AZ Community Debt May Leave You Responsible for Money You Didn’t Spend

Much like community property, any debts or financial obligations are divided up between the two individuals during a divorce in Arizona. Regardless of which spouse incurred the debts, the courts consider any debt racked up by either spouse during the course of the marriage "community debt." Dividing property and debt in the divorce can be very complicated and stressful. Although speaking personally with a qualified Arizona divorce lawyer is the best way to understand the intricacies of your divorce case, we'd like to share a little general information about community debt so you have an idea of what to expect.

What is community debt?

As stated above, community debt in Arizona is any financial obligation or debt incurred by either spouse during the marriage. This includes money owed for items only one spouse used, such as a computer used by one spouse for work or perhaps a fishing rod only the husband used. Any debts still owed that stacked up during the marriage belong to BOTH spouses, according to Arizona divorce law. However, under certain circumstances the court may assign the debt to only one party. During divorce proceedings, the debt will be equitably divided so that each spouse is responsible for roughly half.

What are the exceptions?

This is where it gets complicated. There are some exceptions to community debt:
  • Debt incurred before the marriage: These debts do not become community debt simply because you married. Instead, these debts generally remain the responsibility of the spouse who incurred them. An example would be old college loan payments from before you were married.
  • Excessive or abnormal expenditures: The courts may take large or unusual debts incurred by one party into account when dividing community debt.
  • Creditors can ignore the court's decision: Even though the court may have divided the debts between you and your spouse, your credit card company or other creditors have no legal obligation to follow this decision. For example, if the balance on a credit card was assigned to the husband and he fails to make payments, the credit card company can still pursue the wife and even take legal action against her.

Dividing property and debt is one of the most stressful and complicated parts of the Arizona divorce process. If you have questions about how community property laws affect you, contact an experienced Maricopa County divorce attorney today at 1-888-929-5292. We offer a legal consultation for no charge, and we also want you to have a free copy of our helpful book, Arizona Family Law - How to Handle Tough Issues in Tough Times.