Phoenix/Mesa Divorce Attorney
If you are contemplating divorce or are in the process of a divorce, this may be one of the most pivotal times of your life. The consequences of what happens in family court can last for years. This makes the process not only important, but vital to have an experienced attorney leading the charge. We are here to create a plan and move the process forward to a new chapter in your life.
Where to start?
One of the most difficult parts of divorce is to know where to start. With this kind of separation, there is a lot of planning that needs to be done. You must take the time to make arrangement regarding where you are going to live, finances, parenting schedules, protecting children and splitting assets. All the while, your regular life is moving forward with all of these distractions. Having an attorney does not solve all of your issues, but we help keep you organized and moving forward to your goals.
Start by setting a consultation and we will discuss your current situation and find solutions within the limitations of the law.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in Arizona?
Arizona law states that a divorce cannot be finalized until 60 days after the divorce paperwork has been served on the other spouse.
The spouse who files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage will be known as the Petitioner. The other spouse will be known as the Respondent.
Once the Petitioner files for divorce, it is their duty to have the Respondent properly served with the Summons, Petition for Dissolution (with or without children) and remaining ancillary documentation.
The Respondent has 20 days to file a proper Response with the Court and provide a copy to Petitioner.
If Respondent does not file a proper Response within 20 days, the Petitioner can request a default, which could be dangerous for Respondent as the Court may grant Petitioner’s demands as outlined in the divorce paperwork.
If the Respondent does file a response, the case will move forward one of several directions. The path will be determined by the parties willingness to resolve issues through agreement or mediation, if issues cannot be resolved the case will go to trial and the Court will make a determination as to your future.
Contested v. Uncontested:
Uncontested divorce: where the parties agree on everything will take approximately three to four months to reach a final decree
Contested Divorce: where the parties are having difficulty agreeing or absolutely cannot come to terms on issues, the case will usually go to trial and could take 10 months to over a year to reach finalization.
Arizona is a community property state because of our state law. Community property generally means that each spouse has equal ownership of anything purchased, acquired, or paid for during the marriage no matter who uses the property, who paid for the property or whose name the property is titled under.
Examples of community property include: real estate, home furnishings, vehicles, bank accounts, investment accounts, credit card debts, student loans, car payments, and some retirement plans. All property or debt that either spouse acquires during the marriage is likely considered community property or debt unless it can be proven that certain property meets the exclusions under A.R.S. 25-211. Property acquired during marriage as community property; exceptions; effect of service of a petition
Division of Marital Debt
Just like community property is owned equally between two spouses, so is marital debt. Upon the dissolution of a marriage, all of the debt is equitably divided between the spouses, meaning that each spouse takes an equitable amount of the debt that the couple accumulated during marriage. This is true regardless of which spouse incurred the debt.
Where spouses cannot agree upon how to divide the debt, the court does so for them. It’s important to have an attorney assist you in this process to ensure your protection when dividing marital debt.
There are many types of debt that need to be taken into consideration when making a debt assignment, situations such as a prior or future bankruptcy need to be considered and properly evaluated.
Spousal maintenance is the legal term used in an Arizona divorce case, more commonly referred to as Alimony. Currently there is not an absolute mathematical formula to calculate spousal maintenance. However, there are many factors the Court looks to in determining a spousal maintenance award and duration of time.
Generally, the parties can agree or the court can order spousal maintenance be paid by one spouse to another. The court will follow the state law when determining if spousal maintenance is appropriate:
A. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation, or a proceeding for maintenance following dissolution of the marriage by a court that lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse, the court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse for any of the following reasons if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:
- 1. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs.
- 2. Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient.
- 3. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse.
- 4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.
LEGAL DECISION MAKING AND PARENTING TIME (FORMERLY KNOWN AS CUSTODY)
Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time: An ideal situation for children is for parents to set aside their difference and co-parent keeping the best interest of the children as their priority when making decisions concerning their lives.
As part of the divorce process, parents or the Judge will decide if major decisions regarding the children’s health, education, religion can be made by both parents or if one parent should have final decision making.
In most cases, the children will likely spend time with each parent after the divorce. A legal document called the Parenting Plan will outline arrangements regarding when and how the children will spend time with each parent this will be referred to as “Parenting-Time.”
What does the Judge consider when determining Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time? Arizona has statutes (rules) A.R.S. 25-403 that have specific factors that the Judge follows when deciding the best interests of the children. There are other factors that may not be written in the statutes, but may be important. These factors include but are not limited to the following: The court shall determine Legal Decision Making, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child. The court shall consider all relevant factors, including:
- 1. The wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to Legal Decision Making.
- 2. The wishes of the child as to the custodian.
- 3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
- 4. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.
- 5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
- 6. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent.
- 7. Whether one parent, both parents or neither parent has provided primary care of the child.
- 8. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding Legal Decision Making.
- 9. Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.
- 10. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02
What are the types of Legal Decision Making in Arizona? A.R.S. 25-402. Definitions
- 1. “Joint Legal Decision Making” means Joint Legal Decision Making or joint physical Legal Decision Making, or both.
- 2. “Joint Legal Decision Making” means the condition under which both parents share Legal Decision Making and neither parent’s rights are superior, except with respect to specified decisions as set forth by the court or the parents in the final judgment or order.
- 3. “Joint physical custody” means the condition under which the physical residence of the child is shared by the parents in a manner that assures that the child has substantially equal time and contact with both parents.
- 4. “Parenting time” means the condition under which a parent has the right to have a child physically placed with the parent and the right and responsibility to make, during that placement, routine daily decisions regarding the child’s care consistent with the major decisions made by a person having Legal Decision Making.
- 5. “Sole Legal Decision Making” means the condition under which one person has Legal Decision Making.
If we agree on Joint Legal Decision Making what paperwork do we need to complete? You will need a parenting plan, signed by both parents that includes:
- 1. Each parent’s rights and responsibilities for the personal care of the child and for decisions in areas such as education, health care and religious training.
- 2. A schedule of the physical residence of the child, including holidays and school vacations.
- 3. A procedure by which proposed changes, disputes and alleged breaches may be mediated or resolved, which may include the use of conciliation services or private counseling.
- 4. A procedure for periodic review of the plan’s terms by the parents.
- 5. A statement that the parties understand that Joint Legal Decision Making does not necessarily mean equal parenting time.
How is child support determined in Arizona? The current Arizona Child Support Guidelines follow the Income Shares Model. An income shares model is a model that takes into consideration the income of both parents. The guidelines allow for the children to supported at the same level as when the parents and child(ren) were living together. Each parent contributes his/her proportionate share of the total child support amount.
It is important to provide James Portman Webster Law Office, PLC with your current income information, your ex-spouse’s income information (if known), the children(s) ages, who is paying for medical/dental insurance and daycare, if applicable. We will run an update Child Support Calculator to provide you with expectations of how much child support you with either owe the other parent, or you should expect to receive from the other parent.