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How divorce laws around the country differ

Divorces in Arizona and around the country are regulated by state rather than federal laws, and matters such as property division and spousal support can be treated very differently depending on where a couple lives. Most states divide marital property under the doctrine of equitable distribution, which is derived from English common law, but Arizona is one of nine states with community property laws, which are based on Spanish law.

The division of marital assets in an equitable distribution state must be fair, but it need not be equal. Community property laws require these assets to be divided equally even if the marriage has only lasted for a short time. States also have different laws that define what is and what is not marital property, but most of these laws treat assets acquired during a marriage as marital property and assets owned prior to a marriage as separate.

While several states have passed laws that either eliminate alimony entirely or place strict limits on how long these payments should be made for, family law judges in Arizona may still order it. However, factors such as the length of the marriage and the earning capacities of the spouses involved are taken into consideration when these decisions are made.

Community property division laws may be straightforward, but they do not always result in an outcome that both spouses feel is fair. Family law attorneys may recommend postnuptial agreements to couples who would like to establish their own property division and spousal maintenance guidelines should they decide to divorce. Attorneys may also explain that these documents could be unenforceable if the spouses involved failed to disclose all of their assets or the agreements were signed under duress or coercion.

Source: Maricopa County Superior Court, "Spousal Maintenance", accessed on May 24, 2016

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