Community Property Laws in Phoenix, Arizona

Cohen Family Law regularly advises clients on how community property laws in Arizona will impact their divorce. We are well-aware that dividing the marital assets and debts a couple has accumulated is one of the most contentious issues in divorce. Although we prefer to reach negotiated solutions to disputes over the division of property, we have a proven ability to litigate divorce cases.

When you become our client, we will explain all your rights and help you understand the community property laws in Arizona. Our family law attorneys are highly regarded,  compassionate advocates who provide our clients with first-class representation when they need it most. From our offices in Phoenix, we serve families throughout all regions of Arizona, including: 

Although divorce can bring emotional and financial burdens, we can help to lift those burdens by offering you trustworthy advice and dependable service. We offer free consultations and a comfortable environment in which you can make informed decisions about your future. If you have questions about your rights under the community property laws in Arizona, please reach out to our office today.

What is Community Property?

Under Arizona law, property acquired by a couple during a marriage is considered to be the community property of both spouses, regardless of how the property is titled. In other words, if one party purchased the asset during the marriage, then it is considered community property.

In a divorce, community property that is divided equitably between the spouses includes:

  • Cars
  • Boats
  • Real estate
  • Income, wages, and earnings
  • Savings
  • Personal property
  • Businesses
  • Retirement accounts
  • Art, collectibles

Unless a spouse can prove that an asset or debt is separate property, it will be subject to division in an Arizona divorce case. While community property is intended to be divided evenly (50/50 split), this is often impractical. For example, it is not possible to split a homestead in half. As such, Arizona courts determine the value of the community property as a whole and divide the net worth so that each party retains ownership of 50 percent of the communal assets. 

How Does Separate Property Differ From Community Property in Arizona?

Generally, property that is purchased by either spouse before the marriage is considered his or her separate property and not subject to division in a divorce. It is important to note, however, that such property may no longer be considered separate property if it is commingled with the marital estate or shared with the other spouse. 

As an example, if a spouse had a separate bank account before the marriage but has transferred it to a joint account to which both spouses have access, the property (e.g. the account proceeds plus interest) is no longer separate but is part of the couple’s community property.

What are Community and Separate Debts?

Community debts, those which either spouse accumulated during the marriage, are also subject to property division in Arizona. In short, both parties share the responsibility for community debts, regardless of whose name the debts are in. By contrast, debts brought into the marriage by either spouse are considered separate debts and will not be divided (e.g. student loans). Our highly skilled Arizona community property lawyers often recommend that clients pay off as much joint debt as possible before the divorce to protect their financial interests. 

How are Retirement Benefits Divided in Arizona?

Retirement benefits either spouse earned during the marriage are community property and must be divided through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). This is a court order approving a property settlement between the spouses involving private retirement plans 401(k)and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). Retirement plans for municipal, state and federal employees require different types of orders. At Cohen Family Law, we will leverage our knowledge of the community property laws in Arizona to protect your retirement income.

How are Business Assets Divided?

Businesses launched after marriages are also considered community property that are subject to division in divorce cases. Given that a business may not survive a property division, the other spouse may agree to take other assets, such as a greater share of the family home or cash payout.  

Generally, businesses started before the marriage are considered separate property. If the other spouse made significant contributions to increase the value of the business, however, he or she may be entitled to a percentage of that value.

Our experienced family law attorneys regularly work with a respected network of financial professionals to perform business valuations to arrive at a fair value of the marital estate. We are committed to helping you protect the business you have worked so hard to create. 

Contact Our Experienced Arizona Community Property Lawyers

At Cohen Family Law, we have in-depth knowledge of the Arizona Marital and Domestic Relations Law and the rules governing the division of community property. When you work with us, you can rest assured that your interests will be protected. Please contact our office today for a free consultation.