Property Division (Divorce)

Arizona is a community property state.  That means, unless the spouses have executed a pre-nuptial (or post-nuptial) agreement to the contrary, property and assets acquired during the marriage belong equally to both parties.  In Arizona, marital misconduct is not relevant to the division of property unless it rises to the level of marital waste.  For example, an unfaithful spouse will not be awarded less of the community property simply because they cheated.  But if the unfaithful spouse spent significant sums of money on their affair partner, that might rise to the level of marital waste and be grounds for an unequal division of property.

An equal division of property does not mean that each asset and must be divided in half.  Often a spouse will have a desire to keep certain assets and will be willing to give up their interest in other assets to make the division equal.  Whether it happens by agreement of the parties in a settlement or is decided by the judge after a trial, the division of assets is flexible.  Arizona law requires that the property owned by both spouses be divided at the end of the case.

Property that is the sole property of one of the spouses will be awarded to that spouse, unless that property was somehow converted to community property during the marriage. However, even when there is sole property, sometimes the non-owing spouse may have a claim to part of the value of that property.  If community property funds are used to improve or maintain the property, that can give the non-owner spouse a claim to an interest in the property.  That claim can be satisfied by awarding the separate property to the spouse who owns it but giving an offset against other assets to repay the non-owning spouse’s interest in the separate property.

Debt is also divided in a divorce.  Sometimes an unequal division of assets makes sense when one spouse is also being allocated an unequal share of debt.  What is required by law is that both spouses, considering the assets and debts awarded to them, are receiving essentially equal net value.