What does Community Property State mean?Arizona is one of only nine community property states in the United States when it comes to a marriage. The others include California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. But what does “Community Property” really mean? Well, it is fairly simple, until it is not.
Essentially, from the day you get married, until the day that one party files for divorce and the day that the other party gets served, the parties are considered to be one entity, a “community”. I am sure that many of us have been to weddings where the spouses take two individual vials of sand and pour them simultaneously into one. Or maybe it is the two separate candles that the flames are united into one. This is how Arizona sees a marriage. Before marriage, you and your spouse are separate individuals and every dollar that you make belongs to you or your spouse. The same applies to debts and real or tangible, personal property.
Once you say “I DO!”, however, that changes. From then on, unless it falls into an exception, every dollar that you make, 50 cents is yours and 50 cents is your spouse’s and the same with every dollar that they make. This is called, “community earnings.” This also means that you are legally obligated to pay a $1,000,000 debt even if your spouse contracted for it in their name alone. And what about that $2.5 million dream house that you and your spouse bought together, because it was everything that you ever wanted in a home. Well, if you bought it after marriage, they own half of it, even if it is deeded in your name alone, especially if community funds were used to pay for it. This is called “community debt or community obligations.”
Nonetheless, there are some exceptions to this. For example, let’s say that Aunt Rose left you her “Heart of the Ocean” necklace in her will for being the best niece or nephew ever. Even if Aunt Rose died after you get married, so long as it was willed to you specifically, then it is your sole and separate property. If Aunt Rose wills it to you and your spouse, however, well then it is community property.
There are some other exceptions and the experienced family law team at Rowley Chapman & Barney, Ltd. can help decipher what is community property from what is sole and separate property. Please give me call at (480) 833-1113 to schedule your free consultation to discuss your community property questions.
Attorney Profile: Stacy L. Porter
My Areas of Law:
Divorce and Family Law Attorney