When a couple gets divorced in Arizona, their marital property must be divided equally between them. The division of assets and debts is one of the most important parts of the legal separation or divorce process. It can also be one of the most frustrating. Many couples have a difficult time reaching agreements about how to divide their property, but it is not an impossibility. When the property is fully settled and written into a separation agreement, the expense and emotional hardship of having to litigate those issues is removed.
A.R.S. Section 25-317 starts with this legislative directive:
To promote amicable settlement of disputes between parties to a marriage attendant on their separation or the dissolution of their marriage, the parties may enter into a written separation agreement containing provisions for disposition of any property owned by either of them…
Divorces can involve marriages of long duration with considerable marital assets, both personal property and real estate, family businesses, large or concealed debts, trust funds, joint and separate accounts, investments, insurance, pensions, and other assets. Even in complex situations, the parties may achieve a property settlement that is written into a separation agreement. The separation agreement then becomes part of the court’s final decree of dissolution.
Certain kinds of property seem to create greater controversy at divorce, even under the clear division rules of Arizona’s community property system. Two of those challenging property types are the family home and pensions. The primary residential property owned by the divorcing couple is often the marriage’s largest asset, and dealing with its division can be complicated, particularly when children are involved.
Pensions are often the second largest marital asset. When there are other income sources sufficient to compensate the non-pension holder, courts may leave vested pension rights in the spouse who earned it, but arrange for future distribution. Otherwise, a court in a divorce case may enter a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) requiring the administrator of the pension to make payments to both the worker and the former spouse.
If it becomes apparent that a property settlement is not forthcoming, then you should read through Arizona’s property distribution statutes to prepare yourself for litigation over those matters.