciding which marital assets they should sell or keep.
The community property laws for divorce in Arizona also apply to a couple’s outstanding debts on top of their assets. Under community property law, debts incurred during the marriage, such as a mortgage on a shared home and credit card debts, are to be divided evenly.
Accounts having outstanding obligations, including assets and bank accounts, may be divided and reassigned to each party, or they can be retained whole and utilized to balance the total distribution of property. The ultimate debt division is determined by the kind of assets and debts held by a married couple and the complexity of those holdings.
Understanding Legal Presumption
We mean exactly what you’d assume when we state that Arizona’s community property statute establishes a “legal presumption” that all assets and debts are held jointly and equally. The court’s presumption of 50/50 ownership of all assets is only a guideline or a starting point rather than a binding decision. These presumptions can sometimes be refuted and overcome by taking the appropriate legal action in specific cases.
While Arizona’s community property law gives a simple framework for each spouse to walk away with an equal share, there is another principle at work called “sole and separate property.” Arizona law permits a divorce plaintiff or defendant to establish that a specific asset, whether a bank account, automobile, or valued object, is not jointly owned but the sole and separate property of one spouse alone.
It is an uphill battle to prove that a property is your sole and separate property and hence should not be subjected to the community property laws. Because the court will “presume” that any property gained during marriage is jointly owned, it will be completely up to you and your legal counsel to establish that a specific property is entirely yours.
If you cannot substantiate your claim of sole and separate property, the asset will be divided evenly between you and your ex. Any financial document, personal testimony, or other legally actionable proof that the property in dispute is not jointly owned can be used to prove sole and separate property.
If you believe that a 50/50 division of your marital assets is inappropriate or unfair, you can take legal action to stop it. The Dodds Law Firm can help you understand all of your options.
Speak with an Attorney to Better Understand Arizona Marital Property Laws Now!
We represent people with family law issues here at The Dodds Law Firm. No matter what kind of family law issue you’re facing, child custody, or something else entirely—we can help you solve it. We will carefully listen to your concerns and ensure that you fully grasp the full extent of your legal alternatives. Contact us immediately to schedule an appointment with our marital property attorney!