Most married couples are aware that marriage is more than an expression of love and commitment. Marriage is also a legal contract that can merge assets, combine debts and blur ownership rights for property that might otherwise be associated with just one of the two spouses. So, when a couple divorces, one or each spouse might have an uncomfortable feeling he or she may soon be only a partial owner of property they once may have had exclusive rights to.
Fortunately, Arizona law allows for both separate and community property within a marriage. This means that a divorcing spouse in our state may be able to retain most or all ownership of a specific property if the property is designated separate property (i.e. separate from the other spouse) because it was:
• Owned by him or her prior to the marriage or was acquired after separation;
• Inherited or received as a gift;
• Received in a lawsuit for compensation for pain and suffering; or
• Designated as separate property by a written marital agreement.
Protecting property rights during divorce via separate-property designation is especially important in Arizona because Arizona is one of just nine community property states as opposed to equitable distribution states. In equitable distribution states, even separate property may be divided unevenly (i.e. possibly to your advantage) based on various circumstances. In community property states like ours, though, all non-separate property is generally divided in half, even if one spouse has strong reason to believe it should not be.
If you are divorcing in Arizona and would like to retain as much property as possible following the completion of your divorce, contact a skilled divorce attorney at Nirenstein Garnice in Scottsdale for answers and qualified legal help. We can work to demonstrate that your house, land, investment fund, savings account, business or other property is designated as your separate property and that your full claim to property is not diluted due to issues such as property comingling. To contact us for a free consultation, call (480)351-4804.