Community Property / Separate Property
Phoenix Community Property Lawyers
Protecting Your Share
Regarding assets, debts and marriage, few concepts are as confusing or as important as those of community property and separate property. A general understanding of Arizona’s marriage property laws is useful in deciding on a strategy for marital property division prior to and during divorce proceedings.
Community Property. Unlike most other states, Arizona has always been a community property state. Community property laws provide that a husband and wife each have an equal share in all property acquired during the marriage. For example, if a husband earns $25,000 annually and his wife earns $500,000 annually, both spouses have an equal interest in the $525,000 income. If the couple invested the entire income amount and earned a profit, that profit would also be owned equally by each spouse. In the event of a divorce, the property would also be split equally.
Separate Property. Ownership laws governing separate property differ sharply from community property laws. Separate property is property owned only by one spouse in a marriage, and is generally not divided at the time of divorce. Separate property commonly includes:
- Gifts and inheritance property received by one spouse during the marriage.
- Property owned by one spouse prior to marriage.
Generally, any increase in the value of separate property from interest, rent and other sources is separate property. In addition, any property acquired by a spouse after a divorce petition has been filed is also separate property.
Commingled Property. Problems arise when community and separate property get mixed together. This is called commingling. For example, when community funds are put into the same account with separate funds, the entire account will be presumed to be community property. Another problem arises when one’s separate property (such as a business) increases in value due to a community contribution. The increase in value may be considered as part community property and part separate property. As one might expect, drawing the line between what is community and what is separate can be difficult. Untangling your property situation requires expert legal help. We offer you the legal guidance as well as the expert witnesses that may be necessary to ensure that your property rights are protected.
Management of Community Property. Under community property law, both parties have an equal right to manage the community property. With some exceptions, each party can increase the value of the community or decrease its value by contracting debts. A legal separation can completely separate the spouses’ property while leaving the marriage intact.
If you have questions regarding paternity suits, parental rights and fathers rights, we can help. We charge reasonable rates and accept Visa, MasterCard, Discovery, and American Express. We are available for weekend and evening appointments under special circumstances, and are conveniently located in midtown Phoenix. To contact us, call 602-264-5555.