There are nine community property states in the United States, including
Arizona. Under Arizona community property laws, the assets and debts acquired by a married couple belong to each spouse equally—but the division of property does not need to be exactly equal in a divorce.
Divorce can be a messy process, and it can become even more complicated with the division of property. Who gets the car, who gets the TV, who gets the house?
Determining ownership can become heated quickly. You can claim anything purchased under your name as your personal property in most states—but marital property has to be split equally in community property states like Arizona.
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What is a community property state?
Property gained by either spouse during their marriage is equally owned by both spouses and has to be split equally in a divorce in community property states. This can include personal property, savings, retirement accounts, income, and real estate. If either spouse incurs debt during the marriage, the debt will also be included.
Arizona is a community property state and is joined by:
- New Mexico
The other U.S. states follow a common law property system, allowing spouses to claim income and property owned in their names during a divorce. You’ll be able to take back all of your assets during a common law divorce as long as the other party’s name isn’t on it. Under community property laws, though, split everything equally to simplify divorce proceedings.
Separate property vs. joint property
Community property laws apply to the majority of the property owned by a couple, but there are exceptions to the rules. The following list details separate property under community property laws:
- Anything inherited by you or your spouse during your marriage
- Anything you or your spouse had before your marriage
- Anything you or your spouse received as a gift
- Anything you or your spouse gained through a will or trust fund
- Anything you or your spouse acquired during a legal separation
What is considered community property in Arizona?
All property acquired by either spouse during their marriage while domiciled in Arizona is considered community property, no matter whose name is on paper.
What does the word “domiciled” mean? This legal term means the place you live full-time, otherwise known as your permanent residence.
Here’s an example: say you and your spouse own a summer house in the Grand Canyon State, but your full-time home is in a state that practices common law. The property you own in Arizona will not be subject to community property law if your permanent residence is in a common law state.
Unless it was purchased by only you or your spouse before you got married, your house is considered to be community property. The same is true for cars—they are joint property if purchased during your marriage and while you lived in Arizona, even if only one of your names is on the paperwork.
What if there’s a prenup?
Arizona’s community property law can be circumvented by a prenuptial agreement. Signing a prenup is one way to decide in advance how your assets will be divided during a divorce, regardless of your state’s laws.
How is community property divided in Arizona?
Community property law is designed to make divorce proceedings easier, but it can be complicated when you’re trying to divide property 50/50. There’s no way to split a TV in half!
There are generally two options in Arizona to divide community property:
- Let a judge divide up your property
- Reach a settlement with the other party
Each spouse will be assigned property by the judge based on child custody, individual finances, the origin and nature of the property, and other factors. The judge will make sure that each spouse receives property equal to the net value of the property going to the other party.
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Is a wedding ring community property in Arizona?
It depends on when the ring was purchased. If you bought it yourself before you got married, it could be considered separate property—but it could also be a gift, so community property law wouldn’t apply.
Does adultery affect community property in Arizona?
No. Community property isn’t affected by the reasons for your divorce—the main factor is when the property was acquired.