Getting Divorced in Phoenix
Mostly due to a declining marriage rate, the divorce rate has decreased in recent years. But it is still twice as high as it was a generation ago, particularly among second and subsequent marriages. So, divorce will touch almost every household in Phoenix at one time or another. These marriage dissolutions typically have emotional and financial issues, as outlined below.
Furthermore, even though Arizona has a no-fault law, marriage dissolution is a complex matter in the Grand Canyon State. Without experienced counsel to offer advice and guidance, as well as advocacy, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.
The dedicated Phoenix divorce lawyers at Stratton Family Law work hard to provide the necessary direction. Since we pay close attention to details, there are fewer time-consuming delays. Moreover, we do not take shortcuts. Instead, we look for the most cost-effective solution available. Through it all, we always proactively communicate with you, so you have additional peace of mind about your marriage dissolution matter.
It is almost impossible to ascertain the cost of a divorce. Generally, the only honest answer to a question like “How much will my divorce cost?” is “The divorce will cost more than you originally believe.” Attorneys who give different answers are usually inexperienced or telling people what they think they want to hear.
Divorce has an emotional cost as well. Anxiety and stress over the marriage dissolution matter prevents people from focusing at work. Additionally, the time involved prevents them from spending time with friends and family.
The dedicated Phoenix divorce lawyers at Stratton Family Law work hard to reduce these costs. Since we pay close attention to details, there are fewer costly delays. Moreover, we do not take shortcuts. Instead, we look for the most cost-effective solution available. Through it all, we always proactively communicate with you, so you have additional peace of mind about your marriage dissolution matter.
Filing a Divorce
Almost all Maricopa County marriage dissolutions are no-fault divorces. If one spouse testifies that the marriage is irretrievably broken, that’s enough to legally dissolve the marriage.
Covenant marriages work a bit differently. Arizona is one of a handful of states which recognizes these relationships. Essentially, covenant marriage partners agree to waive their rights under the no-fault divorce law. Instead, these spouses can only divorce due to adultery, abandonment, abuse, or another fault-based ground for divorce.
In a few cases, legal separation is an option as well. The parties remain legally married but live separate lives. It’s also possible to annul an invalid marriage in Arizona.
The petitioner must then serve the divorce paperwork on the respondent. Personal service is best. In many agreed divorces, the respondent waives issuance and service of citation. More on an agreed divorce below.
If the respondent cannot be located, a few Maricopa County judges allow service via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts. Most judges require a more traditional method, such as nail-and-mail service, service by posting, or service by publication.
The Temporary Hearing
Most family law matters, whether they are divorces, modifications, or whatever, have a critical moment. Frequently, the temporary hearing is the critical moment in a marriage dissolution.
Too many parties reach this stage without an effective Phoenix divorce lawyer in their corner. Some petitioners initiate do-it-yourself divorces, and some respondents hesitate to hire counsel because they think the matter will be agreed. Unless a lawyer speaks for you at this hearing, a successful resolution might be out of reach.
Temporary hearings usually occur about two weeks after petitioners file initial paperwork. At this hearing, the judge makes important decisions about child custody, alimony, and child support. Frequently, these interim orders are the blueprint for the final orders.
Most marriage dissolution matters involve emotional and financial issues. Therefore, divorce discovery usually addresses both these areas as well.
Emotional issues include items like the parenting time division. If the parties do not agree on a plan, most judges order social services investigations. A social worker investigates the matter and makes a recommendation as to custody and visitation.
These reports are not technically binding. However, most judges give them considerable weight. Your Phoenix divorce lawyer obviously has no control over the report’s conclusions. But an attorney can ensure that the process is fair and that you put your best foot forward during the investigation.
Unless the parties had a solid premarital agreement, financial discovery is usually the most time-consuming portion of a divorce.
Property division is particularly complex, especially following a long-term marriage. Couples usually commingle their assets and debts. For example, Husband might use money from his paycheck (community asset) to pay his student loans (separate debt). In this situation, Wife might be entitled to an equalization payment, and that payment could be rather significant.
Sometimes, property characterizations shift. Assume Wife brought a rental house into the marriage (her separate property) and Husband used a wedding gift from his parents to improve the house (his separate property). Depending on the facts, the house, and all future rents, could be Wife’s separate property, Husband’s separate property, or community property.
Family Support Obligations (FSOs), such as alimony and child support, are often daunting matters as well. Frequently, parties try to hide income from each other. Intentional over-withholding is one of the most common tricks. The person over-withholds to artificially lower his or her income. Then, the person gets this money back in the spring, in the form of a large tax refund.
Calculating FSOs is an intricate matter as well. Arizona is an income share state, so the child support guidelines account for a number of factors. Additionally, the Grand Canyon State has very subjective spousal support laws.
Resolving a Divorce
Emotional courtroom showdowns are a staple of movies and TV shows. In real life, trials resolve only a fraction of the divorces in Maricopa County. Trials are emotionally and financially draining. Furthermore, there is almost no way to predict the outcome.
Out-of-court settlements resolve almost all marriage dissolution matters. In most cases, mediation is a better way. Mediation reduces costs, gives the litigants more control over the outcome, and encourages civility. That last item is especially important if the couple has children.
Frequently, Phoenix divorce attorneys resolve these matters through informal mediation. Generally, the parties agree on overall principles but disagree on specific issues. The skilled attorneys at Stratton Family Law know how to translate broad agreement into specific agreement. Agreed divorces are less costly and time-consuming than contested divorces.
Other litigation alternatives, such as mini-trials and collaborative law, might be available as well, in certain cases.
Divorce is expensive, but cost-effective solutions are available. For a free consultation with an experienced Phoenix divorce lawyer, contact Stratton Family Law. We routinely handle matters in Maricopa County and nearby jurisdictions.