How Do I Keep Sole and Separate Property Separate in a Community Property State?

As we hear so frequently in the news and media the nations divorce rate is 50% of all marriages will fail and (while percentages vary slightly depending on the source) 90-67% of second marriages fail and 70-73% of third marriages fail. U.S. Divorce Rates and Statistics at www.divorcesource.com

Adding to the problem is the demographic trend of an increasing number of older ("grey-haired") couples choosing to divorce after long term marriages (20, 30 and even 40 years of marriage).

www.nytimes.com/2004/08/08/style/the-37-year-itch.html

The high divorce rate and the national trend of grey divorces are also being seen in Arizona, causing many people to ask - how do I keep my sole and separate property separate in a community property state?

To start, what does it mean when you live in a community property state? In general, anything earned or obtained during the marriage belongs one-half to the spouse that earned or obtained the income or asset and one-half belongs to the other spouse.

There are exceptions to this general rule. The first exception is anything that you owned prior to marriage is considered to be your sole and separate property. Whether that asset remains your sole and separate property depends on how you handle the asset or money during your marriage.

The second exception to the general community property rule is anything acquired by either spouse during the marriage by "gift, devise or descent" is considered to be the sole and separate property of the receiving spouse. Gift is pretty self-explanatory. Devise or descent means that someone left you real estate or personal property in his/her will or trust. In short, an inheritance. So, if someone makes a gift to you or you inherit an asset or money, those items are considered to be your sole and separate property. Whether the asset or money remains your sole and separate property depends again on how you handle the asset or money during your marriage.

Follow along this month as we do a four part blog series on what steps you can take to protect your assets if you are getting married for the first time or even if you are getting married for a second or additional time.

Owens & Perkins offers free 30-Minute Phone Consultations. If you would like to schedule a complimentary consultation, please call the office at (480) 630-2464.

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