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Tying the knot is a dream for many wooing couples. You already know your partner well enough to want to pop the question to them. But how much do you know about the marriage laws that commit you to one another in a legally binding contract?

Valentine’s Day is a special, romantic time of year for couples and it’s also one of the most popular times of the year for getting engaged.  It is difficult not to get caught up in the excitement and mood. However, marriage is a big step, and there are lots of important things about marriage law in Arizona that both partners should fully understand before they get hitched.

Engagement in Arizona

Engagement is a natural time to figure out the details of getting married and what marriage means.  The engagement ring has some unique considerations in Arizona.  The state of Arizona has long held that the engagement ring is a conditional gift under the no fault statutes. This simply means that the engagement ring must be given back to the purchaser if the engagement is broken off and the marriage never occurs.  In Arizona, it does not matter who broke off the engagement, the purchaser is still entitled to the ring if the marriage never occurs. So if you plan on spending a large amount of money on that ring, know that if the engagement does not work out at least you can get the ring back.

Marital Property in Arizona

Arizona is a community property state, which means that all assets acquired during the marriage are owned equally by both partners. Many states in the US follow an equitable distribution model that allows assets to be divided based on fairness, so it is important to understand how community property differs.  Arizona Revised Statutes 25-211 states;

“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.”

This means that divorce in Arizona will typically result in a 50/50 split of all assets and property acquired during the marriage. What’s more, it also generally means that Arizona is a shared debt state, meaning that any debt you accrue from the date of your marriage until a petition to end the marriage is generally considered shared debt that is equally apportioned between the former spouses in divorces.

Arizona Uniform Premarital Agreement Act

The state of Arizona does allow for premarital (or prenuptial) agreements between spouses.  Even if you are deeply in love and committed to the relationship, there are many reasons to consider a premarital agreement.  Any couple with valuable assets, property, or businesses should discuss proactive planning prior to marriage. This is especially important if one party owns a business that requires continued and uninterrupted operation, even in the event of a disability or a divorce.  Couples with children from a previous marriage should also consider a premarital agreement that prepares for any and all contingencies.

According to the Arizona Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, a premarital agreement needs to meet a few requirements to be valid.  The agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties voluntarily. Absent an express waiver of disclosure, each party must also provide a fair and accurate disclosure of all assets, property, and debts to the other party or otherwise ensure that the future spouse has adequate knowledge of the party’s assets.  The agreement becomes effective upon the couple’s marriage.

Get Excited!

There’s no reason not to go out and enjoy Valentine’s Day this year, especially if you plan on popping the big question. But knowing in advance what that question truly means in the eyes of an impartial court is important in how you prepare for this next phase of your romantic life.

Find an Experienced Arizona Law Firm

The attorneys at MacQueen & Gottlieb can consult with individuals and couples to discuss all the necessary elements of proper planning for a marriage in Arizona.  Our firm will help you understand marital law and the Arizona community property statutes.  Our attorneys can prepare any required documents for a premarital agreement.  Contact us today at 602-533-2840 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.

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