If you are planning to file for a divorce from your partner, it is extremely important that you understand the available options, that you know your rights, and receive advice on the best steps to take before you begin any of the legal proceedings. When you are working with the team at the Law Office of Laura Gillis, you can be confident that each step of your journey is the right one to take. Whether you are going through an amicable divorce or you believe that the process is going to be long and contentious, our experience will be an enormous asset to you as you move forward through this complicated and often stressful process.
There are many different pieces that you will need to coordinate in order to finalize your divorce in a way that is fair and just, and you will be required to do so whether or not you have the support and collaboration of your soon-to-be former spouse. Depending on how much you and your partner choose to work together in order to complete the entire divorce process, there are a variety of different options and methods that we can choose from in order to get you the results that you need. Keep in mind that it is our first priority to have the divorce process go as smoothly as possible, but this does not mean that we will agree to terms that do not work for you, simply for the sake of expediency.
Read below about the different methods and processes available to us while we are working through this complicated period of your life. The first step is to make sure that you are working with the right divorce lawyer in Phoenix, which is why we offer an initial consultation that will give you the perfect opportunity to learn more about our practice and our approach.
Arizona Divorce Law
Divorce in the state of Arizona is covered under Chapter 2 of Title 25 of Arizona State Law. This is also where one will find the laws governing child support, spousal maintenance (alimony), separation agreements, et cetera. In many cases, one of the spouses can just claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken to begin the divorce proceedings. That is the legal right of all spouses who are in non-covenent marriages in Arizona. When there are complicating factors, such as significant assets, large income disparity, children in common, et cetera, it’s often in the best interests of both parties to seek the advice of an Arizona family law attorney who handles complicated divorce cases.
Terms of a Divorce
Before discussing the options available for a divorce in Phoenix, it is important to understand the different topics that will need to be agreed upon in order to have the divorce finalized. Not all of these terms are relevant for every divorce, but they are the most important and common. Note that if your marriage either does not require all of the following or if there are unique issues to your marriage that will require additional work, our team is ready and willing to help you as soon as possible.
If there are children involved in the marriage, then the most important thing to consider throughout the process is the welfare of the children and that their best interests are met. Custody is often referred to as parenting time in the state of Arizona. Full custody is only granted to a parent under the most extreme circumstances. With this type of joint custody arrangement, the parents divide parenting in a manner that works well with their schedules and doesn’t cause undo stress for the child. That may mean an even split in time or it may require one of the parents to keep the child for a disproportionate share of the week or month. Parenting schedules are reviewed by the courts prior to approval.
Child support, while related to child custody, covers the issues of finances as opposed to the issues of who has control or say over the child’s healthcare, education, physical location, and more. In most cases, one parent in a marriage is a financial dependent. In this case, the more financially independent parent (or the parent with less custody) will issue monthly payments in order to maintain the standard of living for the children.
Alimony of Spousal Maintenance
Alimony or spousal maintenance is covered under Arizona Statute 25-511.01, which outlines a different type of financial arrangement after a marriage. Whether or not there are children involved, if there is one spouse who is financially dependent on the other, the courts will likely mandate that the spouse receives alimony payments for a set period of time, and a set amount. These types of payments are intended to ensure that the financially dependent spouse is able to make a transition to their new life without being overburdened with a major financial change in their life all at once. Alimony payments are not punishments, and the cause of the divorce, or “fault,” will play no role whatsoever in determining this amount.
Separation of Assets and Debts
In addition to the rest of these details, a major point of negotiation will be the assets and debts that the spouses share. The assets and debts in a relationship are divided into separate and community property, which is determined by understanding whether or not one spouse had the property before the marriage and kept it entirely separate, or if the assets or debts were incurred or acquired during the marriage with joint funds.
The couple will need to decide how the community property and debts are divided fairly, which may involve one spouse buying the other out of property, dividing debts so they are equitably distributed, selling shared assets, and taking other steps to ensure that the entire process is done fairly. The first step is to determine which debts and assets must be divided at all, meaning that separate property is not included or considered when determining what “fair and equitable” actually means during this step.
Prenuptial agreements are very common in Arizona marriages, and they often cover some of the aforementioned points. However, a prenuptial agreement does not guarantee that each bullet point of the document will be agreed upon without question or hesitation, and the document must be reviewed and applied to the current status and situation at hand. In other words, a prenuptial agreement may be contested in a divorce decree if there are terms aren’t clear or if the agreements aren’t compliant with state law.
Types of Divorces in Arizona
Although a divorce always ends with the same outcome, there are many different ways to get to that final step. Generally, it depends on whether or not you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement on each detail that needs to be worked out before a divorce will be finalized by the Maricopa County Family Court. In some cases, both spouses may agree to terms of a divorce, but a judge will find them to be unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons, such as child welfare, and deny the divorce petition until the terms are updated.
A contested divorce happens when you and your spouse are unable to agree on some, or all, of the terms that are required to have a resolution before the divorce is approved. When this happens, the couple will pursue a contested divorce, meaning that they will each hire a divorce attorney in Phoenix, and litigate the divorce in front of a judge in family court. This is generally the last option that we will choose because it takes responsibility for your property, assets, and children out of your hands and into the hands of the courts. In many cases, couples will work aggressively to avoid a contested divorce so that they are able to retain power over their own lives.
A joint petition is the most simple option of all Arizona divorces because it does not require a court appearance. It simply means that the couple submits the petition, states that they have reached complete agreement over the terms of the divorce, and the state will approve it. Although this outcome may sound simple the steps that the couple will likely need to go through to get to this point are not always so cut and dry. We will discuss the available options in the following section.
If you and your spouse are able to agree to the terms of the divorce without needing a judge to make the final decision, then you will be able to go through an uncontested divorce. This is not to say that you will both be able to reach an agreement without negotiation or discomfort, but there are a variety of options to help a separating couple work through these tricky details as productively as possible.
Covenant Marriage Divorce
Arizona is one of only three states that have covenenant marriages. Parties voluntarily enter into a covenant marriage after obtaining notarized certification of counseling. In order to obtain a divorce, one of the spouses must establish grounds or both parties must agree to the divorce. Grounds for a one-sided covenant marriage divorce include:
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Domestic violence
- Abandonment for a period of one year or greater
- A death sentence or imprisonment for a felony
- Legal separation for more than one year
Methods of Reaching Agreements in an Uncontested Divorce
A collaborative divorce is when both spouses agree to meet with each other and their lawyers in order to work through the details of the dissolution of marriage.
A mediated divorce is an option for an uncontested divorce where the spouses meet to work through the terms of the divorce with a mediator, an impartial third party who helps both people find common ground for each required agreement before the divorce can be approved by the state. Generally, mediation requires that each spouse is willing to work together and understands that they will need to compromise in order to reach a final result.
DIY (Do It Yourself) Divorce
If the terms of the marriage, and therefore the details of the divorce, are relatively uncomplicated, or if the couple has a very clear understanding of how they should work through each step, then they may be able to work together without the assistance of a divorce attorney in Phoenix. In this case, they will need to go through each relevant requirement to finalize the divorce, reach a written agreement for each, and submit their joint petition to the Arizona courts after they have reached these agreements.
Even if you have reached a full agreement through a DIY divorce with your partner, you may want to have an attorney at the Law Offices of Laura Gillis review the terms to ensure that you will not hit any snags when your petition is submitted to the courts. The more confident you are with your submission, the fewer chances you will have of your petition being either denied or pushed back due to procedural errors or minor issues.
Contact Us Today
The sooner you contact the team at The Law Offices of Laura Gillis, PLLC, the sooner we will be able to talk through the details of your marriage, and therefore what to expect during your divorce, with an experienced legal professional. Our initial consultation is a great opportunity to learn how we have helped other people in similar situations as your own in the past, and how we can help you moving forward. Peace of mind with your attorney selection is an important first step toward the outcome you deserve for your divorce.