Six Things You Must Know About a Divorce in Arizona
Are you considering going through a divorce in Arizona? If you have not filed for a divorce before, there are many common questions you will likely have about filing for divorce:
- What are the requirements for filing for divorce
- How long will it take to get divorced
- How much will the divorce cost
- What happens to the kids when a divorce is filed
- How is child support and alimony decided in a divorce
- Who gets to keep the house and how is other property and debts divided in a divorce
These are all important questions to ask. You may be surprised to hear very different answers to these questions depending upon the attorney you hire to represent you.
You may receive different answers from different attorneys because of each attorney’s personal experience representing clients in a divorce. Experience matters, so hire a divorce attorney who has the experience to clearly explain what a judge is likely to do and what a judge is not likely to do.
Requirements for Filing for Divorce in Arizona
Residency Requirements for Divorce in Arizona
You or your spouse are required to have been a resident of Arizona for at least 90 days prior to filing for divorce. You are also required to state your marriage is irretrievably broken to qualify for a divorce.
An Arizona court may enter a divorce decree even if your spouse does not live in Arizona or has ever traveled to Arizona.
Divorce Papers and Filing Fees
Once you decide to file for divorce, you are required to file the correct divorce documents with the Clerk of the Court. The required documents include a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, a Summons, a Preliminary Injunction, a Sensitive Data Sheet, and a Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance.
You are also required to pay a filing fee of $349.00 to the Clerk of the Court. You may, however, apply for the court to waive your filing fee if you cannot afford to pay it.
Service of Process of Divorce Papers
Once you have filed your divorce papers with the court, you must then have those divorce documents served on your spouse. Most people use a process server to serve the divorce papers on your spouse.
Most process servers charge less than $100.00 to serve divorce papers on your spouse. Some police officers will agree to serve the divorce papers. You may also use the Sherrif’s office to serve divorce papers on your spouse.
Regardless of who you use to serve the divorce documents on your spouse, that person will need to complete an Affidavit of Service declaring when and where they served the divorce papers. That Affidavit of Service is then filed in your divorce case to prove the documents were served on your spouse.
Some people ask if they can simply hand the divorce papers to their spouse. The simple answer is no. You cannot serve your spouse by handing him or her the divorce documents you filed with the court.
However, your spouse may sign an Acceptance of Service in the presence of a notary. That Acceptance of Service would then need to be filed with the court to inform your judge that the divorce papers have been properly served on your spouse.
How Long Will it Take to Get a Divorce in Arizona
Uncontested Divorce Cases
The length of time it will take to get a divorce in Arizona varies from case to case. Some cases are relatively simple while other cases can be complex or high conflict. A divorce case that settles early in the divorce process can take as little as 60 to 90 days to complete. These cases are typically called no-contest or an uncontested divorce.
Contested Divorce Cases
A contested case can take one to two years depending on what issues are being contested. Psychologists may need to be used to evaluate the family if significant disputes exist over custody of the children.
Financial experts may need to evaluate the income of a self-employed spouse if there is a dispute regarding his or her income. A business appraiser may need to be used if there is a dispute about the value of a business owned by one of the spouses.
Hiring the Right Divorce Attorney
The attorney you hire will also affect how long your divorce will take. An organized divorce attorney can speed your divorce through the steps of divorce more quickly than a disorganized divorce attorney.
The attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC intentionally have a caseload of about half of what other divorce law firms give to their attorneys. We do this to ensure we are pushing our divorce cases faster than other law firms. This also gives us the advantage of building our divorce cases much faster and efficiently.
How Much Will the Divorce Cost
Cost of an Uncontested or No-Contest Divorce
The average divorce will cost between $15,000.00 to $30,000.00 according to an article published by Forbes in 2006. However, every case is different and the money you will spend will depend upon your particular circumstances. A settled divorce will typically cost between $2,500.00 to $3,000.00 to complete.
Cost of a Contested Divorce
More complex or high conflict divorce cases can easily top the $30,000.00 national average. We have had complex divorce cases that went over $100,000.00 in attorney and expert witness fees.
There are four people who will have the biggest impact on how much your Arizona divorce will cost. Specifically, you, the attorney you hire, your spouse, and the attorney he or she hires.
It takes just one of these people involved in your divorce to drive your divorce costs up. They run your divorce cost up by simply being unreasonable.
Another reason your divorces costs can rise is if you have difficult issues to resolve. Allegations of child abuse and domestic violence can significantly increase your cost of getting a divorce.
Experts may be appointed by the court to evaluate allegations of child abuse and domestic violence. Those experts can charge between $5,000.00 to $10,000.00 to evaluate and assess child custody disputes.
Your cost of getting a divorce can also rise if you have complex financial issues. Some retirement accounts require the creation of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to divide those retirement accounts without creating a taxable consequence.
Determining the value of a business owned by a spouse may also require a financial expert to evaluate the financial statements of a business to determine the value of that business.
These experts can charge anywhere between a few thousand dollars to divide retirement accounts to as much as $15,000.00 to conduct a business appraisal.
What Happens to the Kids When a Divorce is Filed
Both parents have parental rights to their children. These rights include the right to the care, custody, and control of their children. Neither parent’s rights to direct the care, custody and control of their children are superior to the other parent when a divorce is filed.
This means both parents continue to have the same rights to their children. This isn’t a very helpful answer if the parents disagree regarding the schedule the children will spend with each parent.
Most good attorneys will work together to help parents reach agreements regarding a parenting time schedule that meets the best interests of their clients’ children.
Sometimes, parents will reach interim agreements regarding a parenting time schedule that will be in place until a court can schedule a temporary orders hearing. The court will then issue its own child custody orders that will remain in effect until the case is settled or final child custody orders can be entered.
Most good attorneys will also advise their clients about the harmful effects a divorce can have on children. You should be considering ways you and your spouse can protect the children from the harmful effects of a divorce on your children.
How is Child Support and Alimony Decided in a Divorce
Child Support in a Divorce
Child support is calculated in Arizona pursuant to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. The calculation is based upon the parents’ incomes. The calculation also takes into effect the cost of providing health insurance for the children and daycare costs.
The amount of time each parent spends with the children also affects the amount of child support ordered in a divorce.
Alimony in a Divorce
Alimony may or may not be appropriate in your case. The court can award alimony if a spouse does not earn enough income to support themselves or has a child that is so young he or she should not be expected to work.
The court will consider the amount of property a spouse will receive and can even award alimony if one spouse has contributed to the education or career of the other spouse.
The court must consider the following factors when deciding how much alimony to award a spouse in a divorce:
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
- The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
- The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
- The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
- The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
- The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
- The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently.
- The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available.
- Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
- The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved.
- All actual damages and judgments from conduct that resulted in a criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or a child was the victim.
Who Gets the House and How are Property and Debts Divided in an Arizona Divorce
A court must fairly and equitably divide the property acquired during a marriage. It does not matter whether the wife, the husband or both spouses purchased the property.
All property acquired during a marriage in Arizona is deemed to be community property under Arizona community property laws.
The process of dividing community property consists of the following stages:
- Identifying Community Property.
- Valuing Community Property.
- Dividing Community Property.
Identifying Community Property in a Divorce
The first stage of dividing property in a divorce in Arizona is to list out all of the property you or your spouse acquired during the marriage. The list should include a list of your physical assets, such as a home or vehicles, as well as all of your financial accounts.
There may be tax consequences when dividing some assets in a divorce. For example, you will be taxed and penalized for withdrawing money from retirement accounts to divide those accounts.
Instead of cashing out retirement accounts, you can divide retirement and other tax-deferred investment accounts through Qualified Domestic Relations Orders. Such orders divide retirement accounts without creating a taxable event.
You should consult with a qualified Arizona divorce attorney regarding the best way to divide your assets.
Valuing Community Property in a Divorce
You then need to determine how much your property is worth before you can determine how to fairly divide your property. This may require you to obtain an appraisal of your home. You will need to exchange account statements for your financial accounts to determine how much money was in those accounts when the divorce was filed.
You will also have to disclose statements establishing the number of unpaid debts you and your spouse may have to divide those liabilities. It is preferable to pay off all debts either before filing for divorce in Arizona or as a part of a property settlement agreement.
Too many problems can arise if you are still on the hook for a credit card debt the court ordered your spouse to pay but, for some reason, did not get paid. The last thing you want to do after your divorce is to hire your divorce attorney to enforce court orders requiring your former spouse to pay debts.
Dividing Community Property in a Divorce
It is best to create a spreadsheet listing all the assets that are in your name and in the name of your spouse. You should also include a list of the debts in the spreadsheet. You can then add values for your assets and your debts in the spreadsheet.
You should then total the numbers to see if your proposed property division gives each spouse about half of the assets and debts.
If your proposed division is not fairly equal you can ask the court to order the spouse with more of the net assets to pay the spouse with less net assets a property equalization payment. This enables more flexibility in how assets are divided between spouses in an Arizona divorce.
It is important to be methodical in your search for a good divorce attorney. He or she must be someone with whom you get along well and he or she must have mastered the various divorce laws and procedures. Call the experienced Scottsdale and Phoenix Arizona divorce attorneys at (480)305-8300 at Hildebrand Law, PC to learn more about divorce in Arizona.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about divorce in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about divorce in Arizona. Chris is a divorce attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce.
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