Phoenix Property Division Lawyer
How Can a Marital Property Division Lawyer in Phoenix Help?
Arizona is a community property state. Essentially, this means that assets and debts that the parties accumulate during the marriage belong equally to both spouses. However, Arizona law does not require the division of property in a divorce to be exactly equal. Instead, Arizona requires that property be equitably divided. The difference being that an equitable division of community property is substantially or approximately equal and fair.
Who Decides How Community Property is Divided
Sometimes it is possible for the couple to decide how their property will be divided. In most cases, a family law judge will accept and respect the parties’ wishes when it comes to community property. A Phoenix community property lawyer will usually tell you that it is best for everyone if the parties can agree on how community property should be divided. However, for that to happen, it requires both parties and their Phoenix community property lawyers to be reasonable and understand that no one in a community property division negotiation gets everything they want. The alternative, if the parties cannot agree, is that a family law judge will decide how their community property will be divided.
Community Property vs. Separate Property
In general, all property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be marital assets or community property. However, in Arizona, if you owned the property prior to marriage or if you acquired the property through an inheritance or by gift specifically to you, it would be your separate property. Of course, it is never that easy. You will probably want to take advantage of a free consultation with one of our Phoenix community property lawyers for a full explanation of how community and separate property works. You may need to prove that what you claim as your separate property is, in fact, your separate property. This means that you may have to show financial and other records to prove your case. You should also learn the term, “transmutation” which is a legal term referring to a change in the type of property from separate property to community property or vise versa.
Can My Separate Property Become Community Property?
Simply put, yes, but the opposite is also true. This commonly happens when the spouse who owns the separate property transfers all or part of the ownership to the other spouse. Sometimes a separate property will inadvertently become community property by commingling or combining with other community property. Here are a couple of common examples:
Example 1: Husband owns a house prior to marriage. After the parties marry, the husband refinances the house and adds his wife to the title. In most cases, this is enough to cause a transmutation from separate property to community property.
Example 2: The wife receives a $1 million inheritance during the marriage. The wife deposits the money into a joint checking account with her husband. This can cause a transmutation from separate property to community property.
Example 3: A couple purchases a house during the marriage. Years later they attempt to refinance but cannot because the husband has bad credit. Husband transfers and releases his title and interest in the house to the wife so that she can refinance it alone. The title was not subsequently transferred back to the husband and the parties divorced. A transmutation from community property to separate property may result in this situation but there are other considerations that should be discussed with our Phoenix community property lawyer.