How does the Court define community property and debt?
AZ Community Property
Arizona is a community property state, which means that the Court considers any property, assets and debts acquired by either of the spouses during their marriage to be just as much the property, asset and debt of the spouse that acquired it as it is for the non-acquiring spouse. There are limited exceptions to this, for example property received as a gift or inheritance by one spouse during the marriage. But typically, all property, assets and debts acquired from the date of marriage through the date that the Divorce Petition is served are considered community property and must be identified and divided in an Arizona divorce.
Division of Property
As I said, all property acquired during the marriage must be divided in an Arizona divorce. Property includes, but is not limited to, houses, cars, home furnishings, artwork, jewelry, tools, family photos and pets, etc.
Division of Assets
Again, all assets acquired during the marriage must be divided in an Arizona divorce. Assets include, but are not limited to, income wages, funds in bank, 401k & investment accounts, and life insurance policies, etc.
Division of Debts
All debt, regardless of which spouse incurred the debt, acquired during the marriage is considered community debt in an AZ divorce. Spouses often agree to each keep their own “separate” debts and split joint debts. Debts include, but are not limited to, credit cards, 401k, personal & student loans, etc.
Community Property Division in Arizona
Most commonly divorcing Arizona spouses decide how to divide community property among themselves. However, if they can’t reach an agreement and the Court ends up making a determination (after a Trial), all property, assets and debts that are considered community property are divided fairly and equitably. Although this normally means equally, there can be situations that warrant an unequal division of property in order to achieve an equitable and fair division. For example, if one spouse is awarded more property and assets than the other, it may be appropriate for them to also be awarded more than 50% of the debt.
You see, by equitably dividing property, assets and debts, the Court is trying to promote the idea that marriage is a partnership. For example, if one parent quits their job to stay home and raise the children while the other brings home the paychecks, the stay-at-home parent is entitled to half the assets because they were contributing their time and energy into keeping the family going while the other parent was making the financial contribution. In this case, equitable distribution works to the benefit of both spouses and in the spirit of a fair division, this principle is applied to Arizona community property division.