Other Family Issues

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Question: I WAS MARRIED IN AZ IN 2006 AND BECAME LEGALLY SEPARATED IN 2011. OUR FINANCES ARE SEPARATE AND WE ARE NOT ON EACH OTHERS CREDIT CARDS, CHECKING ACCOUNTS OR ANY OTHER LEGAL DOCUMENTS. IF HE PASSES AWAY AM I RESPONSIBLE FOR HALF THE DEBT HE INCURRED DURING THE FIRST 5 YEARS OF OUR MARRIAGE EVEN THOUGH HIS DEBT HAS NEVER BEEN IN MY NAME?

Answer: For assistance with the specific circumstances, consult with a licensed attorney.

After a couple files for divorce, the court will determine whether different items that the couple possesses qualify as separate or joint property.  Unless there is an agreement to the contrary, the court will assign sole property to the individual that has ownership.  The rest of the joint property will then be divided equitably between the couple.  

The state defines separate property in Arizona Revised Statute Title 25, Section 213:

25-213. Separate property
A. A spouse's real and personal property that is owned by that spouse before marriage and that is acquired by that spouse during the marriage by gift, devise or descent, and the increase, rents, issues and profits of that property, is the separate property of that spouse.
B. Property that is acquired by a spouse after service of a petition for dissolution of marriage, legal separation or annulment is also the separate property of that spouse if the petition results in a decree of dissolution of marriage, legal separation or annulment.
C. Notwithstanding subsection B of this section and section 25-214, subsection C, a mortgage or deed of trust executed by a spouse who acquires the real property encumbered by that mortgage or deed of trust after service of a petition for dissolution of marriage, legal separation or annulment shall be enforceable against the real property if the petition does not result in a decree of dissolution of marriage, legal separation or annulment.
D. A contribution to an irrevocable trust that has or will have as its principal asset life insurance on the person making the contribution is a contribution of the insured's separate property if the spouse of the insured is the primary beneficiary of the trust.

Arizona Revised Statute 25-215 outlines how liability is determined for property.

25-215. Liability of community property and separate property for community and separate debts
A. The separate property of a spouse shall not be liable for the separate debts or obligations of the other spouse, absent agreement of the property owner to the contrary.
B. The community property is liable for the premarital separate debts or other liabilities of a spouse, incurred after September 1, 1973 but only to the extent of the value of that spouse's contribution to the community property which would have been such spouse's separate property if single.
C. The community property is liable for a spouse's debts incurred outside of this state during the marriage which would have been community debts if incurred in this state.
D. Except as prohibited in section 25-214, either spouse may contract debts and otherwise act for the benefit of the community. In an action on such a debt or obligation the spouses shall be sued jointly and the debt or obligation shall be satisfied: first, from the community property, and second, from the separate property of the spouse contracting the debt or obligation.

For more information on how a court divides property, see A.R.S 25-318: http://www.azleg.state.az.us/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/25/00318.htm&Title=25&DocType=ARS

For the full text of Title 25: Marital and Domestic Relations, visit: http://www.azleg.state.az.us/arizonarevisedstatutes.asp?Title=25

QUESTIONS

  • I WAS MARRIED IN AZ IN 2006 AND BECAME LEGALLY SEPARATED IN 2011. OUR FINANCES ARE SEPARATE AND WE ARE NOT ON EACH OTHERS CREDIT CARDS, CHECKING ACCOUNTS OR ANY OTHER LEGAL DOCUMENTS. IF HE PASSES AWAY AM I RESPONSIBLE FOR HALF THE DEBT HE INCURRED DURING THE FIRST 5 YEARS OF OUR MARRIAGE EVEN THOUGH HIS DEBT HAS NEVER BEEN IN MY NAME?

STORIES

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  • State Bar of Arizona
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