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Arizona Divorce Process | Scottsdale Arizona Divorce


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Choosing Between Divorce and a Legal Separation in Arizona


If you are on our website, you are either going through a divorce or you are contemplating going through a divorce and you probably have questions about what the divorce process is in Arizona. A divorce starts with one of the spouses filing a petition for dissolution of marriage with the court, along with some other related documents.

Once those documents are filed with the court, they have to be served on the other party by a private process server or by the other party signing an Acceptance of Service. That other party then has twenty (20) days to file a written response to the divorce petition if they were served in Arizona or thirty (30) days to file a written response to the petition for divorce if they were served outside the state of Arizona.

The parties have the option to allow the court to schedule a temporary orders hearing to have the court issues temporary orders that may include child support, child custody, spousal maintenance, division of payments on community debts, and even which party will have the exclusive use and possession of the family home.

Prior to a temporary orders hearing, however, the court will schedule what is known as a Resolution Management Conference in order to allow the judge to meet with the parties and their attorneys to determine if any of the issues in the case have been settled, to determine what remaining issues are unresolved, and to determine if mediation will be helpful in resolving those remaining issues.

Some judges will schedule both trial as well as private mediation at that Resolution Management Conference, but typically a judge will schedule a status conference to occur after a scheduled mediation to determine if any of the issues were resolved or narrowed at that mediation at which time the court will then schedule your final divorce trial. Once you complete your final trial the court has sixty (60) days to issues rulings on the contested issues. However, most judges issue their ruling within four (4) to six (6) weeks after the completion of the trial.

The information provided on this page constitutes a general overview of the basics of the Arizona divorce process and does not constitute legal advice. You should speak to one of our experienced Scottsdale Arizona divorce attorneys for specific information applicable to your particular case.


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Arizona divorce process


The Process of Filing for Divorce in Arizona

Our team of Scottsdale Arizona divorce attorneys have almost eighty (80) years combined experience in divorce and related family law matters. We have handled literally hundreds of divorce and family law cases in Arizona. Our divorce attorneys are not likely to encounter a single issue in your case that we haven't already handled many times over. At Hildebrand Law, PC, we take the time to sit down with each individual client to discuss the entire divorce process from beginning to end, to ensure you understand everything that's going to happen in your case, when those events will occur, and what we can do to help you navigate through that process.

Every one of our clients understands the entire divorce process from beginning to end. We talk about temporary orders hearings, and whether or not such a hearing is appropriate in your case. We will talk to you about a Resolution Management Conference and how we will prepare for that hearing. We will talk to you about Alternative Dispute Resolution conferences ("ADR") and mediation and discuss how we can use mediation to resolve your case.

We accumulate all the evidence to determine what is fair, and if the other side is not taking unreasonable positions, we will take your case to trial. We talk to you about using a Parenting Coordinator and how they may benefit you. Additionally, we will talk about Family Law Masters and how they may benefit you on your case. We will also talk about using Child Custody Evaluators and how we work with them to obtain the best possible outcome on your case.

If there is a family business involved we will talk to you about hiring a business appraiser and explain how we work with them to provide the best possible outcome on your case.

If spousal maintenance is an issue in your case, we will talk to you about hiring a vocational expert to testify at your trial, as well as explaining all of the statutory factors that apply to your spousal maintenance case and how we may use those statutes to your advantage.

The information provided on this page constitutes a general overview of the basics of the Arizona divorce process and does not constitute legal advice. You should speak to one of our experienced Scottsdale Arizona divorce attorneys for specific information applicable to your particular case.


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How to file for divorce in Arizona


What is a Temporary Orders Hearing in an Arizona Divorce

The court may set a temporary orders hearing on the motion of either party. The issues that may be decided at a temporary orders hearing typically include, but are not limited to, temporary child custody and parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, the payment of community debts, and the exclusive use and possession of the community residence.

The court may even order one party to pay some or all of the other parties attorney's fees. It is important to understand that these temporary orders only exist during the pendency of your case are replaced by final orders that are issued at the end of your case.


How do I Prepare for a Temporary Orders Hearing in Arizona

Both parties and their attorneys will appear before the judge assigned to your case on the date and time previously scheduled by the court for that temporary orders hearing. Both parties will be seated at separate desks with their respective counsel. The judge will enter the court room and the bailiff will tell everybody to please rise, whereupon both parties and counsel will stand until the judge tells everyone they may be seated.

The Bailiff will then give the oath to the parties and all witnesses. Most judges will then ask the Petitioner's attorney if any of the issues have been resolved. If you have settled some or all of the issues, one of the attorneys will recite the terms of the agreement to the judge at which point the Judge will ask the other attorney if that is his or her understanding of the agreement. Lastly, the judge will ask each party if they have reached the agreements and may ask additional questions, such as whether either party was under any duress or coercion in reaching the agreement, whether they are satisfied with the advice they have received from their counsel, whether they believe the agreement is fair and equitable, and whether agreements regarding the children are in the best interests of the children. The judge may then adopt the parties' agreements as the orders of the court.

If you have not resolved all of the issues, the court will begin the hearing by asking the Petitioner to presenting their case first, which involves eliciting testimony from witnesses and introducing documents marked as exhibits into evidence. Both lawyers will have an opportunity to question each witness or object to any exhibit offered into evidence. The Petitioner and his or witnesses will first be questioned by his or her attorney (i.e., "direct examination"), followed by a cross examination of the opposing attorney, and then followed by another round of questioning from his or her attorney (i.e., "rebuttal testimony) to elicit additional testimony that is limited to only those areas addressed in opposing counsel's cross examination.

Once the Petitioner completes the presentation of all of their witnesses, the Respondent begins their case by calling witnesses to testify and introducing exhibits into evidence with the same cross examination and rebuttal testimony elicited by the attorneys. Once the presentation of the evidence is completed, the attorneys may provide the court with brief closing argument as to what facts they believe the evidence demonstrated, the applicable law that applies to each issue, and why his or her client should prevail on the temporary orders each client has requested the Court issue.

Keep in mind that at the end of the temporary orders hearing many judges are unlikely to issue rulings after the hearing. You will most likely wait at least two weeks, and sometimes longer, before you will receive the judge's written ruling regarding the issues presented to to the Court.


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Temporary Orders Hearings in Arizona


What is a Dispute Resolution Conference (i.e., Mediation) and How Do I Prepare for the Conference

Many Arizona judges will order parties involved in a divorce to attend mediation, referred to by the Court as an Alternative Dispute Resolution Conference (ADR). It is imperative you are prepared to explain, advance, and defend your positions before you attend that mediation. We prepare our clients' cases by filing a detailed mediation memorandum outlining every issue and the provide the evidence supporting every position. Every mediator knows exactly what our client wants, the evidence supporting those positions, and the the law supporting each claim we make on behalf of our clients. Our mediators are fully educated before we even walk into the mediation room. Preparation, good advice, and the evidence to support those positions is what brings the results our clients have grown to expect.


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Arizona alternative dispute resolution conference


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What is Parenting Coordinator and How May a Parenting Coordinator Help on My Case

If children are involved in your case and you have joint legal decision making and are experiencing significant or recurring disagreements regarding decisions affecting your children, you may consider appointing a Parenting Coordinator. A Parenting Coordinator is typically a mental health professional, although there are Arizona attorneys and others on the approved Parenting Coordinator roster, who you can call when a parenting disputes arises and explain the issue or disagreement that exits.

The parenting coordinator will either speak with you on the phone or bring both parties into their office, will listen to what both parents have to say and review the evidence the parties present and then will subsequently issue a recommendation to the Court as to what should be done.

The court will often adopt a Parenting Coordinator's recommendation as the order of the court unless either party objects. If either party objects to the recommendations of the Parenting Coordinator, the court will set an evidentiary hearing, listen to the evidence presented by both parties and then make a decision on that issue.

It is important to know what a Parenting Coordinator may and ma not do in your case. Parenting Coordinators may only deal with decisions affecting the child. For example, such decisions would include which doctor the child goes to, which school the child attends, disagreements regarding the child's participation in extra-curricular activities and the like.

The parenting coordinator cannot make major changes to the parenting time schedule the court has ordered. They may, however, from time to time make minor changes to the parenting time schedule. They cannot, however, make substantial changes to the parenting time schedule or decisions or recommendations regarding any financial issue such as child support.

Having a Parenting Coordinator assigned to your case will very likely save you time and money when you have continual disagreements regarding issues affecting your child. If you don't have a Parenting Coordinator in place you are left with two options. One option is to file a motion with the court, wait several months for a hearing, wait for the judge to, thereafter, issue a ruling on the issue, and most likely incur attorney fees. If you have a Parenting Coordinator appointed on your case, you can simply pick up the phone, speak to your Parenting Coordinator, and typically receive a recommendation within a few days that will likely be adopted by the Court soon thereafter.

We often recommend the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator if it is evident there will be on-going conflict between the parents to protect our clients form having to come back to pay our law firm to incur more attorney's fee's to continuously litigate ongoing issues.


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Parenting Coordinators in Arizona


What is a Family Law Master in Arizona and How Can They Help Me in an Arizona Divorce

The court may appoint what’s called a family law master in your case. A family law master is simply an individual that has some particular experience in an area that the court will refer to decide an issue in your case, subject to either party having the right to objection to the recommendation and litigate the issue before the court.

For example, the Court may appoint a Family Master to rule upon the value of a business. Both parties are provided an opportunity to present evidence to that Family Law Master and present arguments supporting their respective positions. The Family Law Master will then make a recommendation to the court.

After the court receives that recommendation, the judge will often accept it as an order of the court, unless either party files an objection. If either party files an objection, the court will set a trial on the issue and, thereafter, issue a ruling on that issue. The court may then accept, modify, or completely disregard the recommendations of the Family Law Master and issue an entirely different order.


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Family law master in Arizona


How Do I Prepare for a Child Custody Evaluation in an Arizona Divorce, Paternity or Child Custody Case

If you are involved in a child custody case and you are unable to reach an agreement on legal decision making or parenting time arrangements for your children, you may consider asking the court to appoint a Child Custody Evaluator. These experts are going to look at all aspects of the child’s life, including the parents relationship with the child. These evaluators are permitted by court order to speak to doctors, teachers, family members and anyone who has information relevant to determining what decision making and parenting time arrangements that expert believes is in the best interests of your children.


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Child custody evaluators in Arizona


How Do I Prepare for a Business Appraisal in an Arizona Divorce Case

Many divorce attorneys leave it up to the business appraiser to make an income determination on their own and to make the evaluation decisions on their own. We are a little bit different. We go through all of the financial statements on our own. We look at where we may be able to identify where hidden income may be located. We look at the value of the assets. We make sure those assets are appraised, so for example, the balance sheet may show the depreciated value of a building. That may not be the true value of that building. You may need to obtain an appraisal to determine how much that building is actually worth, as well as the other physical and intellectual property assets of the business. We go through all the detail to make sure the business appraiser does not miss anything to ensure our clients get the best results possible from that business evaluation.


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Business appraisals and valuations in an Arizona divorce.


Can the court enter temporary orders prior to the date set for the final trial?

Yes. Either spouse may file a request for the court to schedule a temporary orders hearing to establish orders regarding temporary custody of children, temporary child support, temporary spousal maintenance, temporary exclusive use of property, and temporary payment of debts. These temporary orders are only effective until such time the court enters final orders in the case and, depending upon the particular orders entered, may be modified by the judge at the final trial.

Once the divorce, legal separation, or custody papers have been filed, how do I get the court to order temporary child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, division of property and division of debts?

The court typically will not schedule a hearing to establish temporary orders until a party files a separate petition asking the court to enter temporary orders in a case. The court will then schedule a hearing at which time it may enter temporary orders regarding custody of minor children, child support, spousal maintenance, payment of debts, use of property, exclusive use of the marital residence, and attorneys' fees and costs.


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Temporary Orders Hearings in Arizona.


Who has custody of the children if the court has not entered temporary custody orders in my case?

Both parents have an absolute right to the care, custody, and control of their children until such time the court enters an order delineating each parents= rights to their child(ren). The parents are, therefore, each entitled to the care, custody and control of their children until such time a court enters specific custody and child access orders. Simply stated, there are no rules with respect to the parents= respective rights to their children until an order is entered by the court which has the potential of creating a situation wherein one or both parents are unilaterally keeping the children from the other parent. This type of conduct, however, is not viewed upon favorably by most judges and provides a basis for the court to grant the non-offending parent custody of the children when the issues are presented to the court. It is important, therefore, to seek a temporary orders hearing as soon as possible to avoid any potential conflict between the parents.


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Arizona child custody laws


How long does it take to get temporary orders in place so that I can start getting access to our child, child support or spousal maintenance?

It often takes a court approximately thirty to sixty days for the court to schedule a temporary orders hearing. The court, however, will often expedite the hearing if a spouse files a motion to accelerate the hearing because he or she has been cut off from all community income, does not have an income, or the children are in danger of serious physical, emotional, or psychological harm. In some cases, the court may issue emergency custody orders on the same day the petition for an emergency custody order is requested by a parent if the children are in imminent danger of serious physical, emotional, and/or psychological harm.


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Contact Our Scottsdale Arizona Divorce Attorneys

Contact us today or call us at (480) 305-8300 to schedule your consultation with an AZ divorce attorney from Hildebrand Law, PC.

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Arizona Divorce Process
Arizona Legal Separation
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Arizona Child Custody
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Arizona Divorce Laws
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Hildebrand Law, PC
4900 N. Scottsdale Rd. Suite 2800 Scottsdale, AZ 85251.
Phone: (480) 305-8300
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