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Divorce in Arizona: Property division basics


Like the mythical hydra beast, incorrectly solving one issue during a divorce can lead to the development of two more. These tips can help better ensure that issues are solved correctly the first time.

Divorce could be compared to the hydra of Greek mythology. Although divorce does not take the form of a serpentine monster, a single misstep during the divorce proceeding could lead to many additional issues in the future. The “heads” in divorce can be related to the many issues that can arise. One portion of the divorce with particular potential to cause additional issues in the future if not handled properly involves property division.

It is extremely important to take careful steps during the property division determination of a divorce proceeding. One misstep, like not having proper court orders filed to separate retirement assets, can lead to tragic consequences in the future. If, in this example, the wrong or no forms are filed the spouse expecting a portion of retirement assets may be left without payment.

Although going through a divorce can make life feel like a Greek tragedy, having some knowledge of the process can help increase the odds of a successful outcome.

Property division and Arizona state law

Arizona is a community property state. There are only nine community property states in the United States. Essentially, this means that if the court is involved in the property division determination portion of the divorce proceeding, the court will split the property and debt accumulated during the marriage evenly between the two spouses.

There are some exceptions to this rule. Separate property, or property owned by one spouse only, can include pension plans, gifts, inheritances or any business interest owned prior to the marriage. If these assets are commingled, or mixed, with other pieces of marital property the separate property is considered marital property by the court. A common example is an inheritance that is put into a joint checking account.

In addition to paying careful attention to the classification of property as separate or marital, it is also important to pay special consideration to the division of pensions and other retirement assets. In most cases, a spouse is entitled to one half interest in retirement assets for the duration of the marriage. However, splitting this plan requires a special court order referred to as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO. Simply including the agreed upon terms in a divorce settlement document is not sufficient. QDROs are very specific, sensitive documents that contain an array of information including the name of the account holder, the name of the alternate payee, the percentage or amount to be paid to the alternate payee. A single misstep could compromise payment.

An attorney can help

The property division determination portion of the divorce proceeding is only one of many issues that must be addressed during a divorce. As a result, those going through a separation are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced property division lawyer. This legal professional will help guide you through the process, working to better ensure you reach a favorable agreement.

Keywords: divorce