Is Arizona a 50/50 State in Divorce?
By Heather Baker-Mushkatel on November 19, 2019
You hear a lot of rumors about divorce in Arizona when you go through one. One common rumor is that you and your spouse will have to split everything equally because Arizona is a “community property” state. Some people also call it a “50/50” state. Don’t let the name fool you. Not every community property division in Arizona ends with each spouse getting an equal share.
At Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, our Arizona family and divorce lawyers can help you to navigate the division of your property and protect your rights and interests at every step in the process. Here, we discuss what a “50/50” state means. To talk about the specific facts of your case, connect with us today.
What Is a 50/50 Divorce?
A “50/50” divorce refers to a divorce in which a couple’s assets typically are split 50/50, or equally, at the conclusion of the divorce process. Nine states follow some form of this system, including Arizona. They are formally called community property states.
In Arizona, a couple may divide only its community property when they divorce. Community property encompasses all assets and debts that the couple acquired during marriage and before the date of separation. Some examples are:
- Wages and other income
- Funds, investments, pensions
- Jewelry and valuable possessions
- Homes and other real property
- Cars and recreation vehicles
- Appliances, furniture and other household items.
However, gifts or property that one spouse acquires by devise, descent or gift is considered that spouse’s separate property – even if he/she acquires the property during the marriage.
While we say that community property “typically” gets distributed equally in a divorce in Arizona, that does not mean that every case will result in a 50/50 split.
An Equitable Split Is Not Always an Equal One
Arizona law requires an “equitable” division of the divorcing parties’ community property. An equitable division, does not always mean an equal division, however. Unlike many other states, Arizona does not have a statute which sets out a list of factors that a judge must consider when the judge distributes community property. While some general rules apply, the judge has broad discretion.
For instance, a judge can order the property to be liquidated, or sold, and also order the proceeds to be distributed equally or according to a different division. A judge can also order property to be distributed “in kind.” For instance, one spouse gets the red car, while the other spouse gets the blue car.
A judge can consider one spouse’s economic misconduct when the judge decides how to distribute property. If the one spouse dissipated community property assets by engaging in conduct such as gambling, using drugs or spending on an extramarital affair, that spouse could get a significantly smaller share of the community property.
In some cases, a judge will order a 50/50 split, but then award reimbursement to one or both spouses for things such as:
- Making improvements to property
- Enhancing the value of the marital home
- Making efforts to pay off debt.
So, as you can see, a court may order – for many different reasons – an uneven split of community property even in a “50/50” state such as Arizona.
How Do You Distribute Community Property in Arizona?
Most people who go through a divorce in Arizona want to avoid going to court. They would prefer to resolve their issues in a more private setting. Fortunately, you can work with your lawyer at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, to explore two options that can help you to stay out of court:
- Prenuptial Agreement – You can enter into a valid prenuptial agreement prior to marriage. The agreement can contain many different provisions, including a plan for the distribution of community property upon divorce.
- Separation Agreement – Even if you do not have a prenuptial agreement, you and your spouse can still reach an agreement on how to divide your community property assets. If necessary, you can use a neutral third party, or mediator, to help you and your spouse to agree on terms. A court must approve the agreement.
Most people prefer to reach an agreement outside of court, as it is almost always a less-costly and time-consuming solution. Further, dividing property according to your wishes rather than having a judge decide, is usually preferred.
With that said, if you cannot agree on a community property “settlement,” then you will need to go to court and present your case in a hearing. At Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, our attorneys are highly experienced trial lawyers who know how to thoroughly prepare for such hearings.
How Can a Lawyer Help You in a 50/50 Divorce State?
One of the biggest challenges in a divorce is identifying and putting a value on all community property which should be divided. One of the advantages of working with an experienced divorce attorney at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, is that you will receive a comprehensive investigation of your case.
We often work with investigators and highly knowledgeable professionals in fields such as real property appraisals, personal property appraisals, business valuation and forensic accounting. These professionals can help us to track down and properly valuate all property which should be divided in your divorce.
Our attorneys believe that our careful preparation of your case, along with our knowledge of Arizona’s divorce and community property division laws, can make a meaningful difference for you as you move forward in your divorce. We will work tirelessly and professionally in order to protect your rights and interests at every step in the property division process.
Our Arizona Divorce Lawyers Are Ready to Help You
If you are thinking about a divorce or have recently filed for a divorce, working with a lawyer is strongly recommended. Not only can our lawyers at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, assist you in negotiating your property division agreement. We can also help you with settling other issues like alimony, child support and child custody. Call or reach us online today to learn more.
Heather Baker-Mushkatel is an Arizona native who focuses in the area of family at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. Heather also has substantial experience in criminal defense law, including a background as a public defender in Maricopa County. Heather earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and obtained her Juris Doctorate from Brooklyn Law School. She is a highly active member of state and local bar associations who has served on several panels to educate young lawyers and law students.