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 you choose divorce;
- 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 critical 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 expertise to clearly explain what a judge is likely to do and what a judge is not expected to do.
Other Articles About Divorce You May Want to Read
- What is the divorce process in Arizona?
- Can I represent myself in an Arizona divorce case?
- When can I file for divorce in Arizona?
- Can I stop a divorce if I change my mind?
Requirements for Filing for Divorce in Arizona
Residency Requirements for Divorce in Arizona
You or your spouse must be a resident of Arizona 90 days to file for divorce in Arizona. 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.
Learn more about domicile and residency requirements to file for divorce in Arizona.
Divorce Papers and Filing Fees
Once you decide to file for divorce, you are required to submit the correct divorce documents with the Clerk of the Court. The materials 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 deliver divorce papers to a 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 deliver the divorce papers to 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 proper service of the documents on your spouse.
Some people ask if they can hand the divorce papers to their spouse. The simple answer is no. You cannot serve your spouse by giving 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 is then filed with the court to inform your judge of proper service of the divorce papers 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 divorces are relatively simple, while other divorces can be complicated 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 the contested issues. 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 how much he or she earns. A business appraiser may need to appraise a business if there is a dispute about the value of a company 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. Our detailed preparation provides us with the advantage of building our divorce cases much quicker 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.
Four people will have the most significant impact on how much your Arizona divorce will cost. Specifically, you, the attorney you hire, your spouse, and the attorney he or she employs.
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 the costs of your divorce can rise is if you have hard issues to resolve. Allegations of child abuse and domestic violence can significantly increase the price of 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 company 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 in a Divorce
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 you file for divorce.
Both parents continue to have the same rights to their children. It is not very helpful to know both parents have equal rights 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 schedule that meets the best interests of their clients’ children.
Sometimes, parents will reach interim agreements regarding a parenting schedule that will be in place until a court can schedule a temporary orders hearing. The court will issue child custody orders that remain in effect until the case settles or the court enters final child custody orders.
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 detrimental 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, according to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. The calculation uses the parents’ incomes. The Guidelines also take 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. The court can also award spousal support if a spouse cares for a child who 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 support;
- The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their relative earning abilities in the labor market;
- The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning capacity of the other spouse;
- The extent to which the spouse seeking support 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. The reduction in the price of health insurance for the spouse providing the support. If the spouse providing support can convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the divorce;
- 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
You should create a list containing all the property you and your spouse acquired during the marriage. The list should include all physical assets, such as a home or vehicles, as well as all 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 decide how to divide your property fairly. Determining the value of your assets 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 you filed for divorce.
You will also have to disclose account 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.
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. You do not want to hire an attorney after your divorce to enforce court orders requiring your former spouse to pay debts.
Dividing Community Property in a Divorce
Create a spreadsheet listing all assets in your name and 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 liabilities 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.
You can ask the court to order your spouse to pay a property equalization payment to you if the division of debts and assets is not equal. Property equalization payments provide flexibility in dividing assets in an Arizona divorce.
It is essential 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.
Common Questions About Arizona Divorce Laws
Question: When Can I File for Divorce in Arizona?
Answer: You can file for divorce in Arizona when either you or your spouse has been a resident of Arizona for at least 90 days. However, the spouses must have a significant connection with Arizona to allow the court to divide property, divide debts, and issue orders for spousal support and child support.
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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. The procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce are based upon principles of honesty and integrity. Chris and his staff care about what their clients are going through in a divorce.
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