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Arizona Marital Property Laws

Arizona is one of nine community property states. In Arizona, all property acquired during marriage becomes marital property. All other states follow equitable division rules for marital assets. Community property laws in Arizona become important during a divorce and on the death of one of the spouses.

If one spouse dies without a will (intestate), the surviving spouse inherits 50% of all community assets. Arizona law makes it impossible to disinherit a spouse even with a will. Unless the couple has a prenuptial agreement specifically denying a surviving spouse all assets after death, the survivor receives at least some of the community funds.

Community Property vs. Separate Property

The two categories of state marital property laws are community property and equitable division. In a community property state like Arizona, everything acquired during the marriage is considered community property unless the couple excludes an item from the marital estate. During a divorce, courts split the estate's value 50/50 between the couple as closely as possible.

In equitable distribution states, judges base the division of property on the needs of each person, their contribution to the marriage, and other factors. Although an equal distribution is ideal, this may not always happen in an equitable distribution.

Separate property is anything that belonged to the individuals before the marriage and anything acquired during the marriage that is:

  • A gift
  • An inheritance or "devise," meaning a third party left it to the individual
  • Property listed in a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
  • Personal injury awards

Marital Property in Arizona

Arizona is one of a few states that classifies marital property using a community property approach. Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-211 et seq. contain the community property laws discussed here. FindLaw's Divorce and Property section has more articles and resources about this topic.

During a divorce, anything acquired by either spouse becomes community property. This includes joint assets and bank accounts, real estate, and the marital home, but also:

  • The portion of retirement accounts or pensions that accrued during the marriage
  • Property or business assets owned by one spouse that the other spouse contributed to in any way
  • Separate income that becomes part of the community income; commingling assets is a source of confusion in many Arizona divorces

Separate property is anything acquired before the marriage and any income or increase in value of separate property. It’s also:

  • Property acquired after the date of a legal separation, an annulment, or divorce petition
  • Pensions and retirement accounts that accrue after the divorce is final
  • Gifts and inheritances given to the individual during the marriage

Under Arizona community property laws, courts may consider separate bank accounts to be community property. Domestic violence and other criminal activity can affect the division of community property during divorce proceedings. Talk to a divorce attorney if you have any questions during a divorce case.

Debt and Quasi-Community Property

Debts acquired during the marriage are presumptively community debts. Arizona courts will divide all debt acquired during the marriage equally between the parties like dividing property. However, there are many exceptions to debt division. Credit card debt may remain the separate debt of the cardholder unless the spouse can show the other person had regular access to the card number.

Quasi-community property is real property located in an equitable distribution state and owned by residents of a community property state. Arizona divorce courts treat this property like the parties purchased it in the community property state.

Note: State laws are subject to change through the passage of legislation, court rulings (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. FindLaw strives to provide the most current information available. Always consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) before making any legal decisions.

Arizona Marital Property Laws: Related Resources

For additional information and resources related to this topic, please visit the links listed below.

Talk to an Attorney About Marital Property Laws in Arizona

Property rights may not be on your mind when you're planning to get married. But it's important to know how Arizona laws may impact your rights after marriage. To learn more about Arizona marital property laws, speak to a local family law attorney about the laws in your particular circumstances.

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