Arizona divorce: Understanding community property law

When two people decide to file for divorce in Maricopa County, part of the decision-making process is coming to terms over which spouse will receive which property and assets. In Arizona, property is divided under the terms of community property which means that the debts and assets are divided equally between the spouses, regardless of which spouse incurred or acquired them.

Therefore, it is important for a spouse to understand what their rights are when it comes to making a claim on property, how to ensure that property is correctly valuated, and how to protect their financial future.

Making a claim

Most people understand that marital property is any property, assets or debt that was acquired during the course of the marriage. However, there are exceptions to this rule according to Forbes. One example is if a spouse inherits a large sum of money and adds that money to a bank account with the other spouse's name on it. Another may be the addition of a spouse's name to a property that was purchased prior to the marriage. In such cases, the property may be considered community property.

Another thing that a spouse should keep in mind is that there are many types of marital property. Such property includes:

  • Professional licenses
  • Stock options
  • Retirement plans
  • Deferred compensation
  • Country club memberships
  • Life insurance

It is also a good idea to keep in mind that a court can impress a lien on non-marital property in order to make sure a spouse makes the payments they are responsible for, according to Arizona statute 25-318.

Valuation of property

Before property can be divided, it needs to be assigned a monetary value. This means that a valuation date must be determined. For most couples this is the date of their official separation but a couple may be able to choose a different date such as the date that the divorce papers were filed.

The valuation date is used as a source of all asset valuation and once it is set, a spouse generally cannot make a claim on property value increases after that date. Valuating property can be complicated and a spouse should use a professional to figure out the market value. Once the market value is determined for all debts, properties, and assets, then the division of property process can begin.

Protecting financial future

People are encouraged to have life insurance policies, retirement plans and even long-term disability insurance which can provide financial support in the event that the person is no longer able to work and make a living. When it comes to divorce, a dependent spouse may want to request that these policies be part of the divorce settlement according to Fox Business.

For example, if a spouse is receiving spousal or child support, having control of a life insurance policy on the ex-spouse or a long-term care or disability insurance can mean that the spouse will continue to be provided for in the event that the ex-spouse is seriously injured in a car accident or is diagnosed with a terminal illness. While such topics can be sensitive to discuss, an attorney that is experienced in property division can help that spouse negotiate for a settlement that will not only provide for them in the present but also in the distant future.