Arizona is what’s known as a “community-property state.”
What does that mean? And why should you care, as you face the prospect of divorce?
Technically, it means that “each spouse has an undivided one-half interest in all income earned and property acquired during the marriage, unless acquired by inheritance or gift.”
Yeah, but what does that mean? And why should you care?
This gets back to the title of this article: “But the bank account is in his name!” I hear this from divorcing women all the time, who feel not only powerless, but penniless.
Good news: The mere title of the account means nothing in the eyes of Arizona divorce law.
His name might be atop the bank account. But if you were married, it’s community property. Half of that is yours. Regardless of the “title” or “account owner.”
So take a deep breath. You can get through this.
It cuts both ways
Just as those assets are community property, there’s also community debt.
I’ve seen this all too often. Right before the separation, the guy goes out and buys that truck he’s always wanted. Guess what? The woman is now liable for half of that debt.
So how on earth do you avoid this?
If you get nothing else out of this article, know this: If you’re physically separating, you may want to file for legal separation, ASAP, if you have any concerns that your spouse will either take on debt or spend assets that you don’t approve of. Hire a qualified attorney and get the advice you need in this area. By filing, you’ve drawn a line in the sand. You’ve fixed a date of separation, in the eyes of the law. That’s huge.
So if he decides to take a lavish vacation, or remodel his man-cave, after that point, it’s using his share of the money. Let him.
If you were paying attention (and I know you were) to the beginning of this article, you noted the exceptions for inheritances and gifts. If Uncle Seymour leaves you $50k while you’re married, that’s yours. It’s not community property.
But what if, while married, you use that money for the down-payment on a house? And then the two of you make mortgage payments together? That’s known as “commingling” of the “community” and “separate” assets, and it takes some professional untangling, which I can do (after all, I’m a CPA, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional) during divorce.
There are issues of trust, and the law, here, but generally they’re outliers. For example, if the husband has been using community-property money to, say, pay the rent on a mistress’ apartment, that’s known as “community waste,” and not “community debt.” Similarly, if he fails to disclose, on his AFI (the Affidavit of Financial Information) something like that recent truck purchase, he’s breaking the law. Your attorney will help you with the legal side; count on me to help you with the financial side.
One last point: I see too many women who start taking action, when facing divorce, based on the advice and/or experience of a friend or family member, and while well-intentioned, it can be completely wrong.
Why? Because all too often, that well-intentioned friend or family member lives in one of the states that unlike Arizona, isn’t a community-property state.
How many might that be?
Try “41.” Yikes.
Don’t face these financial challenges alone. Put a pro like me on your side. Contact me today for a friendly initial consultation.