Arizona is a community property state, and it’s one of the few that use this method of distribution during a divorce. Most of the other states use equitable distribution. What does this mean for you when you are going through a divorce? Here are some facts about property division in Arizona to help make things easier.
It means that all property acquired during the marriage should be equally split. This is known as community property. Property that belonged to each spouse before the marriage, or that was not bought with community funds, would be considered separate property.
An example of community property would be the house that the couple bought and paid for with community funds during the marriage. Separate property might be something such as a collection of comic books that one spouse owned before marriage. However, if the collector were to later buy comics with community funds, those particular comics would be considered community property.
What Happens with the Property?
When you are going through a divorce and it goes to litigation, a judge will be the one who decides how to divide the debts and assets the couple holds as community property. However, if the couple is capable of reaching a settlement agreement, where they divide the assets and debts themselves, they can use that option instead.
Remember, under the laws in Arizona, all of the assets and debts that were acquired during the marriage are considered to belong to both of the spouses equally. Property division in Arizona doesn’t require that the property be divided equally, which is unlike some other community property states. The division is required to be fair, and most of the time, it will be about equal.
How Is Property Value Determined?
Typically, the spouses can assign value to the assets and debts. If they can’t agree on the value of items, it will be up to the court to decide. Ideally, the couple will want to find ways to agree on the values since it’s better than leaving it up to a judge.
By providing at least approximate values, it will help the judge to make a fair property award during the divorce. Of course, if you and your spouse can reach a settlement agreement, you can divide the property on your own.
Keep in mind that it’s more difficult to determine the value of certain types of assets, such as retirement accounts, and even collectibles that can change in value. For retirement accounts, it might be a good idea to work with a financial professional to get the value. You could also work with experts in certain collectibles to get the value of those types of items. Appraisals can be a great idea in many cases.
After all, sometimes, the other spouse might not know the true value of a certain type of collection. Having a professional check out the items and value them helps to ensure that one spouse isn’t trying to pull the wool over the other’s eyes.
Selling Marital Property
Can you sell marital property when you are going through a divorce? The judge will typically put a freeze on the sale of the property. This means that neither spouse can sell or give away marital assets. The only time that one spouse could sell property would be if they have permission from the court to do so.
In some cases, the judge might order that the house be sold even when the divorce is still pending. The money gained from the sale of the home would then be split between the divorcing spouses.
Things can get tricky here. If someone had a home of their own before entering into a marriage, it would be considered separate property unless they then used community funds while they were married to pay the mortgage or other expenses on the home. If this happens, the other spouse will have the right to some of the money from the sale of the home, but likely not an even split.
Because things can be confusing, it’s often best to work with attorneys that can let you know what you can expect in these types of cases.
After the divorce is finalized, the spouses can sell any property that was awarded to them during the divorce. Keep in mind that couples that can settle their divorce without needing to go through trial will generally have more flexibility in determining what happens with the marital items.
Why Settlement Agreements Are the Best Choice in Most Cases
Do you want the judge to be the final arbiter of what happens with all of your assets? Do you want the judge to be the one who makes all of the other determinations about your divorce? Likely, you and your spouse will want to have more control over what happens.
Reaching settlement agreements through negotiation and mediation can be one of the best things you do when you’re getting a divorce. It could help to make the divorce process easier and feel fair to both you and your ex.
It’s even possible to continue to own property together after the divorce. While this isn’t something that most divorcing couples would want to do because it prolongs the relationship despite the divorce, it may be a good option for some. For example, some might want to keep a family home until the kids finish school. You might want to hold onto an investment property until it goes up in value. This could benefit both of the spouses when it’s eventually sold and split because they could both earn more money.
Get Some Help from an Attorney
Although it’s possible to handle your divorce on your own, it’s important to know when to get some legal help. If you have a simple divorce and there’s not a lot of property to split and you don’t have children, a DIY divorce could be perfect. However, if you have been married for more than a few years and need a lot of property division in Arizona, getting some legal advice and working with an attorney could be a better fit.