Is All Property Owned by Either Spouse Community Property in Arizona?
Community Property Law on Property
No. All property that was owned by either spouse before either spouse acquired the marriage after service of the divorce petition, was acquired by inheritance, or was purchased through a gift is the separate property of the spouse so acquiring the property.
The increase or decrease in value of that separate property is also the separate property of the spouse who acquired the property. Despite these rather simple sounding rules, there are typically very complicated issues concerning community liens against a spouse’s separate property, transmutation of separate property into community property, commingling of separate property with community property, and tracing of separate property which was commingled with community funds.
Also, spouses are free to characterize what would have otherwise been community property into one spouse’s separate property. One such situation occurs when a spouse signs a Disclaimer Deed to a home. The Arizona Court of Appeals in the Bell-Kilbourne v. Bell-Kilbourne case discussed the impact of Disclaimer Deeds on what may have otherwise been community property.
In another Court of Appeals decision in the case of In re: Estate of Sims, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that the filing of a joint homestead exemption did not change the property from a spouse’s sole and separate property into community property.
In the related case of In re the Matter of Flowers the Arizona Court of Appeals discussed an equitable division, yet unequal, of community property involving a spouse who changed the Deed to his sole and separate home into a community asset. This particular issue has many rules and exceptions, and you should consult with a qualified divorce attorney before making any decisions regarding settlement of community property issues if either spouse has signed a Quit Claim or Disclaimer deed.
All of these matters should be discussed with an experienced family law attorney before any decisions can be made regarding your rights to property owned by either spouse; regardless of how or when ownership of that property occurred.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about community property in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about community property laws in Arizona. Chris is a family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a legal separation should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.