What is community property?

In Arizona  the term “community property” refers to property acquired during the marriage as a result of the earnings of either the husband or the wife while they were residents of Arizona or another community property state. If the property acquired was the result of the husband’s earnings, the wife is nevertheless considered as owning one-half of the property. Of course, the same result would apply if the property were acquired as a result of the wife’s earnings. This “half and half” community property concept applies even if the husband or the wife deposited their paychecks in bank accounts registered solely in their own names. It would also apply if the husband or the wife purchased an automobile or parcel of real estate titled in their name alone.

This community property concept only applies to “earned” income. It does not apply to property that is acquired by the husband or the wife by gift or inheritance. Property acquired by gift or inheritance is considered the “separate” property. However, the spouse who receives the gift or inheritance can convert his or her separate property into community property at any time if they so choose. The Arizona statutory law on community property reads, in part, as follows:

25-211. Property acquired during marriage as community property; exceptions; effect of service of a petition

A. All property acquired by either husband or wife during the marriage is the community property of the husband and wife except for property that is:

1. Acquired by gift, devise or descent.

2. Acquired after service of a petition for dissolution of marriage, legal separation or annulment if the petition results in a decree of dissolution of marriage, legal separation or annulment.

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