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.


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QUESTIONS

  • What are Conciliation Services?
  • My husband and I were married in 2000. We separated in 2001 and have no lived together or been in a relationship ever since. He was deported to Mexico. How can I file? He agreed to sign and get papers notarized in Mexico immediately. Would they be valid in Arizona?
  • How do I get married?
  • If one person wants a divorce and the other does not, can that person contest the divorce?
  • If I move out of the house (after 50 years of marriage) this will not be considered 'abandonment' or 'possession is 9/10th of the law' as my husband tells me will it once I file for divorce?
  • My ex-husband will not follow the divorce decree order that were signed by a judge. How can I enforce the judges order? What form do I use?
  • I have recently moved back to arizona,my husband resides in illinois and has filed for divorce. I was told i can't file any papers here to respond to what i was served, and i have no idea what to do or what is going on. Can someone please help me
  • How do I divorce my husband when I don't know where he is haven't known for 11 years! I've 2 kids by him, I've been with a new man for the past 10 years i have a child with him do i have to include this child on the divorce papers?
  • Our divorce was granted 09/26/06. As part of the agreement, I was supposed to pay my husband $35,000 to buy him out of a rental house we co-own with my parents. He refuses to take the money and I am at a loss as to what to do. He now says he wants the house, but has done nothing to procure financing to buy out me and my parents. Do I go to court and petition them to enforce the court order or do I sue him for non-compliance? The property agreement was "not-merged" and I have been advised to sue. How do I do that?
  • how do I qualify for an anulment

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