Category: Family Law

With rumors rampant about possible divorce of high profile players in the sports and glamor world, and in society in general, the question comes up:   How are assets divided in divorce, particularly amount those with a lot of assets?

As an Arizona State Bar Certified Specialist in family law matters in Arizona, I have assisted many couples in dividing assets in their divorce.   While some of these couples were high-profile, many were just regular people going through what was probably the worst time in their lives.

The rules in Arizona for dividing assets are the same, whether you are high profile or an ordinary citizen, though perhaps the numbers may be bigger in high profile cases.

Arizona is a community property state.  With that, the general rules include that anything owned prior to the marriage will remain the sole and separate property of the party bringing such asset into the marriage.  Generally, income earned, or assets acquired during the marriage are considered to be owned by the marital community, and therefore divided equally in most divorce cases.

There is an exception for items inherited or received by gift during the marriage, as these tend to be the sole and separate property of the recipient.

Similarly, money received from a personal injury settlement are primarily the sole and separate property of the person injured, though in some cases a small part of the settlement (for lost wages or property damage) could belong to the marital community.

All of the above, needs to also be filtered through any prenuptial agreements that may have been signed.  If there is a valid prenuptial agreement in place, the parties have contractually determined ahead of time how things would be divided in a divorce.  The Court will generally adhere to the parties’ contractual arrangement, rather than applying Arizona law.  However, if done improperly, the prenuptial agreement may be thrown out, and Arizona law would apply.

Houses and businesses, although owned by a party prior to the marriage, may be subject to equitable liens.  For example, the pay down of the mortgage during the marriage, or the enhanced value of the business or real estate by additions remodeling may give the non-owner spouse a claim to some of the equity or enhanced value.

Every case is different and unique, and you should address your specific circumstances with an attorney.

I have written a book on Arizona Prenuptial Agreements, and another book on Arizona Divorces.  If you would like more information on either subject, please contact the firm and we can get you either or both free of charge.

Whether you are considering getting married and need to consider a prenuptial agreement, or if you are going through a divorce and want to speak with an experienced attorney about how to equitably and fairly divide assets, please call 480 733-6800 and ask to speak with Douglas C. Gardner, or visit our website at: