image of divorced couple splitting property

How Does Community Property Get Split Up During a Divorce?

An Introduction to Community Property Division

Divorce can prove a remarkably traumatic and messy experience even when everything goes about as smoothly as you might realistically hope. The division of property that you and your spouse have shared for years, however, can seem especially tricky, often introducing fresh grievances or re-igniting old ones in the process. You may have additional problems dealing with Arizona’s adherence to the principle of community property division. Let’s examine this method of divvying up assets between divorcing spouses so you can gain a better understanding of how it works, what problems it might entail, and how to ensure the most satisfactory possible outcome.

Community Property vs. Equitable Distribution

Most U.S. states use a method known as equitable distribution to determine who gets what in a divorce case. In equitable distribution, the court has full power to distribute assets based on its interpretation of what’s fair to each party. Depending on such variables as which spouse earns the lion’s share of the household income, spends more time looking after the children, or both spouses’ potential earning power, the court may then award a spouse anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of the overall marital assets.

Nine states, including Arizona, currently break this trend by dividing marital assets according to community property rules. (In Alaska, however, community property is treated as an option, not a requirement.) This means that the marital assets are divided 50/50 regardless of the roles played by each spouse in the marriage. The court has far less power over the awarding of assets, although it does retain some say over what constitutes an equal split. Your share of the community property may include assets that you don’t especially want while depriving you of others that you genuinely prize.

Separate Property vs. Community Property: What Counts as Which?

Community property doesn’t place everything you and your spouse own into a single lump — instead, it applies specifically to items that you purchased during your marriage. Exceptions to this rule include property acquired separately as a gift or inheritance, as well as any property acquired following a petition for divorce that results in an actual divorce decree.

Certain assets are considered separate property, placing them outside the bounds of the divorce settlement. These include any real estate or other property you acquired before getting married, as well as any rent or other additional value generated by that property.

The First Step: Complete Disclosure and Initial Assessment

You and your spouse (with the aid of your respective attorneys) can iron out much of the confusion over your community property division before the matter ever goes before the court. First and foremost, both of you must disclose everything you own, from pets and jewelry to cash, cars, and homes. Attempting to shield any of your assets by excluding them from the community property inventory will only introduce costly, upsetting complications to your divorce. Once you and your spouse have listed every asset you can think of, you’ll need to figure an estimate of value to help the court decide what makes for an equitable division.

Business, Home, and Debt Division 

If you started your own business or purchased a business before your marriage, that business remains wholly yours as separate property. However, the court may decide to award your spouse a percentage of the business’s appreciation in value, or even an outright percentage of the business itself, if your spouse contributed to the business’s success either financially or through hard work.

A home purchased before marriage, with the deed in your name alone, remains your separate property, giving you the right to ask your spouse to vacate it. However, if you both hold joint title to the home and your spouse serves as your children’s primary caregiver, your spouse may actually be the one who continues to live on the property.

Community property includes debts as well as assets. Debts are typically considered the problem of both spouses equally, regardless of who incurred the debt or whether the debt was incurred before the marriage.

Don’t go it alone when pursuing a community property divorce. Contact our firm to speak to a skilled Arizona divorce attorney.

 

Improving Your Life After Divorce

Divorce presents challenges to all aspects of your life. Your home life has drastically changed as has your financial situation, and you may find that your mental and emotional health are also impacted. This is a busy time in your life when you may be moving, making time for court and meeting with your attorney, and finding time to parent. The stress of all the changes and decisions may be taking its toll on you. Finding ways to combat stress and take care of yourself should be at the top of your to-do list these days. One important thing you can do is exercise. Regular exercise can offer you these benefits:

  • Higher tolerance. The better you feel, the more able you are to handle the curve balls that divorce may throw at you. Keeping healthy can help you withstand the challenges your situation poses.
  • Sleep. People who routinely exercise sleep more soundly and more regularly. If sleep is something you’re finding elusive because of the heavy decisions and changes in your life, exercise may help you get more shut eye.
  • Overall health. Exercising reduces your risk of a laundry list of health problems and also helps you fight off cold and flu.
  • Social life. There is a connection between exercise and a healthy social life. Exercise can be a social activity and help you guild new connections and relationships.
  • Feel better about yourself. Physical activity helps you think more positively about yourself and it also gives you a boost because it improves your physical appearance.
  • Improved thought processes.  Getting your body moving gets your brain moving too. Exercise can be very meditative and give you a real break from the things in your life that are stressing you out.

When you need a law firm you can rely on for your divorce and family law case, the Sampair Group is ready to help you in Glendale, Mesa and Phoenix, Arizona.  Schedule an appointment today.

Inheritance and Divorce

When going through a divorce, a big concern for either party may be how it will affect inheritance you have received before and during the marriage. Generally, equitable distribution and community property distribution in divorce cases do not apply to property that a spouse has inherited from a third party during a marriage, as it is considered that spouse’s property alone. However, there are some things both parties should know about how divorce can affect inheritance distribution.

When analyzing the inheritance, the key questions are the size of inheritance, when it was received, how it has been used and the financial needs of the family (both parties and any children) at the time of the divorce. Each case depends on the individual facts and circumstances surrounding the inheritance.

A judge will consider what property a party owns separately, and what can be considered marital property. Marital property will be split equally, whereas separate property will not be split, but can still be shared in certain circumstances.

In deciding the difference of the property ownership, the judge considers how, when, why and under what circumstances the property was received. They will also look at how the property is being held currently (who’s name the property is under). Also considered in the case is what each spouse contributed to the property and how much they each use it. (Example: If the property is in the wife’s name, but the husband is the only one who uses it and maintains it, just as he would if he were a co-owner of the property.)

If inherited assets are held in joint names or used for the benefit of both parties and/or for the family, they will likely be considered joint assets when being divided by the court.

If assets were inherited shortly before the divorce proceedings began, they are less likely to be included in the matrimonial assets for division, depending on if there are other assets in the marriage sufficient enough to meet future needs of the couple or family.

One of the main considerations by a judge is the needs of the family, especially those of minor children. If the only way to meet those needs is by transferring inherited assets or assets deriving from them to the other party, the court will do so.

Inheritances and separate property are very big reasons for why couples should look into prenuptial agreements and always have an experienced Phoenix divorce lawyer on their side. There are many rules that apply to parties dividing property in the event of a divorce or separation case, especially when children are involved. Consult the advice of an experienced attorney at The Sampair Group today to discuss the circumstances of your case and what your legal options are.

5 Signs of Impending Divorce

1. You Think Of Life Without Your Spouse
During marital problems, one or both spouses may have thoughts of how much better life would/could be if they were divorced. If you are constantly thinking about divorce, it’s a sign that you feel stuck and don’t see any solution to your marital problems.

2. Disconnection
If you’re no longer spending time together and you feel relief when your spouse isn’t around, it’s a sign that you have disconnected from each other and are both already disengaged from the marriage.

3. No Conflict Resolution
A lack of effective conflict resolution can be detrimental to a marriage. Not being able to resolve differences without avoiding disagreement and conflict can lead to a loss of respect, which can increase distance and cause withdrawal between spouses.

4. Disaffection
Emotional disengagement is usually accompanied with a lack of affection or complete disappearance of it. If you have separated from each other emotionally, it’s likely that you don’t feel much love for each other.

5. Increased Focus Outside of the Marriage
Once a marriage gets disconnected enough, each spouse will start focusing less on the marriage and more on outside activities. This could include immersing themselves in the lives of their children, working late nights at their career or pouring themselves into future careers.

Going through a divorce is a confusing and stressful time. Contact an experienced Phoenix divorce attorney at The Sampair Group for more information.

How to Keep Your Inheritance in a Divorce

If you’re facing a divorce, you may not realize that you may not automatically be entitled to keep things you personally inherited. Property obtained, earned, or received during marriage is considered community property. There is an exception for separate property and inherited items fall into that category, but only if they are not converted into community property. If you inherited money from your grandmother and put it in a joint bank account with your spouse, that property may have become community property when you put it in the account. If you inherited a vacation home from your aunt and you put your spouse on the deed or if your spouse assisted in upkeep, improvements, or helped pay a loan you took out against the property, it may have been converted to community property.

To protect your inheritance from divorce:

  • Have a prenuptial or post-marital (created after the wedding, but serving the same purpose as a prenup) agreement created that protects inherited property.
  • Keep proof. Wills, gift tax returns, and other documentation showing something was intended as a separate inheritance can help prove your case.
  • Keep assets as separate as possible during marriage so there is no commingling.
  • Create a living trust, placing your inherited assets into the trust, thus keeping them out of the marital pot. You can control and use the assets during your life, but they are passed on to your beneficiaries after your death and there is no question about ownership.
  • Keep titles and deeds in separate names after they are inherited to prevent claims by your spouse.
  • Discuss all inherited property with your attorney when you begin to discuss your divorce.

The Sampair Group provides confidential and compassionate assistance with your divorce or family law case. We serve clients in Glendale, Mesa, and Phoenix, Arizona.  Schedule an appointment today.

Social Media And Your Divorce

In today’s culture, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media and professional networking sites and applications have become a big part of how people interact with each other. Profiles are constantly being updated with shared information about our lives, jobs, etc. When a husband and wife going through a divorce are sharing this information on social networks without considering the potential consequences, it can be detrimental to the already existing stress that comes with the breakup of a marriage. The divorce process is full of stressors including legal, financial, and emotional battles between both parties, and the use of social media doesn’t make it any easier.

Be careful about who you trust on your social media profiles. Not every “friend” is a friend, and sometimes a message you thought to be private turns out to be public information that can be used against you. When posting on your social networking profiles, keep in mind the mutual friends of you and your former spouse. Some of these friends might be on your side, but some of them can easily turn on you or use information on your profile against you when taking the side of your ex, all because of something you may have posted on Facebook.

Information exchanged via technology such as emails or text messages can possibly be subpoenaed and picked through as admissible evidence in court. In many cases, one or both parties of the divorce process will claim to not have enough money for child support, spousal support, or other payments, but their Facebook profile picture of them with a new boat or on a fancy vacation may prove otherwise. The credibility of any parties that do this can be called into question immediately.

Take a few minutes to reflect on the nature of your social media posts. It would be wise to not post anything on these profiles that you wouldn’t say in person to the whole world. Information on the Internet doesn’t ever just go away immediately if it’s deleted. Exercise caution, discretion and good judgment when updating your profile. Don’t be malicious or talk poorly about your ex, as this information can quickly be used against you.

Have a discussion with your former partner to formulate a sort of social media agreement. Such issues should be addressed like what kind of information should not be posted by either of you, can you post pictures of your kids, etc. Establish one kind of communication between the two of you, such as email, to create a lower risk of impulsive comments on various types of networks. One tweet or wall post can quickly generate irreversible damage and lead to much more conflict in a divorce proceeding than you expected. Many family law attorneys will also recommend to clients that it would be in the best interest of all involved in the divorce to shut down social media profiles at the start of the divorce process.

Divorce is hard enough, and a frequent online presence can cause big problems. It is important to discuss your online presence with a legal professional. Phoenix divorce lawyers at The Sampair Group will help you understand which information is worth protecting as you battle the issues in a divorce process. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.

The Benefits of a Prenuptial Agreement

When you get married, the last thing you want to think about during this happy time of your new life is the “what if’s” of if the marriage doesn’t work out. But for many couples, a prenuptial agreement can be a wise decision to make. If you and your significant other decide to formulate a prenup before tying the knot, it is important that you each seek legal advice. The family law and divorce attorneys at The Sampair Group know the benefits of a prenuptial agreement and will guide you through the process to make sure that your agreement is consistent with state laws and is fair to both parties. There are many benefits to a prenup agreement, and it can often be a win-win for everyone involved if the marriage were to not work out.

Preserves Property and Assets
Through a prenuptial agreement you can preserve property and assets that you attained prior to the marriage. This could also include the obligation to support children from a prior marriage, and for many other reasons.

Certainty
A prenuptial agreement lays out all of the arrangements and understandings that the spouses can agree upon before marriage. This formal agreement helps both parties know what to expect so they won’t have to worry about what will happen in terms of assets, finances, etc. in the event of death or divorce.

Protecting Debt
A prenuptial agreement can protect the assets of one spouse from being used to satisfy the debts of the other party that they may have built up prior to the marriage.

Minimize Divorce Drama and Costs
When you sign a prenuptial agreement, it leaves less room to fight about assets and other aspects of the divorce. It has all already been set out by you beforehand and agreed upon between your spouse and yourself, resulting in less stress if anything happens to the marriage. Divorce can be costly, and a prenup can also help minimize the monetary damage.

Family Members
Family members of each spouse can also be protected through a prenuptial agreement. It will ensure that family members receive (or don’t receive) marital property in the case of death or divorce. This is commonly used to protect the interests of children from a previous marriage.

Protect Family Business, Heirlooms
When there are children from a previous marriage, keeping family heirlooms out of the marital estate can be important. A prenuptial agreement can ensure that they are kept out of the marriage and provided to the person(s) they are intended for. A prenup can also keep control of property that belongs to a family business.

Divorce paperwork and agreements can be difficult and messy, so it is important to seek legal guidance when deciding if one is right for you and your spouse. Contact the divorce attorneys at The Sampair Group today for more information.

How to Afford Divorce

You’ve agreed your marriage isn’t working and that your conflicts are not healthy for your kids to witness. You’ve agreed how to pay for your legal fees. But you can’t get around one big sticking point. How are you going to afford to live separately after your divorce?

When you are married you have X amount of dollars coming into your home and a set amount of expenses. When you divorce and physically separate there is still only X amount of dollars coming to the two of you yet suddenly you have two sets of household expenses to cover. It can be a stunning and sobering realization and may seem like a nearly impossible situation. Here’s how to make those dollars stretch to cover two homes.

  • Consider downsizing all around. If one of you stays in the marital home and one of you gets another apartment or home, your expenses may be more than your budget can handle. If you both move to smaller or less expensive places, your dollars will go further.
  • Share expenses. Roommates, friends, or family can all help you by contributing to your household budget or providing rent-free places to stay.
  • Increase your income. An obvious, but not always easy solution, is to increase the amount of money being earned. If one parent has been at home with children, becoming employed can make two homes possible. A raise, second job, or side income can also be helpful.
  • Reduce your expenses. This may be a good time to refinance the mortgage on the family home, reduce your cable subscription, buy a less expensive car, etc.
  • Be creative. You might be able to remain in the same house, sharing the same costs with some creative remodeling or rearranging. You might rent the marital home out and both live elsewhere, making a profit on it.

 

The Sampair Group has the advice you need to help you get through your divorce in Maricopa County. Call us today so that we can begin helping you.

 

 

Eight Conversations That Are Essential After Divorce

Once the ink on your divorce decree has dried and you have given yourself the time needed to move past the pain of divorce, it might be time to start dating again. For many the idea of getting back “out there” after divorce is scary, because the fear of history repeating itself is great. No doubt going through a divorce takes a toll; physically, emotionally, and financially. And, in most cases the entire family is impacted by the news that divorce is imminent. In order to take positive steps after divorce, it is important to look at your marriage and divorce process, and see where change can be made.

A big part in identifying areas of opportunity for growth lies in being honest with yourself about your expectations. If you have begun dating again, sharing these thoughts with a new romantic partner is essential. Eight conversations you should have after divorce, if you want to avoid going down that road again in the future, include:

  • Be honest about your shortcomings, so you can hold yourself accountable for your actions; past, present, and future.
  • Be honest about your ex’s shortcomings, which includes being able to articulate good points about your former spouse. If you are able to find good in your ex, you will be better equipped to find good in yourself as well as a new mate, despite any flaws.
  • Talk about how to handle disagreements, and commit yourself to being open and honest, while remaining fair.
  • Have a clear picture of your financial goals, and make sure any new love interest shares those goals. It has been said money is the number one cause of divorce, and tackling this sensitive topic early on can save you a lot of heartache down the road.
  • If you have children, make plans to include them in your new life with your new partner. If your new partner has kids, make sure those children are also included. Blending families can be tricky, but does not have to be impossible.
  • If you are blending a family, get on the same page about discipline and other important parenting issues.
  • Stand up for yourself when necessary.
  • Talk about the type of future you want, and come up with a plan to reach your goals together.

If you have been through a divorce and are considering remarrying, or have just begun a new relationship, it is important that history not repeat itself. However, life does have a way of being unpredictable, even when best efforts are given. If you are considering divorce for the first, or a subsequent time, call us for help.

For more information about divorce, contact us for an appointment today. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call The Sampair Group in Phoenix and the West Valley today to schedule your initial visit.

 

Divorce and Life Insurance

Life insurance is one item that is often scrutinized after a divorce as a way to save money. Many people took out life insurance policies in order to provide for their spouse, should something happen to them. No spouse, no need for life insurance, right? Not necessarily.

First you need to talk with your attorney to determine if life insurance is or will be a requirement of our divorce decree. Sometimes life insurance is required as part of child support or spousal maintenance, to provide further support and protection. If you have a current policy you may be able to adjust the beneficiary to fulfill this need. You will need to know the face value of the policy and consider how much your premiums are per year.

Many life insurance policies are more than just insurance. It is common for policies to also function as an investment vehicle, growing in value. Talk with a local agent to get details on how your policy functions and whether it has this feature. It may make sense to continue the policy as part of your investment plan.

Many life insurance policies also have a cash value. Before you cash it in though, consider the face value of the policy, which is likely much greater than the cash value. The policy could be used to benefit your child, a future new spouse, or other family members.

Don’t forget that the original purpose of life insurance policies was to cover funeral and burial costs. This may be something you want to have a policy in place for so that family members are not burdened should something happen to you. If you do choose to keep a policy in place, be sure to change the beneficiary to the person of your choice so it is current.

When you have questions about life insurance and other assets in your divorce, the Sampair Group offers experienced advice in the Glendale, Mesa, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale and Phoenix areas of Arizona. Call us now to make an appointment.