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

  • If we own a house together, and i wanted to keep the house after thedivorce, is it possiable? I work from my home and i have paid the house payments for the past 6 years.
  • How can I make a legal separation a divorce, when I did not offer any response to the petitioners request? We worked the separation out together, so I didn't want to fight her!
  • Igot marry like 2years ago andhe just useme to Clem mykids he got 8000.00 eight thousand back we where to gather for 1 mouth can u. Help me feel free call me 6026722595 Erica thanks
  • My husband and I have been married for 19 years. Common Law for 4 years and 14 years Legally Married (State of NM). We have been separated for 3 months, if I decided to divorce my husband my reason is "Adultery". We have a State Marriage Licence and we married in Navajo Nation Court. Do I file with the State of New Mexico or Navajo Nation. We have 2 children therefore child support will be filed. And can I charge my husband and his companion with "Adultery"?
  • What happends next when my spouse responds to the divorce?
  • My spouse and I separated in 2015, and shortly thereafter he moved to CA, but without any job, address, or income of any kind. Everyone in his life seems to have lost track of him, as he has a pervasive drug abuse and addiction history, no address or consistent place of residence. How do I manage to serve him with a petition for divorce??? I have waited 4 years, trying to locate him, but as I am now looking to remarry, is there any other way to move forward with a divorce?
  • Ex has not paid credit card debt, child support, or ,child medical Bill's per decree. He moved out of state and is refusing to provide current contact information. How can I get decree enforced without knowing current address and how long do I have to enforce.
  • I am wanting to divorce my husband who is currently incarcerated. His parental rights were severed by the courts and I have full custody of our only son. How does this change what documents I need to be filed and how he is able to respond ?
  • My Divorce Decree was supposed to be filed on August 16th 2013 and I don't see the electronic online file minutes. Where can I find out if they were filed properly and ontime?
  • I have a spousal maintenance order that stops when I have attained federal eligibility age of retirement. What does this mean?

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. . .
  • If you get a divorce, make sure your date of birth is on the Decree if your name is changing!. . .

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