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How to File for Divorce in Arizona

How to File for Divorce in Arizona



How to File for Divorce in Arizona

No one enters a marriage with the belief that it will be temporary. Sadly, some marriages cannot be salvaged for one reason or another, hence why it’s important to know how to file for divorce.

Having that important bit of insight can save you from additional grief while you’re going through a difficult time. Knowing about the process of divorce also allows for an amicable split. On top of that, you can ensure that you’re not treated unfairly by knowing about divorce proceedings beforehand.

Divorce is not fun, but it becomes a necessity for certain couples. Hopefully, going through the process correctly will at least help minimize some of the difficulties associated with it.

How Divorce Is Different in the State of Arizona

The process of a divorce in Arizona is not completely similar to other states across the country. Arizona legally refers to the process of divorce as the dissolution of marriage.

While that is a notable distinction, it’s one that does not have much of an impact on actual cases. The restrictions placed on how long individuals must wait before they can push forward with a divorce are more impactful.

According to the Judicial Branch of Arizona, residents must wait for at least 60 days from the date of their marriage before they can go ahead with the dissolution of marriage. That’s not the only time-related requirement residents have to meet if they want to get divorced.

There is also a time requirement on being domiciled that residents must abide by. This particular requirement dictates that the parties pursuing the dissolution of their marriage must be domiciled in the state for at least 90 days prior to filing.

Being domiciled means that the involved parties have treated Arizona as their primary state of residence. The parties involved can demonstrate that they do indeed regard Arizona as the state where they live in. Registering to vote in the state is only one of those actions.

If you and your spouse have met those requirements for dissolution, either one of you can push ahead with the divorce proceedings.

The Important Matters to Discuss Prior to Divorce Proceedings

How quickly you finalize the divorce will depend on a variety of factors. Assuming that you and your soon-to-be-ex are at least on speaking terms, it’s worth discussing the following matters to speed up the dissolution process.

Custody of the Minor Children

One of the primary concerns for many parents and the law during divorce proceedings is the matter of custody. In situations where minor children are involved, the parents and perhaps the courts will have to decide the custody between the two parties.

Being on good terms with your partner will be helpful here. Together with your attorneys, the two of you can discuss a variety of topics related to your children.

You and your co-parent can discuss how you will divide parenting time. Do the two of you want to have rotating schedules, or would you prefer splitting the weekends and weekdays?

Aside from the issue of parenting time, you and your co-partner must also agree on how you make decisions related to your children. Will the parent who is currently watching over the child have the right to make all decisions during that time, or will consultations be necessary?

Discussing how to handle custody would be best for all parties involved. That way, both sides will be content with the arrangement, and the young children involved will not be subjected to conflict needlessly.

If you and your co-parent cannot agree regarding custody, the judge does that for you.

Child Support

You cannot discuss matters related to custody without also talking about child support. Child support refers to the financial obligations that parents have to their children.

It doesn’t matter whether you are the parent awarded with primary custody or the non-custodial parent, supporting your child remains your responsibility all the same. There is no set amount for how much child support you must pay, but it has to be a reasonable amount.

Co-parents can discuss exactly how much child support they will both cover ahead of the divorce proceedings. You can discuss the payments during that time. If the two of you cannot reach an agreement, the courts may step in and establish the child support terms themselves.

Maintenance or Alimony

Arizona legally refers to alimony as maintenance. Since we touched on the issue of child support above, you may be wondering why we’re bringing up alimony now.

After all, they’re both referring to the same payments, right? Well, not exactly.

Unlike child support, maintenance is not about meeting the financial needs of your child. When we’re talking about maintenance, the focus is more on maintaining a certain standard of living for your ex-partner. That’s because maintenance is supposed to cover for the unequal division of assets.

Also, in stark contrast to child support, you can spend maintenance payments however you deem appropriate. It’s also worth pointing out that alimony can take forms other than monetary payments. One partner may also provide certain goods and/or services to the other in lieu of financial support.

Maintenance is another topic you will want to discuss at length with your former spouse. Failing to reach a compromise will again lead to the courts getting involved.

Division of Assets

Last but not least, asset division is another matter you should talk to your ex-partner about. Generally speaking, the courts will seek to equally divide all the assets that the two parties acquired throughout the marriage.

The reason why it’s worth taking the time to talk to your ex-spouse first is to clarify which of your assets were obtained prior to getting married. Doing so can lead to a less contentious dissolution and greater clarity when it comes to maintenance.

divorce paperwork

The Divorce Proceedings

Whether or not the discussions with your soon-to-be ex-spouse were productive or not, you can still start the divorce proceedings. We’ll discuss how to file for divorce in this section of the article.

Step 1: Obtain and Accomplish the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

The divorce process starts when you get your hands on a petition for dissolution of marriage. This is the document that the court will repeatedly reference throughout the divorce proceedings.

Fill the petition out carefully and make sure that you provide all the requested details. It’s also a good idea to fill out the form under the supervision of an attorney to avoid making any costly mistakes.

Step 2: Complete Other Relevant Documents

The petition for dissolution of marriage may be the most important document for completing divorce proceedings, but it’s not the only one you’ll need. In addition to that petition, you’ll also need to fill out the preliminary injunction, the summons, the sensitive datasheet, and several other documents. Once again, you should strongly consider completing those documents while in the company of an attorney to avoid errors.

Step 3: File the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Other Documents with the Court

After completing all the necessary documents, you can now move ahead to filing. Head over to the courthouse covering your area and look for the clerk of court. That’s the person who will accept your filing.

Note that there are also rules you need to follow when filing, so take care to abide by those. You will also pay a fee upon filing.

Once you file, you will have a case number. Remember that case number so that you can complete future proceedings to your divorce faster in the future.

Step 4: Serve the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Other Documents to the Other Party

With the documents completed and filed, you can now proceed to the next part of the divorce process. Service is that next part of the process, and it can be quite complex.

The purpose of serving the other party the paperwork is to give them legal notice of what you intend to do. You can go about serving the documents in one of two ways.

The first method involves enlisting the help of an unrelated party in delivery. Approach a registered process server or a law enforcement officer tasked with serving papers to make the delivery to the other party.

The other method involves having the other party sign an Acceptance of Service prior to serving the documents. To be considered valid, the signing must take place in front of a notary or a clerk of the superior court. It’s also worth pointing out here that you cannot deliver the documents yourself unless the other party signs that Acceptance of Service.

Now that you’ve served the other party with the relevant documents, you can return to the clerk of court and file the proof of service.

Also, you must serve the documents to the other party within 120 days after your initial filing.

Step 5: Wait for the Response of the Other Party

You’ve been doing all the work up to this point. Now that you’ve served the papers and filed the proof of service, you can sit back and wait for the response of the other party.

The respondent (person you served with the documents) will now be given up to 20 days to file a response to your petition if they also live in Arizona. If the person you served doesn’t live in Arizona, they will be given up to 30 days to respond following the filing.

In cases where the respondent was made aware of the petition via publication, they will have more time to respond. To be more specific, they will be given up to 60 days to respond from the day of the notice’s initial publication.

Don’t worry if the other party does not respond within the allotted period of time. The case can proceed by default if they fail to respond promptly.

Step 6: File a Consent Decree if the Two Parties Agree to the Dissolution of Their Marriage

If your ex-spouse agrees to the terms of the divorce and indicates as such in their response, you can expect smooth sailing from here. The next step will involve the two of you filing consent decrees.

Those consent decrees will detail the terms of your divorce. File those consent decrees with the court and wait for further instructions. You may need to make an additional appearance in court, but that may be to finalize the divorce.

Step 6A: Attend a Default Hearing

Let’s say that your ex-partner did not respond to the petition. In that case, they may set a default hearing to push forward with the proceedings. This hearing will allow you to get divorced by default.

You will need to file an application and affidavit of default to get divorced and send a copy of that to the other party. If the other party still fails to respond after 10 days, your divorce will push through.

Step 6B: Go to an Early Resolution Management Conference

Now, if your ex-spouse does respond and indicate that they do not agree with the terms set, the court may order the both of you to attend an Early Resolution Management Conference. That conference is supposed to help the two of you agree to the terms of your divorce.

Coming to a compromise during that conference will help speed up the divorce proceedings.

Step 6C: Take Part in a Trial

If you and your partner are still far apart on the terms, a trial may go to court. Trials can be costly and time-consuming, which is why we recommend that you speak with the other party before you start the divorce proceedings.

Step 7: The Dissolution of Marriage Is Finalized

Whether you went through a relatively civil divorce or had to go through a contentious trial, you will still finalize the divorce. The courts will also hand down the decree of dissolution of marriage at this point.

Divorces can be messy, tiring, and costly, but they may also be ultimately necessary. Make sure that the final terms of the divorce are fair to you by working with an experienced and highly skilled attorney. Contact us at the Schill Law Group and allow us to help you navigate the trying time that is your divorce.

What Does the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act Do?

What Does the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act Do?



What Does the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act Do?

Getting married is one of the most important decisions of your life and deserves to be considered carefully and thoughtfully. Unfortunately, even if you truly believe that you’ve found the right partner, some relationships don’t work out for one reason or another, and that is where the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act can prove helpful.

The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act has proven to be a monumental piece of legislation. It has continued to affect the lives of millions of Americans up to this day.

For this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act and how it has specifically impacted the residents of Arizona. You can also learn more about divorce proceedings and the things you need to consider if you want to go through with that.

What Is the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act?

The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, which is also sometimes referred to as the Model Marriage and Divorce Act, was drafted up back in 1970 and was later amended in 1973. It was the work of the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws, otherwise known as the NCCUSL. Along with the NCCUSL, committee members appointed by the American Bar Association were also tasked with working on the statute.

Found within the Model Marriage and Divorce Act are clear definitions of both marriage and divorce. The idea behind the act was to come up with laws concerning marriage and divorce that state legislatures across the country could adopt.

The NCCUSL hopes that the model statute will eventually be adopted in all states. If that happens, it will simplify laws concerning marriage and divorce further and will reduce the pressure on judges to make important decisions regarding personal relationships.

So far, the act has not been adopted yet by all states, but Arizona is following its guidelines.

Since its creation, the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act has had a profound impact on marriage and divorce across the country. Perhaps its most notable contribution has been the introduction of “irreconcilable differences” as potential grounds for divorce.

We’ll get into what “irreconcilable differences” are a bit later in the article. For now, let’s focus first on no-fault divorce.

divorce paperwork

The Importance of No-Fault Divorce

There was a time in the United States when no-fault divorces were not permitted, and that was problematic for many for a variety of reasons.

Back then, couples who were seeking a divorce had bigger hurdles to overcome. Divorce proceedings essentially required one party to be at fault, and that would then serve as the grounds for divorce. The fault in question could be one party committing adultery, committing a felony, or other acts of that nature.

Now, the catch was that only one party should be at fault for the divorce proceedings to move forward. If the court found that both parties were at fault for their marital problems, then the union would be preserved. The divorce proceedings could also be derailed if the supposed faults committed by one party were falsified.

Needless to say, getting a divorce legitimately back then was hard to accomplish.

An odd but perhaps unsurprising byproduct of how the divorce system worked in the past is that it forced people who no longer wanted to be married to come up with ways to dissolve their marriage. These methods included lying in court and coming up with fabricated stories about adultery.

If those methods didn’t work, the two parties would have no other choice than to remain married to one another.

How No-Fault Divorces Changed Marriages

Eventually, laws that allowed for no-fault divorces were written and adopted by different states, but that created a new kind of weirdness as well. Since not all the states adopted no-fault divorce laws simultaneously, the result was a lack of uniformity throughout the country.

What happened in many cases was that one party in a marriage would head to a state where they allowed no-fault divorces, stay there for the required amount of time, and then move forward with divorce proceedings. These days, you don’t need to move to specific states since no-fault divorce is now permitted throughout the country.

The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act has also made obtaining a divorce simpler for the parties involved.

What Are Irreconcilable Differences?

As we noted earlier, the biggest contribution the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act has made is the introduction of irreconcilable differences as a possible grounds for divorce. You may have heard the term used before when news of celebrities breaking up made headlines.

But what exactly does the term “irreconcilable differences” mean?

Also sometimes referred to as incompatibility or irretrievable breakdown, the courts often use the term “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for dissolving a marriage. In the eyes of the court, those irreconcilable differences are substantial enough to warrant the end of the union.

Breaking Down the Irreconcilable Differences

To further clarify matters, let’s focus on the two words included in “irreconcilable differences.”

The inclusion of the term “irreconcilable” indicates that at least one of the parties involved believes they can no longer salvage the marriage even with the help of counseling. Something is fundamentally wrong with the partnership and whatever that may be, at least one side has concluded that it has been broken beyond repair.

So, what about the differences? They refer to a lack of harmony on important elements of a marriage. They highlight the disagreements that arise between the two people involved.

For instance, career demands could be among the main reasons why two people are getting divorced. After taking on a new job, one spouse may be on the road all the time, and that can put a lot of strain on a marriage. If the two sides cannot find a way to overcome the distance, then they may conclude that filing for divorce would be best for them.

Money is another potential culprit in the breakdown of marriages. If one party sees the other as being irresponsible with their finances, divorce proceedings might follow soon.

Couples could also end up divorced because they want different things out of life. They may disagree on matters such as wanting to have kids or where they want to live. Those fundamental disagreements can lead to even strong unions falling apart.

Additional Facts about Irreconcilable Differences

You should know a few other things if you’re considering filing for a divorce on irreconcilable differences.

For instance, the law does not require both parties to agree on divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences for them to finalize it. Even if only one side is seeking a divorce, the courts can still approve it.

Another thing is that you don’t need to state your reasons for wanting a divorce. Per the Cornell Law School, the courts generally refrain from asking parties to further state why they are seeking a divorce if they cited irreconcilable differences. If you want to keep those matters private, you can do so.

What Are the Other Grounds for Getting a Divorce?

Apart from irreconcilable differences, there are other valid reasons for wanting to end a marriage.

These reasons include:

  • Abandonment
  • Abuse
  • Adultery
  • Alcohol Use
  • Drug Use
  • Imprisonment

Former partners who have been separated and living apart for some time may also file for a divorce. In that case, the two parties must be living apart for at least two years without reconciling before seeking an end to their marriage.

How to File for Divorce in the State of Arizona?

Once you and/or your partner decide your marriage is no longer working, you may file for divorce. Before you can start that process though, you must meet certain requirements.

You Must Be Domiciled in the State of Arizona

One of the requirements you’ll need to meet before you can file for a divorce is to show the court that you’ve been domiciled in the state for at least 90 days. According to LegalZoom, being domiciled means that you have completed certain actions which show that you fully intend to live in Arizona moving forward.

That is not going to be an issue if you’ve been an Arizona resident for a long time. However, if you recently moved to the state, you would likely need to take a few more actions. You can start by applying for a driver’s license.

File a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage

Once you and/or the other party have been domiciled in Arizona for the required amount of time, the divorce proceedings can now press forward. If you’re the one seeking the divorce, you will file a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage.

Drawing up that document is something you can probably handle on your own, but you could open yourself up to mistakes. Mistakes in the petition will likely mean having to re-file, and that would be an unnecessary drain on your time.

This is the point in time where you will want to consult with an experienced lawyer to help you craft the petition. If you are on speaking terms with your soon-to-be former partner, the two of you can also consult with one another when filling out the petition.

You’ll also have to mention the grounds for dissolution in the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage. In the state of Arizona, that means stating that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

With the petition completed, you can then ask your lawyer to file it with the Superior Court of the county you live in.

Prepare for and Attend a Court Hearing

In all likelihood, the courts will ask you and the other party to appear once you file the petition. It would be a good idea to prepare for that court hearing beforehand.

Go over the facts you mentioned in the petition with your lawyer and make sure you know what to say in front of the judge. For the most part, the judge’s questions will be about the petition and your marriage.

They will also ask you if you understand everything that a divorce entails. The judge may ask about matters such as child custody, alimony, and property division during the hearing.

Those preparations should make it easier for you to say what you want in front of the judge. The judge may then enter a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage on behalf of you and your former partner.

Are There Cases Where Seeking a Divorce in Arizona Can Be Complicated?

While you can dissolve most marriages in a relatively straightforward manner in Arizona, some couples may have a tougher time doing so. Arizona is one of the few states in the country – along with Arkansas and Louisiana – that have covenant marriages.

If you entered a covenant marriage, you and your partner must first go to counseling before you can file for divorce. The two of you will also likely need to wait longer than most other couples before being eligible for divorce proceedings.

You should also note that covenant marriages in Arizona cannot be dissolved simply by citing irreconcilable differences. One of the parties involved must show that the other party was at fault for the deterioration of the relationship.

The reasons you can cite for fault in covenant marriages are the same ones mentioned previously. Those include abandonment, abuse, adultery, alcohol, and drug use, as well as imprisonment. Living apart for a prolonged period of time can also be pointed to as a valid reason for divorce.

Divorce is not the desired outcome for couples when they first got married. However, it is sometimes the inevitable result of people growing apart for one or several reasons.

There was a time not too long ago when finalizing a divorce was a Herculean task. Thanks in part to the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, couples who no longer wish to be married can have their unions dissolved.

If you want help navigating divorce proceedings, we at the Schill Law Group are ready to offer our assistance. Get in touch with us today and allow us to ease your burden as you go through what can be a trying time.

9 Common Factors of Divorce in Arizona, from Start to Finish

9 Common Factors of Divorce in Arizona, from Start to Finish

Defending the People of Arizona

With more than 100 Years of combined experience

9 Common Factors of Divorce in Arizona, from Start to Finish

Many people who decide to divorce have never been in court and are unfamiliar with what to expect. If you want to end your marriage, you will have to go through the divorce process. While there are certain exceptions through which you might be able to get an annulment, most people will need to go through the divorce process to terminate their marriages.

In Arizona, this process is called a dissolution. When you go through the dissolution process, you will need to make decisions about many different issues, including community property, debt and asset division, spousal maintenance, child custody and visitation, and child support. By understanding the divorce process, you might be able to anticipate what to expect.

The attorneys at the Schill Law Group can help to guide you throughout the process and demystify it for you. Here is an overview of the stages of a divorce from its beginning to the end.

1. Filing the Petition for Dissolution

The first step to take when you want to get a divorce is to file the petition for dissolution. Under A.R.S. § 25-311, people must make sure to file their petitions for dissolution with the court that has jurisdiction to hear the matter.

Under A.R.S. § 25-312, one or both of the parties must have been domiciled or serving in the military in Arizona for at least 90 days at the time that the petition is filed. Your petition will be filed along with a summons and other documents, including a preliminary injunction, request for temporary orders, and others that apply to your situation. In your petition, you will list what you are requesting about property division, spousal maintenance, child custody and visitation, child support, and attorney’s fees and costs.

2. Service of Process and the Response

After your petition and other documents are filed, the court will issue a notice and summons to respond. You must serve copies of the petition, the summons, and any other legal documents that you have filed in the case of your spouse. You will be called the petitioner, and your spouse will be called the respondent. You can hire a private process server or use the sheriff’s department to serve your spouse.

However, if you can get your spouse to agree to waive service of the documents, he or she can sign a waiver that can be filed with the court. Once your spouse has been properly served with notice of your divorce, he or she will have time to file the response. If your spouse lives in Arizona, he or she will have to respond to your petition within 20 days of when he or she was served. If your spouse lives out of the state, he or she will have 30 days to file his or her response. Under Arizona law, the only defense to a petition for dissolution in a regular divorce is that the marriage is not irretrievably broken under A.R.S. § 25-314. If your spouse fails to respond to the petition after being properly served, the court can grant a default divorce decree after 60 days from the date of service.

3. Temporary Orders

In some cases, people will file requests for temporary orders or preliminary injunctions at the time that they file petitions for divorce under A.R.S. § 25-315. Either party can ask for temporary orders, including the respondents. These orders establish the rules for how different things will be handled while the divorce is still pending.

For example, you might ask for temporary orders for child custody and visitation, child support, who will remain in the house, who will be responsible for paying the bills, and spousal maintenance. A preliminary injunction might be issued by the court to restrain both you and your spouse from spoliating or disposing of the property before the divorce is completed.

It can take a few months before temporary orders are issued. If there is an emergency, a spouse can request emergency temporary orders that can be heard much faster.

4. The Discovery Process

Once the petition and response have been filed, the divorce case will move into the discovery phase. Both you and your spouse are entitled to receive information from each other about your assets and other relevant factors about your case.

The process for obtaining the needed information is called discovery. It can be a straightforward process in some cases. In others, it can be time-consuming and expensive. In most cases, the size and value of your estate and the length of your marriage can impact how much discovery is necessary.

The discovery phase might involve several procedures. Your lawyer will submit and receive information for you, but you will also need to provide input. Interrogatories are written lists of questions that you can send to your spouse. Your spouse can also send interrogatories to you. If you receive interrogatories, you must respond with written answers within a set period.

If you need certain documents that have not been provided to you, your attorney can file a request for the production of documents to secure them. Either you or your spouse can schedule a deposition. This is an out-of-court proceeding during which you, your spouse, and other witnesses may be asked questions under oath and in person. When a deposition is held, a court reporter will be present and will prepare a transcript of what occurred. The attorneys will ask the questions at a deposition.

In some cases, attorneys can complete discovery without resorting to the formal processes that have been described above. This is almost always less expensive and more efficient than going through a more formal process.

5. Negotiating a Settlement

Other than in cases that involve domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, child abuse, or people who are possibly hiding assets, it is often best to try to resolve a divorce case by negotiating a settlement agreement. People who can negotiate divorce settlements are often happier than those who leave the decisions up to the judge.

Negotiated settlements give the parties greater control and privacy. Spouses who reach negotiated settlements are likelier to comply with them than they are with orders from a court. If you reach a negotiated settlement with your spouse, you can file it in court. As long as the judge finds that your agreement is fair and conscionable, your settlement agreement will be a part of your final divorce decree.

Judges may sometimes order mediation to try to encourage the parties to settle their cases. In many cases, people can resolve many of their outstanding legal issues during mediation. Your lawyer can represent you during mediation. While he or she may recommend that you reject or accept a proposal to settle, the decision will be yours.

6. Divorce Trial

If you cannot reach a settlement agreement with your spouse, your divorce case will go to a divorce trial. At your trial, you will each be provided with the opportunity to present evidence, call witnesses, give testimony, and submit exhibits. You and your spouse will likely have to testify and to submit to cross-examination by the opposing attorney.

If your case does go to trial, it will likely be more expensive. In some cases, it might be the only way to reach an end to your marriage. You should keep in mind that trials are risky. Your attorney cannot predict the outcome for you. The judge will issue his or her orders as he or she understands the case. The judge will not know you or your spouse but will be given the power to tell you how to live your life after your divorce.

In some cases, a trial will not be the final step of a case. If you or your spouse are unhappy with what happened, either of you can file an appeal. If an appeal is filed, more time and expense will be involved. Appeals are also difficult to win.

7. Divorces with Children and Custody Issues

If your divorce will involve child custody issues for the minor children that you share with your spouse, you will have to file a petition for dissolution with minor children. For this type of divorce, you and your spouse will need to try to negotiate a parenting plan. If you cannot reach an agreement, you will each need to submit a proposed parenting plan to the court.

Child custody and visitation issues are frequently among the most contentious issues in divorce. They can also present added challenges for your attorney. While your lawyer is loyal to you, he or she also must keep the best interests of the children in mind.

Your parenting plan will include information about legal decision-making authority and parenting time for you and your spouse. Legal decision-making authority refers to which of you will have the ability to make decisions for your child’s religion, education, and medical care. Parenting time refers to where your child will reside and how much visitation time he or she will have with the other parent.

Legal decision-making authority and physical custody may both be either sole or shared. Your attorney can explain how this might look and advise you on the types of custody that might be most appropriate in your situation. Parents who are divorcing, with minor children, will also be required to attend parenting classes.

8. Determination of Child Support

Another issue that will be at play in a divorce with children in Arizona is child support. Under A.R.S. § 25-501, both parents are expected to contribute financially to the upbringing of their child. Arizona has child support guidelines for courts to use to determine the amount of support to order. This can help to make the amount of child support that you might have to pay or might receive more predictable.

9. Keeping the Best Interests of Your Children in Mind

If you cannot reach an agreement with your spouse about child custody issues, the court will follow the factors that are outlined under the best interests of the child standard in A.R.S. § 25-403. Regardless of whether you take your child custody issues to trial, you should conduct yourself in a way that will minimize the emotional harm to your children during and after your divorce.

Always put your children first. You should never try to use them as a weapon against your estranged spouse. Do not talk badly about your spouse to your children or in front of them to others. Encourage your children to spend a lot of time with your spouse. Remember that divorce is just as hard on children as it is on the adults.

However, children are less equipped to deal with the emotional conflicts and fallout that divorce can bring.

You should not introduce your children to your new romantic interest until they have had plenty of time to adjust to their new reality. You should also not take your children with you to your attorney’s office or the court. Be flexible and try to stick to the schedule that has been ordered or that you have created with your spouse.

Talk to your spouse about discipline issues and try to reach an agreement so that there can be continuity between both of your homes.

Complete Help from the Phoenix Divorce Lawyers at the Schill Law Group

Getting divorced is not easy for most people. If you want to end your marriage or have been served with a petition for divorce, contact the Schill Law Group for help and guidance through difficult times. Call us today at 480.525.8900 to schedule a consultation.



Arizona Community Property Laws – Who Gets What?

Arizona Community Property Laws – Who Gets What?

Defending the People of Arizona

With more than 100 Years of combined experience

Arizona Community Property Laws – Who Gets What?

When you go through a divorce in Arizona, you and your spouse will have to divide your property and debts. How your property will be divided will depend on when it was acquired and whether you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place.

The attorneys at the Schill Law Group can help you to understand the community property laws of Arizona and advise you about the potential tax consequences and other issues that might arise during the property division portion of your case.

How is Property Divided in Arizona Divorces?

While some states are equitable division states for divorce cases, Arizona is what is known as a community property state. Under A.R.S. § 25-211, all of the assets and property that are accumulated during your marriage are considered to be community property with the following exceptions

  • Property that one spouse inherits
  • Property that is given as a gift to only one spouse
  • Property that is obtained after a divorce or separation petition has been filed

[1] Community property is considered to be equally owned by both spouses. This means that the community or marital property will be divided equally between each spouse during the property division portion of the divorce.

How are Debts Handled in a Divorce?

Like the assets that you accumulate during your marriage, the debts that you and your spouse have accumulated are also considered to be community debts and subject to division in your divorce. Handling the division of debts in your divorce can raise some important issues.

If the judge orders that your spouse is responsible for repaying a debt that has both of your names on it, your credit score can be harmed if your spouse fails to pay it on time. This is because your creditors are not parties to your divorce case, and they are not required to follow the family court’s orders.

If you have joint debt with your spouse, you should try to either jointly pay them off before your divorce is finished. If that’s not possible, you should contact the companies to try to get your name removed.

If your spouse is allocated the responsibility for repaying a jointly held debt after your divorce but fails to fulfill his or her obligation, you will need to repay it yourself to avoid damage to your credit.

You can file a motion with the court to hold your spouse in contempt for failing to meet his or her obligations to seek reimbursement for the amount that you had to pay for the debt that was allocated to him or her.

What is Separate Property?

Under A.R.S. § 25-213, the separate property includes the property and liabilities that each spouse brought into the marriage. It also includes inheritances that are received by one spouse and gifts that are given to only one spouse during the marriage.

Separate property is not subject to division in a divorce and instead remains the sole property of the spouse who owns it. However, property that becomes commingled with the marital property during a marriage may lose its separate nature and be included in the marital estate.

For example, if one spouse inherits money, deposits it into a joint bank account, and uses some of the funds to pay for bills and other items during the marriage, it might be considered to be commingled with the marital estate and subject to division.

If a spouse who inherits money instead keeps it in a separate account and does not use it to pay for community debts, it should retain its separate nature and avoid being divided in a divorce.

What is the Effect of a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is a legal agreement that both spouses enter into either before or after their marriage. Prenuptial agreements have become more popular. If your fiancé presents you with a proposed prenuptial agreement, you should consult with a family law attorney at the Schill Law Group before you agree to sign it.

A prenuptial agreement may be used to waive your rights to certain types of property in the property division of any future divorce. It can also be used to waive your right to seek spousal maintenance.

If a prenuptial agreement is in place, it could prevent you from getting some of the assets that would otherwise be considered to be marital property in your divorce. For example, if your spouse had a business before your marriage, you may not be able to get your portion of the increased value of the business in your divorce if you waived your rights to it in a prenuptial agreement.

A Phoenix divorce attorney at the Schill Law Group can review a prenuptial agreement to determine whether it is valid and how it might affect your rights. If the agreement was not entered into or drafted correctly, the court may disregard it and order the community property to be divided between you and your spouse as if it did not exist.

A prenuptial agreement can be challenged and might be set aside by the court for the following reasons:

  • You entered into it involuntarily.
  • Your spouse failed to disclose the extent of his or her assets.
  • The prenuptial agreement was unconscionable at the time that it was drafted.
  • The prenuptial agreement resulted from fraud, coercion, or duress.

Proving that a prenuptial agreement should be set aside will require some investigation and evidence. If it is set aside, you will then proceed with a normal property division in your divorce.

It is important to note that a prenuptial agreement will not be set aside simply because you made a bad deal or that your circumstances have changed since you signed it.

What Happens if a Spouse is Concealing or Hiding Assets?

In some divorces, one spouse will try to hide his or her assets, transfer them to others, or spoliate them simply to prevent the other spouse from getting his or her fair share. If you believe that your spouse is hiding assets to prevent you from receiving what you should, working with an experienced attorney is important.

A lawyer can work with forensic accountants and other experts to locate assets that your spouse has hidden. If it is impossible to locate everything, your attorney can present evidence to the court and ask for the judge to draw an adverse inference based on your spouse’s conduct.

Have an Aggressive Phoenix Divorce Attorney on Your Side.

Dividing your property and debts in a divorce can be complicated. If you have been married for years and have accumulated substantial assets, the process can be even more complex.

The attorneys at the Schill Law Group have handled hundreds of complex divorce cases and are experienced in handling all types of property division matters. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling us at 480.525.8900.

High Net Worth Divorce in Arizona

High Net Worth Divorce in Arizona

Defending the People of Arizona

With more than 100 Years of combined experience

High Net Worth Divorce in Arizona

When younger couples get divorced in Arizona, the process may be fairly straightforward because they may not have had much time to accumulate very many assets. However, if you have been married for a long time and have built substantial assets during your marriage, you may have to go through a type of dissolution called a high net worth divorce.

This type of divorce can be very complex because of the different types of assets that may be involved. High net worth divorces may involve complex asset classes and holdings worth hundreds of thousands up to millions of dollars. People who go through these types of divorces will likely need to get the help of a competent family law attorney who is experienced in handling high net worth divorce cases.

The Schill Law Group understands complex asset and debt division matters and is prepared to help.

How is a High Net Worth Divorce Different from a Regular Divorce?

A high net worth divorce will frequently involve complex legal and business issues that are not involved in regular divorces. High net worth couples may have vastly more extensive assets, including businesses, real estate holdings, art collections, trusts, stocks and bonds, investment accounts, retirement accounts, jewelry, and more. All of these types of assets may need to be identified, located, and valued to accomplish an appropriate division of property.

Under A.R.S. § 25-211, Arizona is a community property state.[1] This means that all of the assets that you have accumulated during your marriage that are not deemed separate property are considered to be equally owned by both spouses and subject to equal division. In many high net worth divorces, however, there may be antenuptial agreements in place.

High net worth divorces are likelier to include disputes about whether certain assets should be considered to be separate or community property.

How are Trusts Handled in High Net Worth Divorces?

Some wealthy couples have trusts established to hold substantial amounts of their assets. The handling of the assets of a trust can be crucial for the outcome of the property division in a high net worth divorce. When a spouse funds a trust with community property, it can transform the assets in the trust from being considered to be the separate property of that spouse to being considered to be the community property of both spouses to be divided in the divorce.

Normally, a trust that was created by a third party to benefit one spouse but not the other will be considered to be the beneficiary spouse’s separate property. The other spouse might argue that the court should consider the trust when it determines the amounts of spousal and child support that the other spouse should be granted.

When a trust is involved in a divorce, an attorney will need to seek disclosure from the trust. This can be hard because trust accounts may be located outside of the U.S. Trustees for U.S. trusts will normally send disclosures in response to a request. Offshore trusts might have trustees that fail to respond. When that happens, you might have to file a petition with that country’s court to seek an order for the trustee to provide disclosures.

How are Businesses Handled in Divorces?

Many high net worth divorce cases involve private businesses. When a private company is owned by one of the spouses, multiple complex issues will need to be addressed. The business will need to be properly valued. If the company has assets that are spread around the world, the valuation will be more complex. Often, business valuations will require significant investigations and the work of forensic accountants.

After a business valuation is completed, the divorcing couple will then need to determine how to distribute it in the property division portion of their divorce. One spouse may not be willing to give up his or her interest in the company. The spouse that wishes to keep control of the company might need to give a larger portion of the other assets to his or her spouse to retain control of the business.

How is Real Estate Handled in a High Net Worth Divorce?

While a regular divorce might involve dividing the marital home, high net worth divorces may involve real estate holdings beyond the home. Wealthy couples might have rental properties, commercial properties, and vacation homes. An appraisal of each of the various properties that are owned will need to be completed to understand what their fair market values are.

Some of the real estate properties might be the separate property that one spouse brought into the marriage. Other properties might be community property. Finally, some separate real estate might become community property if marital funds were used to make improvements. All of these issues will need to be addressed to ensure a fair division of the property.

Types of Complex Valuations in a Divorce

There are multiple types of complex valuations that might be necessary for a high net worth divorce. Some of the types of valuations that might need to be completed include the following:

  • Retirement accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Jewelry
  • Art collections
  • Intellectual property
  • Real estate
  • Businesses
  • Yachts
  • Other valuable assets

Different experts might have to value the assets from within their fields and submit written appraisals. In some cases, each spouse will hire his or her experts to testify about how they arrived at their valuations.

Spousal Maintenance in High Net Worth Divorces

Under A.R.S. § 25-530, spousal maintenance is a type of support that may be ordered by the court in cases in which the divorcing spouses have a large income disparity. Spousal maintenance is in addition to any child support that might be ordered, and it is frequently at issue in high net worth divorces. However, some cases involve prenuptial agreements through which the lower-earning spouse may have waived his or her rights to spousal maintenance.

In those types of cases, the lower-earning spouses might challenge the prenuptial agreements’ validity and claim that he or she signed under duress. A lower-earning spouse might also claim that the wealthy spouse failed to disclose all of his or her assets, meaning that the lower-earning spouse could not understand the rights that he or she was waiving.

Managing tax implications involved with asset division

Many tax implications might be involved in high net worth divorces. Both spouses will need to consider credits and deductions that might be lost after divorcing. Spouses who will have to pay spousal maintenance are not able to deduct the payments on their taxes any longer, and spouses who receive spousal maintenance are required to report the payments as income on their tax returns.

Transferring certain assets in divorces can trigger tax consequences. Some of the illiquid assets that might involve tax issues include the following:

  • Brokerage account funds
  • 403(b) accounts
  • 401(k) accounts
  • IRAs
  • Stock options
  • Annuities
  • Thrift savings plans

To prevent tax consequences when transferring some of these illiquid assets, a qualified domestic relations order may need to be prepared. This might help people to avoid penalties and taxes on what is transferred.

Concealment of Assets During a Divorce

Unfortunately, some spouses try to conceal or hide assets to prevent their spouses from getting their rightful share in divorces. They might try to transfer assets to family members or friends, hide them, or spoliate the assets. Others simply do not disclose all of their assets. For example, they might have accounts that are not disclosed and transfer funds from disclosed accounts to make it appear as if they have less. They might also move assets to offshore locations or place community assets in trusts.

Whenever a spouse believes that the other spouse is concealing or hiding assets, he or she will need to get help from an experienced attorney. A lawyer might work with a forensic accountant to find assets that have been spoliated, hidden, or concealed. If it is not possible to determine the extent of the person’s actions, the court can draw an adverse inference against the spouse who has engaged in this type of behavior.

Schill Law Group Experienced High Net Worth Attorneys

If you have accumulated substantial assets during your marriage and want to get divorced, getting help from an experienced high net worth divorce lawyer at The Schill Law Group is important. Our experienced property division and divorce lawyers understand how to handle the complex issues that are frequently involved in these types of divorces.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling us at 480.525.8900.