Property Division in a Divorce: What's Fair and Equitable

Divorce is a challenging and emotional journey that necessitates making some critical decisions, one of the most daunting among these being the division of property. As a Tucson-based law firm with an extensive background in family law, we understand the complexities and legal intricacies surrounding this issue.

Demystifying the concept of 'fair and equitable' in the context of property division can be tough. However, through shedding light on Arizona's community property laws, this aspect of divorce can be less stressful and more understandable. This blog aims to provide helpful information to divorcing couples in Arizona so that they may more confidently navigate the property division process.

Understanding Arizona as a Community Property State

Arizona is classified as a community property state, significantly influencing how property is divided during a divorce. Essentially, all assets and debts accumulated during the marriage are considered "community property." That is to say, they are jointly owned by both spouses, irrespective of who earned or incurred them.

Thus, during a divorce, the law seeks to divide this community property equally (50/50) between the spouses. That said, it is uncommon for a property division settlement to be a true 50/50 split as a number of factors are considered during the process.

Here are some common examples of marital property that may be subject to division during a divorce:

  • The family home and other real estate properties
  • Vehicles purchased during the marriage
  • Joint bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts and pension plans
  • Stocks and other investments
  • Household items, such as furniture and appliances
  • Jointly owned businesses

Types of Property Typically Not Subject to Property Division

Remember, property acquired before the marriage, gifts, and inheritances are typically considered separate property and are not subject to division. However, there are exceptions, and the specifics of your situation might lead to different results. It's crucial to consult with a knowledgeable divorce attorney to understand your rights and options.

Common examples of separate property include:

  • Real estate properties purchased before the marriage
  • Personal belongings such as clothing, jewelry, or other items acquired before the marriage
  • Vehicles owned prior to the marriage
  • Bank accounts in one spouse's name, established before the marriage
  • Inheritances received by one spouse, even if received during the marriage
  • Gifts explicitly given to one spouse, regardless of when they were received
  • Personal injury awards received by one spouse, unless the award was for lost wages or medical expenses during the marriage
  • Businesses owned by one spouse before the marriage, unless the business increased in value during the marriage due to the other spouse's efforts.

Additionally, if a couple has outlined specific assets as separate property in a prenuptial or other marital agreement, those assets may not be subject to division either.

Negotiating an Equitable Property Division Settlement

Even though Arizona is a community property state, couples can negotiate and agree to their own property division settlement. The court generally respects these arrangements as long as they are fair, equitable, and mutually agreed upon.

For instance, one spouse might agree to take over the mortgage and keep the family home, while the other might retain retirement accounts of equivalent value. Similarly, one spouse may agree to take on more marital debt to retain a significant asset.

Remember, a negotiated settlement is not just about reaching a 50/50 split but rather achieving a division that feels fair to both parties. This can allow for greater flexibility and creativity in distributing assets and debts, fitting each spouse's unique needs and circumstances.

Don’t forget; this can be a complex process, and every couple's situation is different. Therefore, it's highly recommended to seek legal advice from a family law attorney, like ours at McNorton Fox, experienced in property division, to guide you through this process and help ensure an equitable outcome.

Send us a message online to schedule a consultation with us today.

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