We handle Property and Business Division in Arizona. Our Divorce Lawyers Represent Clients Throughout Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and the Greater Phoenix Metro area.
Sheldon & Stoutner has more than three decades of combined experience in family law. Our Phoenix family law attorneys have in-depth knowledge of state and federal requirements for the division of assets, businesses, retirement, personal property, real estate, furniture, and debt. Let us guide and zealously represent you through the process.
We assist with all types of division incident to divorce or legal separation, including the division of the following:
- Houses, Land, Vacation Properties or Timeshares
- Businesses or Business Interests Including Closely Held Businesses, Business Entities, and Professional Practices
- Retirement Savings, Pensions, IRAs, and 401(K)s
- Money Market Accounts, Stock Accounts and Other Financial Assets
- Unique Collections and Antiques
- Intellectual Property
- HSA Accounts
- Tangible Items like Furniture and Jewelry
- Credit Card Debt and Loans
- High Net Worth Estates
These matters can be delicate and complicated. Trust our skilled firm to help you navigate the laws and look out for your best interests.
Community Property vs. Sole & Separate Property
Generally speaking, Arizona is a community property state. This means that property and assets acquired during the marriage including retirement assets, such as IRAs, pensions, and 401(k)s, are divided equitably at the time of divorce or legal separation. Sole and separate property is property that is owned prior to the marriage or was acquired by inheritance or gift. This property is not divided at the time of divorce or legal separation. It is also possible for property to be co-mingled or “mixed.” In that case, a detailed and thorough review of the transactional history and associated evidence is necessary to determine whether the asset is all or partially community or separate property.
When a petition for dissolution or legal separation is filed and served, the “community” terminates at service under Arizona law and debts/assets accrued afterwards are sole and separate. After service, the next step is to gather information in order to address the nature of the property (community or separate), and how the property should be divided. This is done through disclosure and discovery methods such as interrogatories, requests for production, subpoenas and depositions.
Concealed assets can be difficult to find. Sheldon & Stoutner has handled numerous hidden asset cases. We work closely with experienced and knowledgeable forensic accountants. These skilled professionals help our attorneys trace and locate assets that may appear hidden to the untrained eye. The Scottsdale attorneys at Sheldon & Stoutner present to the Court the testimony and evidence necessary to find, identify, and divide this property.
Protect Your Business During a Divorce
As Arizona is a community property state, divorce can spell financial catastrophe for businesses and professional practices. Often, a business is the most valuable asset that needs to be divided.
If a spouse’s ownership interest in a business or professional practice was obtained during the marriage, then that spouse’s interest may be community in nature. This means, the other party may need to be compensated at the time of divorce or legal separation. Compensation may even be owed in cases where the business was owned or started prior to the marriage, but was developed and grew during the marriage due to a spouse’s effort and funds.
Significantly, the way the Court values a business for divorce or legal separation purposes is markedly different than business valuations for sale or bank loans. A business valuator who has a financial and accounting background, as well as experience in handling business valuation in family law cases, is employed as an expert. He or she may use multiple methodologies to determine the “fair market value” or “fair value” of the community’s interest in a business. The valuator will generate a report outlining the methodologies used by the valuator, and considering the tangible assets, intangible assets, income streams, and even goodwill of the business in his or her report. Judges have broad discretion when they rule on the value of a business based on an expert valuator’s testimony and evidence.
At Sheldon & Stoutner we understand and can effectively litigate complex business valuation cases in family court. We have experience with small and larger businesses, as well as those owned before marriage and those created during the marriage. Our firm works closely with financial experts and professionals to evaluate the true worth of the business and provide solutions that protect our clients’ interests. When divorcing spouses have significant business interests, Sheldon & Stoutner provides the sophisticated representation needed to protect our clients’ specific interests and ensure that the business is divided fairly.
Debt Division in Divorce
Debts incurred for the benefit of the couple during the marriage are usually considered community obligations. At the time of divorce or legal separation, community debts become the equal liabilities of both parties. This means, in Arizona, you may be ordered to be responsible for a debt that you did not know about or create. However, some exceptions may apply. Instances where both spouses may not be responsible include, but are not limited to: debts that were not incurred for a community purpose (waste), debts that were incurred for education (student loans), or debt associated with property being divided in the divorce.
Sheldon & Stoutner can explain to you the debt division options available to divorcing spouses, and how creditors view the responsibility to pay debts in a decree. Our Arizona attorneys are ready to find creative solutions for handling your debt or help in determining who is obligated to pay certain debts.