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

  • I pay spousal maitenance monthly to Support Payment Clearing House directy, in the form of a check. The divorce decree that is on record has a date listed as the final date or last payment to be payed through January 31, 2019. Do I need to fill any additional closure documents or just send the last payment when due? It is not withheld from my paycheck. I write the check. Not sure if I need to file anything or if they get it per the decree.
  • I was married in Maricopa county, can I file legal separation in navajo nation court?
  • I am getting a divorce. How long must I be in Arizona before I am considered a resident?
  • I am finalizing my divorce decree, and my previous lawyer added his fees to my decree with a date when payments needs to start. I am completely broke, lost my job and all my money. I won’t be able to pay his payments set up on the decree. Can file bankruptcy and get ridge of this debt?
  • 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.
  • I got married in another country in 2002. I have lived in Arizona about 5 years. Can I get a divorce here without my husband?
  • I WANT TO GET A DIVORCE BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN STATIONED IN OKINAWA JAPAN WITHOUT HER FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS AND SHE PLAYS ALL THESE STUPID GAMES AND I HAVE COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT WE ARE TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT TYPES OF PEOPLE AND I CANNOT CONTINUE SERVING IN OUR MARINE CORPS WITH THIS PROBLEM. WOULD YOU PLEASE SEND ME SOME INFO THAT WOULD BENEFIT MY SITUATION.
  • my husband and his ex-girlfriend have a house and he wants to sell and she does not what can we do and what type of lawyer do we need?
  • Do I need to get annulment from my two month marriage. I recently found out I have been married for the past 9 years to another man that I thought I was divorced from. The original husband is a Veteran and although I might not be eligible for benefits because I left 9 years ago, I need to know if I can still apply for benefits being currently married. Does this 2 month marriage exist?
  • I got married in Morocco, got my husband to U S we have been married for 3 years. One day, he decided to leave and two weeks later, I found out he was filing divorce for domestic violence, I confronted him and he said it was the only way to get his legal status. I hired an attorney and got divorced but not for domestic violence, it was for irreconsiliable marriage. Can he still get a chance to get his green card?

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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