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 has said that he filed for divorce but I don't want it. Is there some way that it could go through even if I don't agree to it or if I don't sign the divorce papers.
  • My wife and I are currently separated, and I am residing in Pennsylvania at the current time. I was able to attend only the first half of the parenting class before I moved out of state. Is it necessary to complete the course if I am no longer residing in Arizona? If so, is it offered as a "correspondence course"?
  • I am trying to find the dissolution of marriage papers for cochise county, I've looked on the website for Self-Service Center and only see them for every county other than Cochise. Please Help!
  • MY X OR HUBBY DONT KNOW WHICH CAUSE HE WONT TELL ME IF HE DIVORCED ME 16 YRS AGO AND I DONT KNOW WHERE HE WAS LIVING TO FIND OUT. HE FIRST SAID WE WERE DIVORCED THEN HE SAID WE ARE NOT.
  • How can we separate finances during our sepatation? I want to buy a house of my own with out obligating him or puting myself at risk of it being considered community property. He has moved out and our home is up for sale.
  • MY HUSBAND AND I ARE NOT LEGALLY SEPARATED YET BUT I WANT TO DO A QUIT DEED AND GIVE THE HOUSE TO HIM. I CANT AFFORD TO KEEP IT ON MY OWN HOWEVER HE CAN.HOW DO I GO ABOUT DOING THIS
  • In my divorce the Judge issued a Final Ruling months ago, but it seems there is no way to get a Final Decree. My ex keeps requesting delays claiming medical issues, but has provided no proof to the court of any medical issues. In the meantime I keep paying more and more temporary spousal maintenance and attorney fees. The Judge keeps approving my exs requests for more time. My attorney has filed a Final Decree with the Judge. How long can the Judge take to sign a Final Decree (months or years)? What else could my attorny do to push along my case? No one but me wants the divorce to be done
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • I got married in the state of Philadelphia, PA in 2004 and I have been separated since the year of 2012. I moved to the state of AZ in May of 2014 and I want to know if I can get a divorce here in the state of AZ.

STORIES

  • Age discrimination in the workplace. . .
  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .
  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .

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