Community Property Laws
Since Arizona is a community property state, all assets, property or debts that you and your spouse acquire during your marriage are considered community property. Each spouse has a one-half interest in any assets or property acquired during the marriage. As family law attorneys and divorce lawyers, we are experts in division of assets during a divorce.
Assets can include but are not limited to an interest in any real property, personal property (home furnishings, art, tools, etc.), money, cars, investments, art, bank accounts, stock, retirement accounts, pensions, etc.
Likewise, each spouse has a one-half responsibility for any debt accumulated during the marriage. Generally, debts incurred during the marriage or for the benefit of a community asset are considered community debt and are considered the liability of both spouses. Debts incurred prior to marriage or after service of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has occurred are considered separate debt.
Sole and Separate Property, Gifts and Inheritance
Any property or cash that one spouse owned prior to the marriage or any property given as a gift or inherited by one spouse during the marriage. In these situations, the other spouse is not entitled to a one-half interest of that property. A party claiming that some specific property or income is his or her separate property must provide proof that the property was something he or she owned prior to the marriage, was acquired by gift or was the property that was received through inheritance.
When one spouse owns a business or has an interest in a business that was acquired or owned prior to the marriage, that is considered that spouse’s sole and separate property. However, under Arizona law, any effort made by one spouse during the marriage is presumed to be for the benefit of the marital community. Thus, your spouse may still have a legal interest in or lien against your business regardless of whether it is your sole and separate business if that business has increased in value.
This principle can also apply to any property owned before the marriage that has increased in value or received maintenance from the marriage community during the duration of the marriage.
This can be a fiercely debated point of contention during a divorce, so seek an experienced family law attorney who can assist you in getting what you deserve.
Retirement Accounts and QDRO’s
According to Arizona community property law, everything acquired during a marriage is considered community property and therefore must be divided equally, even retirement accounts. Retirement accounts are usually one of the largest assets couples own. There are some retirement plans that will not require a QDRO to make payments to the alternate payee, but most retirement plans do require a QDRO.
The QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) is a court order that is ordered against one spouse’s retirement account or pension plan to provide child support, spousal support or divide community property. The QDRO grants a spouse, former spouse or dependent child the opportunity to participate in the other spouse’s or parent’s retirement plan or pension. The QDRO assures that any payment awarded to the alternate payee is paid directly to them. The QDRO also assures that the tax liability from any awarded amount is shared equally between the two parties.
The legal team at Jensen Family Law understands the complex issues related to the division of property and debts at the time of divorce. Although it is always preferable for the parties to try to come to an agreement as to how their property and debts should be divided, sometimes it is necessary to litigate, especially when a party might be hiding assets or to determine whether the property should be considered community property or separate property. At The Law Offices of Kevin Jensen will protect your property division rights through passionate and compassionate legal service.