Divorce & Annulment Article


Family Law on the Navajo Nation: How is Property Divided in a Divorce?

Divorce on the Navajo Nation:  How is Property and Debt Divided in a Divorce

 

What is community property?

Community Property is property that was acquired by either spouse during the marriage.  It doesn’t matter whose name the property is in; if it was acquired after the marriage began, it’s community property.  But it does not include property a spouse acquired through inheritance or gift, so long as the inheritance or gift has been kept separate (as in a separate bank account).  Examples of community property are bank accounts, retirement benefits, ceremonial items, grazing permits, livestock houses, vehicles, etc.

 

What is separate property?

Separate property is property that a spouse owned or claimed before the marriage began.  It can also be property that a spouse acquires through inheritance or gift during the marriage which is kept separate.  In addition, all property accumulated or earned by the wife and the minor children in her custody while she lives separately from her husband is considered her separate property.

 

What about debt?

Debts that were incurred during the marriage are considered “community debts.”  These could be such things as credit card debts, loans, bills, etc.  It is important to remember that these debts are part of the property division in a divorce.  It doesn’t matter whose name the debts are in; if they were incurred after the marriage began, they are a community debt.

 

How does the court divide up the debts and property in the divorce?

The court first looks to see whether the property/debts are community property/debts or separate property/debts.  Then, a court will decide how to divide up the community property and debts.  The Navajo Nation Code requires a court to provide a “fair and just settlement of property rights between the parties.”  This “fair and just” standard may, but does not necessarily mean, that property is divided equally.  The court must look at all of the facts in a case and consider a number of factors:

 

-          Reasonable current market value of each major piece of community property/debt

-          Length of the marriage

-          Economic circumstances of each spouse (age, health, work/social position, amount/sources of income, vocational skills or need for re-training, employability, opportunities to acquire assets and income in the future)

-          Each spouse’s separate property and its value

-          Needs of the parties

-          Liabilities (debts) of the parties

-          Contribution of a spouse as a homemaker or the contribution of each spouse to the family

-          Who will have custody of the children, and the needs of the children

-          Efforts of each spouse in contributing to the family unit and in obtaining or wasting community property

-          Considerations of traditional and customary Navajo law

-          All other relevant facts.

 

What proof do we need to have to divide up property/debts in a divorce?

The key is that the court must know the value of the property and debts in order to make a fair and just settlement.  It is best if you have receipts and proof of the value of the property, and copies of statements about the debts.  You need to be able to present the information to the court in an organized way.  When you meet with an attorney or Tribal Court Advocate to discuss how to get a divorce, bring with you important documents relating to property and debts.  Getting a copy of your credit report is smart, because it will list all of the debts with current amounts owed.

 

What if we can agree on how to divide up the property/debts?

If you and your spouse agree on how to divide the property and debts in a fair way, you can submit a “stipulation” to the court—a written agreement signed by both of you.


Comments:

QUESTIONS

  • Can my exwife ask for any assets or property (ei. furniture, vehicle) after our divorce was final a year ago? She took guns, TVs, and jewelry before divorce was final and wanted nothing else.
  • I became disabled during our marriage.After that time,she was able to get a good paying job with benefits incl, profit sharing,retirement,etc.I have become dependent on her income to pay for bills incl. basics.Am I entitled to spousal maintenance?
  • I WANT TO GET A DIVORCE BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN STATIONED IN OKINAWA JAPAN WITHOUT HER FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS AND SHE PLAYS ALL THESE STUPID GAMES AND I HAVE COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT WE ARE TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT TYPES OF PEOPLE AND I CANNOT CONTINUE SERVING IN OUR MARINE CORPS WITH THIS PROBLEM. WOULD YOU PLEASE SEND ME SOME INFO THAT WOULD BENEFIT MY SITUATION.
  • Can I get an anulment instead of a divorce?
  • I brought my company into the marriage. It grew while we were married. Is it considered community property. She did not work for the company
  • Where can I find a divorce packet for a covenant marriage?
  • I have been seperated from my husband for 2 years, he lives in Mexico we have 2 children, I am aware that he cannot offer anything for my children, I just want the divorce, How can this work out being that we married in Nevada and resided there throughout our marriage, I have been living in Az since he was deported 2 years ago, What procedures do I need to follow since he lives in Mexico?
  • my spouse is filing for divorce and we have decided on the things that we agree on. however, I can't afford an attorney. Is it possible to get an attorney to review the agreement for me and how much would that cost?
  • My spouse and i both have a retirement plan thru our employer. We are 38 and 40 years old and getting divorced. Since we both have our own retirement plan, do we each get 1/2 of the others during a divorce? this seems silly? How does the court view this scenario? If only one spouse had a retirement plan i could see the division of it but it seems if both parties have a retirement plan, you would just keep your own?
  • I am a resident of AZ. My wife and I were married in AZ. My wife is a resident of Minnesota and has filed for divorce there. The laws of which state govern in the divorce settlement?

STORIES

  • If you get a divorce, make sure your date of birth is on the Decree if your name is changing!. . .
  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .
  • I just helped my mother, age 89, deal with her Medicare HMO. . .

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