Arizona is one of eight U.S. states that considers any property acquired during a marriage, except by gift or inheritance, to be community property. This means that almost all property acquired by either spouse during a marriage is supposed to be divided between the parties in the case of a divorce. Examples of community property in the state of Arizona, according to the Maricopa County Superior Court, include real estate, home furnishings, vehicles, bank accounts, investment accounts, credit card debts, student loans, car payments, and some retirement plans.
While the state of California views community property as being split 50/50, most states that have community property distribute it based on equitable distribution. Equitable distribution is the division of marital property that is just, valid, and equitable. Courts take each spouse's contribution to the acquisition and preservation of the property.
FindLaw's LawBrain states that even if property was acquired in the name of only one partner during the marriage, the property still becomes community property in Arizona. Property that is owned by one spouse before the marriage, however, is considered separate property unless that property is transmuted into community property. A dissolution of marriage legally terminates the community property relationship in Arizona. This same rule applies to all other community property states in the country as well.
Some couples will sign a prenuptial agreement before a marriage and agree through the legal contract that their individual incomes earned during the marriage are to remain separate property. Such prenuptial agreements are complex and require work from experienced Phoenix family lawyers. More information on community property or property division can be found through our Related Resources pages.