Uncertainty and nervousness about the drama and the process itself can leave a lot of people waiting to divorce when they know they'd be happier if they ended their marriage. You shouldn't stay in an unhappy marriage just because you're worried about the financial risks of divorce.
Taking the time to familiarize yourself with how Arizona handles divorces can leave you feeling more confident about filing for divorce and the likely outcome in your case. Of course, in most cases, you can't predict the exact outcome, because they vary depending on your family's situation.
Unless you have a prenuptial agreement, you will need to learn a little bit about how the Arizona family courts divide your assets. That is because unless you and your spouse find a way to agree to terms for an amicable, uncontested divorce, the courts will have the ultimate say in who gets what at the end of your marriage.
Arizona law makes it a community property state
Every state in the country has its own specific rules and regulations that govern divorce and other issues in family law cases. Arizona's law essentially makes it a community property state. That means that all of the debts and assets you acquire during marriage are subject to division in the divorce proceedings.
With a few exceptions, everything you acquired and every debt you incurred while married should be mutually shared between you and your spouse. In some cases, that can mean splitting it between the two of you. Sharing the equity in your home or dividing the balance of a credit card are common means of splitting up assets. The courts could also balance individual debts and assets against one another.
However, inheritances, gifts given to you by someone outside of your marriage and some other property may be exempt as separate property. It can prove deceptively complicated to determine what assets are separate property and which ones are marital or community property.
Just because it's in your name doesn't mean you're the only owner
Did you put the title for your car in just your name? Is your retirement account through your employer? You might think that these assets are your sole property because your name is on them, not your ex's name.
However, the date that you obtained those assets will matter far more than how you hold them. Remember, assets and debts acquired during marriage, especially with income earned during the marriage, are usually community property. You may want to review your financial records to make sure you don't fail to report something and that your spouse isn't hiding assets.
It can be very confusing to try to determine what assets have protection in a divorce and what ones are vulnerable. Sitting down to talk with an experienced Arizona family law attorney can help you make the best decisions possible in your divorce.