Equitable Distribution

Experienced Phoenix divorce lawyer explains the process of equitable distribution in Arizona. 

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Recently when talking with a client, she had just moved here from another state and in the process of going through a divorce.  She ran across this term “community property”, and she didn’t know whether we were talking about a community center or a community swimming pool or what we were talking about in the State of Arizona.  I had to spend some time with her, explaining to her what community property is and what community property is not.

When it comes down to divorce, Arizona is a community property state.  That virtually means that any property that is acquired during the course of the marriage becomes property to the community, or the two parties.  It belongs to the two parties; it becomes the community property.  That includes things like wages.  If you’re working a job, even though the paycheck comes in your name, your wages during the course of the marriage is considered community property.  If you bought a home, the marital residence or a subsequent property elsewhere, rental property, so as long as that property was purchased with funds that were from the marriage, from employment or some type of asset from the community, it becomes community property.

There’s an exception to that.  Say for instance, you owned a piece of property that’s sold as separate property prior to the marriage.  You sold the property and you intended that money to remain separate property, then there could be some division of property.  Broadly, anything that was acquired during the course of the marriage is going to be considered community property.  That’s income, properties, assets, boats, cars, jet skis, businesses, all of that stuff’s going to be considered community property.

This is important because the other party has an interest in community property, whether the other party is a stay-at-home parent, whether it was income that they earned, so it could be a retirement account. That is community property.  It’s a part of the assets of the community and the other party to the divorce has an interest in that, so you would want to keep track of all of those things.

Gifts don’t count, and there are certain other things like inheritances from family members, things like that can be excluded and considered personal property.  Or property and assets that were acquired before the marriage remain personal and sole property, unless they are converted into community property.

You should sit with a lawyer so they can delineate what’s community property, as it relates to your marital situation versus what’s personal property because this will all matter down the line, once property is divided after the marriage is dissolved.

Are you considering divorce but have questions about equitable distribution in Arizona? Contact our experienced Phoenix divorce lawyers to arrange a free confidential consultation.