GOOD DIVORCE ATTORNEYS SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS, GREAT ATTORNEYS PREVENT THEM
So many divorce attorneys only escalate conflict and cost. Divorce is challenging enough without an inexperienced or unskilled attorney making it worse and more expensive. You need an attorney who will protect your interests and who is unafraid of the courtroom.
FAST FACTS ABOUT DIVORCE
Arizona is a ‘no fault’ divorce state, which means that the parties do not need to allocate blame for the deterioration of the marriage. Incidentally, it also means that neither spouse will be punished for marital misconduct, such as infidelity. Either spouse may file for divorce if he or she has lived in Arizona for at least ninety days. However, if the non-filing spouse resides in another state, it can complicate the case if there are any claims that require personal jurisdiction, such as spousal maintenance or property division.
The timeline for divorce in Arizona depends on the complexity of the issues, the family court’s calendar, and the parties’ reasonableness. But in every divorce, the parties must wait at least sixty days from the date the petition is served before the court can issue a divorce, even if the parties settled all of the issues before that time. This is the mandatory “cooling off” period Arizona law affords in every divorce in case the couple chooses to reconcile. Simple divorces often can be completed within a year, but it is not unusual for contested divorce litigation to last more than a year, especially when the parties are contentious. Divorces often involve legal issues totally unfamiliar to attorneys whose firms practice exclusively family law. Our robust litigation experience often gives our clients a competitive advantage in the courtroom.
Arizona is a community property state. This means that property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is presumed to belong to the “marital community” or, in layman’s terms, both spouses. Community property is divided equitably, but not necessarily equally, during divorce. There are certain exceptions to the presumption of community property, including gifts or inheritances to one spouse.
While other jurisdictions commonly use the term alimony, Arizona uses spousal maintenance. Either spouse can request an award of spousal maintenance as part of a divorce or legal separation. After recent changes to A.R.S. § 25-319, a spouse may be eligible for spousal maintenance if he or she:
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. Has made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning ability 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.
5. Has significantly reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
Spousal maintenance is a discretionary award, meaning the family court has considerable latitude to decide both if a spouse qualifies and, if so, the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. It is an area of divorce where a great divorce attorney can make a big difference in the outcome.
If there are minor children, the family court will determine issues of child custody (called legal decision-making and parenting time in Arizona) and child support as part of the divorce. Legal decision-making and parenting time are determined according to the “best interest factors” found in A.R.S. § 25-403. When both parents are “fit,” Arizona law favors joint legal decision-making and frequent and meaningful parenting time with each parent. This does not always mean equal time, but for many judges that is the starting point unless there are parental fitness concerns or equal time is logistically impractical.
Statistically, it is believed that the “average” divorce costs each spouse approximately $20,000 and locally, the cost can be much higher. Most of this expense goes toward bloated legal invoices prepared by traditional divorce attorneys who bill hourly and without any limitation. Divorce is stressful enough without outrageous attorney’s fees. We offer transparent and affordable flat fees to all of our family law clients because our attorneys prefer to focus on the outcome of the case rather than the billable hours.