Learn About How to Be Reimbursed for Paying Comunity Bills in an Arizona Divorce
The question sometimes arises whether a spouse may receive reimbursement for paying community bills during a divorce in Arizona. The Arizona Court of Appeals addressed that issue in the published decision in the case of Bobrow vs. Bobrow.
In this case, the wife filed for divorce on October 7, 2013. During the divorce, the husband paid the car payments on the wife’s car and paid the mortgage on the home. Both the home and wife’s car were found by the trial court to be community property.
The husband then requested the court order that he be reimbursed for the payments he made on the home and the car at the final divorce trial. The trial court denied the husband’s request for reimbursement at trial on the basis that the court considered those payments to be gifts.
The trial court came to the conclusion these payments were gifts because Husband paid them voluntarily without an agreement from the wife he would be reimbursed for those payments.
Arizona Law on Reimbursement for Paying Bills During a Divorce
The law in Arizona provides that a court will treat some transaction between spouses as a gift. Specifically, when a spouse uses his or her separate property to purchase a home and then places title to that home in both spouses names the use of separate funds has been gifted to the community property home.
The spouse claiming he or she did not intend to gift his or her separate property to the community has the burden of proving by the clear and convincing evidence he or she did not intend to gift the separate property to the community. The court inherently recognized that the income the husband was earning after the divorce documents were served upon him was his sole and separate property because the “community” terminated when the divorce petition was served on the husband.
The law was and still is that a gift of separate property occurs whenever a spouse uses his or her separate property to purchase property or pay community debts during a marriage. However, the question becomes whether this rule changes when a divorce petition is filed and served on the other spouse.
The short answer is yes, the rule changes. Unlike using separate property to pay community expenses during a marriage, the termination of the community that occurs upon serving a divorce petition on the other spouse removes the presumption that use of separate property to pay community expenses constitutes a gift.
Instead, the intention of the person using his or her separate property to pay community debts controls. In this case, the husband testified that his intention was not to gift his separate property to the community by making those payments during the divorce. The burden then shifted to the wife to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the husband did intend to gift those monies to the community; which she failed to do.
No Agreement Required to Receive Reimbursement
The husband did not need the wife’s agreement for him to be reimbursed for paying community debts during the divorce. The Arizona Court of Appeals went on to add that a spouse should not be penalized when he or she used his sole and separate property to pay community debts during a divorce simply because the other spouse will not agree to a reimbursement of those payments. When a spouse uses his separate property to pay community debts the court must consider those payments when making an equitable division of property.
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Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about reimbursement for paying community bills during a divorce to ensure everyone has access to information about divorce and family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and 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 divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case.