Financial Considerations in Divorce: Protecting Your Assets
The goal of the court in a divorce case is to divide a couple’s marital property and make the former spouses financially independent of each other. This is enough of a challenge since, in marriage and divorce, it is difficult to separate your emotions from financial questions. It is easy to feel that since your spouse lied to you, cheated on you, and treated you unkindly while spending your hard-earned money throughout your marriage, you should have no financial obligations to her at any point in the future, with the exception of paying child support for the benefit of your children. The unpleasant truth is that divorce makes both spouses poorer. While Arizona law is a community property state, meaning that Arizona law regards the equal division of marital property as an ideal, you may come away from your marriage with more than half, or you may come away with less. Protecting your assets is critical during divorce, and a Tempe family law attorney can help you ensure a fair division of marital property.
Protecting Your Assets: Arizona Laws About Separate and Marital Property
The good news is that your ex-spouse cannot take your separate property. Separate property is all the property you owned before you married your spouse. If you inherit property or get a payout from a personal injury lawsuit during your marriage, that is also your separate property. By contrast, marital property is all the property you acquired during your marriage. Whether you and your spouse earned approximately equal incomes throughout your marriage or whether one of you was a stay-at-home parent, all the money that came in during the marriage is marital property, as are the assets you bought with it. If only one spouse’s name is on an asset acquired during the marriage, the law still considers it a marital asset. Likewise, all debts incurred during the marriage are marital, even if only one spouse signed the loan agreement.
Does Arizona’s Community Property Law Mean That Your Ex-Spouse Gets to Take Half?
Arizona is one of nine states, all of them west of the Mississippi River, that have community property laws on the books. In a community property state, judges in divorce cases should divide a couple’s marital property equally. This does not mean that every divorce in Arizona involves a 50/50 division of marital property because, most of the time, judges do not make the decisions about property division. Arizona requires couples to attend divorce mediation after filing for divorce. Most couples are able to finalize a marital settlement agreement during mediation, so the case does not go to trial. There is a strong likelihood that you, your ex-spouse, and your respective lawyers can agree to a property division scheme that is fair to both parties. Many couples decide that the lower-income spouse should get a greater share of valuable marital assets (such as the marital home) in order to avoid depending on the wealthier spouse for alimony for an extended period. Even in cases that go to trial, the judge may choose to divide the marital property unequally if an equal division would leave one spouse so poor that he or she would have no source of financial support except public assistance.
Can a Postnuptial Agreement Help You?
If you are uncomfortable with half of everything you earn during your marriage going to your ex-spouse in the event of a divorce, then you are not alone. Couples have the right to sign prenuptial agreements in which they make their own rules about which assets are marital and which ones are separate or about how they will divide their marital property in the event of a divorce. Fear of commitment and fear of gold diggers are not the only reasons that people sign prenuptial agreements. Some people sign them because they want to protect the financial interests of their children from previous marriages; in other words, deciding how much property the new spouse is entitled to can prevent drama during probate, meaning that the prenup is about staying married for the rest of your lives, not about preparing for an inevitable divorce. If you are already married, you can address similar issues in a postnuptial agreement, which may even be able to save your marriage.
Contact Singular Law Group About for Help Protecting Your Assets
A family law attorney can go a long way in protecting your assets. The right attorney can help you finalize your marital settlement agreement so that the court does not award half of your hard-earned money to your ex. Contact Singular Law Group PLLC in Tempe, Arizona, to set up a consultation. A family law attorney can help you reach an agreement with your spouse if you do not believe that equal division of marital property is the fairest solution.