Whether a marriage is long or short, usually spouses have accumulated property that must be divided if they divorce. It is important for the spouses to understand the difference between separate and marital property.
Separate and marital property
While the exact property division will depend on the spouses’ circumstances, there are general rules that apply. Separate property generally includes property that either spouse acquired before the marriage, and that property usually remains solely with that spouse after the divorce. Examples may include real estate and personal items.
Also, if one spouse received an inheritance or a gift during the marriage, that is generally separate property.
Marital property is property acquired by either spouse during the marriage and will be divided equitably between the spouses if they divorce. Some spouses may be surprised to learn that this includes assets as well as debts.
It’s important to note that if separate property is commingled, or mixed, with martial property, it may become marital property and subject to division. It can be complex to determine which category the property falls into, and it may require the help of a professional.
In Arizona, the divorce process begins when one spouse files a petition in court. The spouse who files, the petitioner, must serve the other spouse, the respondent, with a copy of the petition and a summons. The respondent can either agree with the divorce or contest it.
Each spouse must provide information about their finances and must decide important issues including property division, child support, child custody and spousal support. The judge will issue a final order of divorce when all issues are settled.