Arizona is a community property state for purposes of divorce. This means that property (both assets and debts) acquired during the marriage is subject to division. Given the potential for disputes over debt in a marital breakup, it is wise to consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
At Cohen Family Law, we regularly provide guidance to clients on all aspects of divorce, including the division of marital debt. Well-versed in the state’s community property laws and relevant family court rulings related to community property and debt, we will leverage our skills and experience to protect your interests.
From identifying community and separate debt to enforcing an order dividing debt in an Arizona divorce decree, we will provide you with informed representation when you need it most. Contact our Phoenix office today to schedule a consultation.
The Difference Between Community and Separate Debt in an Arizona Divorce
Marital debts are basically those that are either incurred by the couple during the marriage or for the benefit of a community asset. In a divorce, both parties are equally liable for community debt. On the other hand, debts incurred by either spouse prior to the marriage or after a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage is served are considered separate.
Generally, the court will determine which debts are the community debts and which are separate and how to equitably divide community debts between the parties. Separate debts are the sole responsibility of the spouse who acquired them.
How is community debt divided in an Arizona divorce?
Typically, the court will divide community debt equally between the parties. However, the court does not have the authority to order either party to pay off the debt by a lump sum payment. This means that the other party may be liable to creditors if his or her former spouse stops making payments as ordered. For this reason, it is crucial to have the advice and guidance of an experienced divorce attorney who can plan the best strategy for dividing community debt.
Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to negotiate an agreement between the parties in which each spouse is responsible for the debts in his or her sole name. If there is a difference in the debt balances, the spouse with a larger percentage of the community debt would be awarded an equitable amount of the community assets to make up that difference.
In the event that one of the spouses either has no ability to pay the debts assigned to him or her or has a history of not paying debts, the court may assign all the debt to the responsible spouse and award him or her an equitable amount of community assets, then divide the remaining assets equally between the parties.
Enforcing a Division of Marital Debt in an Arizona Decree
Regardless of what the court orders regarding the division of marital debt, both spouses remain legally liable for community debts. In short, creditors are not bound by a court’s order and could go after either spouse if the other fails to pay any debt assigned to him or her.
If you find yourself in this situation, you will need to ask the court to enforce the order. Doing so can become complicated because you must first pay the debt your spouse was ordered to pay and then seek a judgment from the court against your former spouse for the amount.
How Cohen Family Law Can Help with Division of Debt in a Divorce
If you are considering divorce or are involved in a dispute over the division of marital debt, we will take the time to understand your circumstances, explore all your options, and help protect your interests. Our experienced Arizona divorce attorneys have superb negotiating skills and typically encourage clients to reach agreements regarding the division of marital property through the mediation process.
If court intervention becomes necessary, we are fully prepared to litigate either to seek an order for the division of marital debt or enforcement of an existing divorce decree. Rest assured, we will stand by you through all aspects of your divorce and always work in your best interests.
Contact Our Experienced Arizona Divorce Attorneys
At Cohen Family Law, we are well aware that divorce is never easy; the division of marital property can easily become contentious. You can rely on our trustworthy advice and counsel to make informed decisions about your marital debt and post-divorce future.
We have well-honed skills that can help you resolve the division of your marital debt in a way that is fair and equitable to both parties and that adheres to Arizona’s community property laws. When you become our client, you will have comfort knowing that we are on your side. Contact us today to learn how we can help.