Marital Property: What’s Mine is Ours. What’s Yours is Ours.
Arizona is a community property state. This means, in most cases, that any property acquired during the course of your marriage belongs equally to both your and your spouse. This includes incomes earned during the marriage, as well as all money contributed to personal retirement accounts during the marriage.
Community assets may include both spouses’ incomes, any purchases made during the marriage, as well as, real estate, vehicles, or furniture. Community debts include any credit cards used during the marriage or any loans initiated during the marriage.
Separate property is any property that is not included in community property. Examples of separate property are assets or debts you had prior to your marriage and any gifts or inheritance you received during the time you were married.
It’s interesting to note that the legal definition of property includes both assets and debts.
It Doesn’t Really Matter Whose Name is On the Account
Placing money in a separate account, with only your name on it, does not remove the asset from community property. All income is community property, even if you place income into a separate account that’s just in your name. The same is true of debt. Your spouse may be running up debt on a Visa only in her name. If he or she is doing it during the marriage, it is likely your debt too.
Separate Property: Exceptions to Community Property
As you might expect, there are exceptions to the rule that all assets acquired during the course of your marriage become community property. Any gifts or inheritances received by you or your spouse during your marriage do not become community property. They belong to whom they were given. For example, if you inherit $100,000 from a relative during your marriage, that $100,000 belongs to you and is not included in the community assets.
The Changing Nature of Property
While the general property law is simple, property matters can be complicated as the ownership of property can change depending upon how that asset or debt is used. When a spouse places separate property in a joint account or uses separate funds for joint purposes, that spouse may be changing the nature of the property from separate property to joint property.
What’s Your Next Step
If you are interested in learning more about Arizona’s community property law or if you have other questions or concerns about a family law matter, please contact The Law Office of Keith A. Singer or call 520.795.1800.