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Review of Arizona's community property laws

Like a handful of other states, which are mostly located in the Southwest, Arizona follows the principles of "community property" in divorce cases. While this doctrine affects divorces in this state, specifically when it comes to property division, it also can impact probate and factor into a Goodyear resident's overall estate plan, even if that individual is happily married.

Basically, when a couple in Arizona gets married, they form what in the eyes of the law is a "community," an entity which together holds property jointly and severally. At the time of a divorce, the court will divide any community property 50-50 between the spouses. On the other hand, so called "separate property" belongs to each individual spouse outright, and the other spouse ordinarily will have no claim over it. For the most part, separate property includes anything that a spouse held individually prior to the marriage or acquired after being served with paperwork for divorce or legal separation.

Any return of investment on separate property is also considered separate property, provided it does not get so intermingled with the family finances that it becomes hard to sort out. Likewise, anything a spouse acquires individually through an inheritance or a gift is also separate property, even if that individual happens to acquire it during the marriage.

The fact that Arizona is a community property state makes the division of property different than in many other states. While to some extent the process is more straightforward, it may take a lot of effort and legal know-how to protect one's right to receive 50% of community property and, on the other hand, to keep what is rightfully separate property.

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