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

  • My husband filed for divorce. My question is since the house is in his "mother's" name, which is what I am being told, when the divorce is final can they just kick me out? I have paid the utilities and upkeep for 4 years now. My husband lives on one side of house and I on the other side right now.
  • I have filed for divorce. I did this on January 28, 2008. I cannot afford an attorney so I am having to do this on my own. I also filed a petition for temporary orders. The hearing is on the 22nd of February. I did not understand the instructions to serve my husband. I took the papers to the sheriff's office on February 4. What happens if my husband doesn't get served on time? I just mailed the order to appear yesterday, 2-13.
  • My husband was recently arrested for sexually abusing my daughters. He is currently in jail awaiting trial for 3 class 6 felony charges. Of course I want a divorce, but I want to make sure that I proceed in a way that will most benefit my five children. I want to protect them from their father (get sole custody), and I want to do what will help us most financially. So is it best to file divorce papers immediately or to wait until he is convicted? If he is convicted does all of his property revert to me if we are still married? I am thinking long term, I know that I won't be receiving any child support so if the property doesn't revert to me on his conviction, is it likely that courts will give me all the community property in lieu of child support? Thank you.
  • I want to get a divorce.  I married my wife several years ago.  After we were married, I found out that our marriage ceremony occurred before my wife had legally divorced her previous husband.  Is my  marriage to my wife legal?  Do I need a divorce or annulment?
  • I have filed all of my paperwork and was advised to call the default line in 10 business days, yet I do not have a number for that. What do I do?
  • I filed for divorce 6yrs ago paid all that money and they say i am still married. My Husband has moved back to morrocco and i dont know how to find him. havent seen him in 6yrs how do i get a divorce from him if i cant find him?
  • I am recently divorced, and I got the house. He has personal stuff still here and I cannot get him to get it out of here. There is a lot of stuff and most too heavy for me to move. I've asked him several times to move it, even sent him letters that he had to sign for. Now he won't even answer his phone so I can pin him down on a date when he can have it done. It's his way of still trying to control my life and all I want is out and away from him. What options do I have to enforce this? It's been three months since the divorce and there was nothing on the decree that states a time limit .
  • Where can I find a court approved parenting class?
  • I have a questions, please help, thank you! 1.) we marriage on 2/14-2010 & my husband wanted to divorce because he already had a "new wife". Anyway, he said he need my social security number to file the divorce! I wondered is that required by the Law of Arizona?
  • My husband and I have a covenant marriage and now I wish to file for divorce. What extra paperwork is necessary for me to do that?

STORIES

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