Divorce & Annulment Article


Family Law on the Navajo Nation: How is Property Divided in a Divorce?

Divorce on the Navajo Nation:  How is Property and Debt Divided in a Divorce

 

What is community property?

Community Property is property that was acquired by either spouse during the marriage.  It doesn’t matter whose name the property is in; if it was acquired after the marriage began, it’s community property.  But it does not include property a spouse acquired through inheritance or gift, so long as the inheritance or gift has been kept separate (as in a separate bank account).  Examples of community property are bank accounts, retirement benefits, ceremonial items, grazing permits, livestock houses, vehicles, etc.

 

What is separate property?

Separate property is property that a spouse owned or claimed before the marriage began.  It can also be property that a spouse acquires through inheritance or gift during the marriage which is kept separate.  In addition, all property accumulated or earned by the wife and the minor children in her custody while she lives separately from her husband is considered her separate property.

 

What about debt?

Debts that were incurred during the marriage are considered “community debts.”  These could be such things as credit card debts, loans, bills, etc.  It is important to remember that these debts are part of the property division in a divorce.  It doesn’t matter whose name the debts are in; if they were incurred after the marriage began, they are a community debt.

 

How does the court divide up the debts and property in the divorce?

The court first looks to see whether the property/debts are community property/debts or separate property/debts.  Then, a court will decide how to divide up the community property and debts.  The Navajo Nation Code requires a court to provide a “fair and just settlement of property rights between the parties.”  This “fair and just” standard may, but does not necessarily mean, that property is divided equally.  The court must look at all of the facts in a case and consider a number of factors:

 

-          Reasonable current market value of each major piece of community property/debt

-          Length of the marriage

-          Economic circumstances of each spouse (age, health, work/social position, amount/sources of income, vocational skills or need for re-training, employability, opportunities to acquire assets and income in the future)

-          Each spouse’s separate property and its value

-          Needs of the parties

-          Liabilities (debts) of the parties

-          Contribution of a spouse as a homemaker or the contribution of each spouse to the family

-          Who will have custody of the children, and the needs of the children

-          Efforts of each spouse in contributing to the family unit and in obtaining or wasting community property

-          Considerations of traditional and customary Navajo law

-          All other relevant facts.

 

What proof do we need to have to divide up property/debts in a divorce?

The key is that the court must know the value of the property and debts in order to make a fair and just settlement.  It is best if you have receipts and proof of the value of the property, and copies of statements about the debts.  You need to be able to present the information to the court in an organized way.  When you meet with an attorney or Tribal Court Advocate to discuss how to get a divorce, bring with you important documents relating to property and debts.  Getting a copy of your credit report is smart, because it will list all of the debts with current amounts owed.

 

What if we can agree on how to divide up the property/debts?

If you and your spouse agree on how to divide the property and debts in a fair way, you can submit a “stipulation” to the court—a written agreement signed by both of you.


Comments:

QUESTIONS

  • Our no fault divorce was just finalized. I learned that she was pregnant is pregnant with another mans child and told me days after the divorce was final. Do I have any recourse? She didn't want me to have joint custody and I have to pay alimony. Now, she's struggling with my 4 kids and I doubt the other guy she was having an affair with will marry her due to the alimony but I believe I would of filed grounds had I known.
  • My ex-wife has stopped paying on the car and credit cards agreed upon in the divorce decree. My name is still on those items and I am afraid it is going to effect my credit. What can I do?
  • How do I get the status of my divorce? My husband filed and said he took care of everything and I didn't need to do anything.
  • Is it possible to file for divorce without knowing the spouse's SSN? She did not have a SSN when we married and I don't have any paperwork with her SSN on it. We're not on speaking terms, but I do know her address.
  • Separated now for 7 months and had to move in with my brother's family in Utah because we had no money. Should I file for divorce in Utah or AZ? We filed & granted Bankruptcy last April. We have very left (furniture). I still help him out with bills occasionally & my name is still on utilities etc. in AZ
  • Can I remove my husband from my medical insurance I have for our family at work, before are divorce is final?
  • My husband left and took all furniture and appliances/electronics. Long story short, the only things he left me are all the household/child expenses. He left over a month ago and has not helped or contacted me. We own a home and there is a joint tenancy deed between my mom, me, and my husband. What is the difference between a joint tenancy deed and community property?
  • If I am married to an Illegal Alien, am I legally married and if he is in Mexico and not coming back, How do I divorce him?
  • Ex has not paid credit card debt, child support, or ,child medical Bill's per decree. He moved out of state and is refusing to provide current contact information. How can I get decree enforced without knowing current address and how long do I have to enforce.
  • My wife and I are separated and will file for divorce. She is refusing to let me see my girls who are 9 & 11. I am a good dad who does not do anything illegal, never committed domestic violence or other crime. Up to this point, I have raised and cared for my girls with the most love. It is killing me not to be able to see them. Can she keep them from me? What can be done until the divorce papers are filed? What are my rights?

STORIES

  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .
  • I just helped my mother, age 89, deal with her Medicare HMO. . .
  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .

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