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

  • I printed out a Pima County #2 divorce packet but i live in Yuma County. Can i use that packet to file for a divorce in Yuma?
  • What reasons must I have in order to get a divorce?
  • Can one file for an Annulment OR a Divorce at the same time? The concern is if Annulment is not granted, would one need to refile for divorce. Thank you
  • how much would it cost to get divorce papers?
  • I cannot seem to find the forms for a covenant marriage divorce.
  • Can I use legal aid even if my ex-wife used it for our divore 7 years ago?
  • Feb. 14,2014 Husband and I had a resolution meeting where he was suppose to rollover the per deim of his 401k plus 6k. it is on the paperwork to do so. It is now almost a year over and no surprise, he hasn't done a damn thing or how do I get him to or even know it is the correct amount? what if he has taken it all out by now? please help. I didn't say anything for I hoped he had done it and I just never got the paperwork, but I am pretty sure he didn't even attempt to. what can I do? sue him? hire my lawyer again? can I make him pay for my lawyer if I do have to get her involved again?
  • I was married a month ago to a man who I already have 3 kids by, can I get an annulment granted?..
  • how do i get divorce forms?
  • My husband and I have been married 30 years. In the divorce papers he filed I am to receive nothing. I want to fight for spousal maintenance. I only work part time and have for 20 years. I have osteo arthritis in my knees and it is difficult to for me to get around. What are my rights? Also, all the stress he has put me under made me have a minor heart attack a few months ago. What about medical. I know when the divorce is final it ends. I can't get it through my job. It's too expensive. What are my rights?

STORIES

  • I just helped my mother, age 89, deal with her Medicare HMO. . .
  • Age discrimination in the workplace. . .
  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .

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