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Changing Joint Property to Community Property in AZ | Hildebrand Law

Mon 12th Sep, 2016 Arizona Community Property Laws

In Arizona, all property acquired by a couple after marriage is presumed to be community property. However, a couple can formally agree to hold real property as joint tenants.

Can one spouse decide to reconvert the joint property to community property without the other spouse’s consent? In Russo v. Russo, 298 P.2d 174 (Ariz. 1956), the Arizona Supreme Court addressed this question.

Facts of the Case

Husband and Wife were married and lived in Arizona. They held certain real property in joint tenancy. In their divorce action, the husband asked the trial court to partition this property. However, during the divorce, Wife tried to convert the property back to community property.

On the advice of counsel, she quit claimed the property to a third party who immediately conveyed it back to her. The court determined that this reconverted the property to community property. It awarded the property to Wife. Husband appealed.

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A Spouse Only Owns 50% of Joint Tenancy Property

The wife testified that she and Husband agreed to change the property to joint tenancy. Then she claimed to re-convert it on her own. The Court noted that when spouses hold property as joint tenants, each owns his or her respective interest as separate property. The Court said it was “at a loss” to understand the trial court’s reasoning.

Obviously, the Court said, neither spouse can convey the other spouse’s separate real property. When Wife quitclaimed to the third party, all she conveyed was her 50% interest. She could not legally convey the Husband’s interest. It remained his separate property and the trial court cannot take it from him by calling it community property. The trial court should have partitioned this property.


A Spouse May Not Unilaterally Change Joint Property to Community Property in Arizona.

The Arizona Supreme Court reversed the trial court ruling. It ordered the trial court to partition the real estate the parties held in joint tenancy. It also ordered it to re-examine the distribution of community property. If this ruling makes the prior division inequitable, the trial court must adjust the division of community property.

If you have questions about changing joint property to community property in an Arizona divorce case, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona community property and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in community property disputes and family law cases.

Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.

Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your Arizona community property or family law case around today.

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