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In Arizona, property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be community property. A spouse claiming otherwise must offer clear and convincing evidence in support.
In Hofstra v. Hofstra 474 P.2d 869 (1970), the Court of Appeals heard an appeal regarding this issue. A husband appealed the trial court’s ruling that a certain property – the Coyote Ranch — was community property.
Facts of the Case
Mr. Hofstra and Mrs. Hofstra were married in 1949. They had seven children. The last was born in 1967 which was the same year that the husband filed for divorce. The trial court divided the property between the couple. It also awarded Mrs. Hofstra monthly child support of $250 for each child.
The trial court also ruled that the couple owned Coyote Springs Ranch as community property. Husband appealed. He claims Coyote Springs as his separate property. He also appealed the award of child support.
Coyote Springs Ranch as Community Property
The husband had acquired substantial separate property early in the marriage when the couple lived in another state. Mr. Hofstra and his wife then moved to Arizona after the first three children were born. There, the couple invested money earned from the sale of the Husband’s property or loans secured by that property. These investments included a property called Coyote Springs Ranch.
The husband purchased it in 1966. He testified under oath that he considered it to be community property when he bought it. He borrowed $125,000 for a down payment and operating costs. He pledged his separate assets as security for this loan. He later made another principal payment of $80,000. For this, he used both his own separate funds and separate funds belonging to wife.
Mr. Hofstra claims the trial court erred when it determined that the property was community property. The Court of Appeals reviewed the facts and the law.
Under Arizona law, Arizona courts must presume that property acquired in Arizona during the marriage is community property. The spouse claiming differently must present clear and convincing evidence supporting his position.
Here, the couple bought Coyote Springs Ranch during the marriage. The husband testified that he considered the Coyote Springs Ranch to be community property. That testimony binds him.
Claimed Lien on Coyote Springs Ranch
Husband next argues the Court should have given him a lien on the Coyote Springs Ranch property. He claims a lien equal to the loan he took for the down payment. However, the Court of Appeals said that a husband who improves community property with his separate funds isn’t automatically entitled to reimbursement. He must make an early and clear claim for reimbursement.
Mr. Hofstra first mentioned his claimed lien to wife at the divorce trial. That, the Court of Appeals ruled, was too late. Therefore, the husband did not have a claim on it in the amount of the $125,000 loan.
Alimony and Child Support
The Court of Appeals reviewed the alimony and child support awarded. It reduced the child support payments from $250 to $200 per month per child.
The Arizona Court of Appeals lowered the child support payments from $250 to $200 per child. Otherwise, it affirmed the ruling of the lower court. This decision was subsequently distinguished by the Arizona Court of Appeals in the appeal of Moser v. Moser.
If you have questions about statements regarding property are binding 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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About the Author: Chris Hildebrand has over 26 years of Arizona family law experience and received awards from US News and World Report, Phoenix Magazine, Arizona Foothills Magazine and others. Visit https://www.hildebrandlaw.com.