Both marriage and divorce typically involve a great many details and decisions, but only one set of decisions are agreed upon during a period of jubilance and unity. The other decisions are usually made during times of anger and opposition. Having a knowledgeable and compassionate lawyer on your side when you go through divorce negotiations and/or litigation is absolutely essential. If you are in Arizona, consulting with Mitchell E. Cohen, the highly capable divorce attorney, will ensure that your rights are protected and your reason remains intact. Mitchell E. Cohen is the lead attorney of the well-known Cohen Family Law practice conveniently located in Phoenix.
Arizona Is a Community Property State
Arizona is one of the few community property states in the country. When a couple is divorcing, there are two types of property to be considered: marital (community) property and separate property. If the couple’s attorneys are not able to successfully negotiate the division of the couple’s community property, the necessary decisions will have to be made through courtroom litigation.
Marital Property in Division of Property Cases
Any property or assets acquired or earned during the marriage are considered community property and, as such, are legally owned equally by the two spouses. Although the court may not divide the property precisely into two halves, one half for each spouse, it will try hard to mete out equal portions of community assets to each party.
Included in the category of marital property are:
- Wages or income earned by either spouse during the course of the marriage
- Property or assets purchased or acquired during the marriage
- Debts incurred during the marriage
- Property that both parties have agreed in writing is community property
- Retirement accounts or pensions of either spouse
As a point of interest, in Arizona wedding rings are considered the personal property of the spouse receiving the ring.
Separate Property in Division of Property Cases
Property acquired before marriage by one partner is separate and generally belongs to the spouse who acquired it. Separate property also includes:
- Inheritance received by one spouse during the marriage
- Gifts received by one spouse during the marriage and intended only for that spouse
- Property exchanged by the spouse for the designated inheritance or gift
- Property that both parties have agreed in writing belongs to one spouse only
- Personal injury award to one spouse
- Gifts given by one spouse to the other before the marriage, such as an engagement ring
- Gifts given from one spouse to the other during the marriage
- Debt incurred before the marriage took place
It is important to be aware that, although the court considers any assets acquired before the marriage as separate property, such consideration may be overcome by one of the spouses giving or sharing such property. For example, if one spouse has a piece of land in his or her name only, but transfers its title to the other spouse, or if one spouse has a single bank account, but makes it a joint account to which both spouses have access, that property is no longer separate but is part of the couple’s community property.
Distribution of Marital Property
According to the community property system, each spouse’s separate property remains separate after the marriage takes place, throughout the course of the marriage, and during and after divorce proceedings are complete. By the same token, a couple’s community property, that is, all assets and debts acquired during the length of the marriage, are presumed to be equally owned by both spouses.
While the goal of dividing community property in Arizona is to split that property 50/50, this is not always possible. It is not, for instance, possible to saw a car or homestead in half. For this reason, the court assesses the couple’s community property as a whole and divides the net worth between the spouses. In so doing, each spouse should expect to come away from the marriage owning approximately half the communal assets and owing approximately half the couple’s accumulated debt.
Contact Our Phoenix Division of Property Attorney
If you turn to Mitchell E. Cohen at this turbulent time of your life, you will find that his more than 35 years of experience will stand you in good stead. Not only are his legal skills well-honed, but his empathic nature is well-developed. His strong negotiating and litigating skills, along with his sense of fairness, will bring you the outcome you deserve. Get in touch with his office by phone or by filling out a contact form on his website. You’ll be glad you did.