Complex Divorce Cases in Arizona | Complex Divorce Attorneys
Arizona Complex Divorce Cases
Many Arizona divorce attorneys are equipped with the experience to represent clients in simple divorce cases. Fewer divorce attorneys, however, have the necessary experience and knowledge to handle complex divorce cases in Arizona.
Other family law attorneys in Arizona have referred some of their potential clients to Hildebrand Law, PC because of our ability to effectively handle such complex divorce cases.
A divorce is classified as a complex divorce case in Arizona because of the complicated nature of the issues in the case and/or because one of the parties is attempting to use the legal system to abuse and/or control the other party. We want to provide information regarding both causes of a complex divorce case and share tips on what you can do to minimize the emotional and financial cost of a complex divorce case.
There are several issues that exist in almost every divorce case. The parties may have children and need child custody and parenting time orders entered by the Court. The parties also need to address child support and, in some cases, alimony issues. The parties also have to resolve the division of their assets and debts. One or more expert witnesses may be involved in a complex divorce case.
Complex Child Custody Cases in Arizona
A complex child custody case may include allegations of the emotional, physical, sexual abuse or neglect of a child by the other spouse. Sometimes these allegations are true and sometimes they are not true. Sometimes the person asserting the allegation of abuse against a child is doing so for the sole reason of interfering with that parent’s relationship with the child and sometimes the person asserting the allegation truly believes the other spouse has abused his or her children.
Complex child custody cases are undoubtedly highly emotional. Many experts may be necessary to unravel the allegations to determine if a child will be placed in danger of harm if the other parent has unrestricted access to his or her children. The children may be placed in therapy with a counselor who has experience counseling children who have allegedly been abused.
There are very few counselors who have the particular skill and experience to properly counsel children in child abuse cases. A qualified child abuse counselor will know not to ask the child leading questions and will also understand how to evaluate the reliability of any disclosures the child may make regarding abuse or neglect during counseling.
The court may also appoint a child custody evaluator to complete an investigation into the allegations, as well as the other child custody factors a court must consider before issuing child custody order, and issue a report containing his or her opinion and recommendations regarding what child custody and parenting time arrangements are in the best interests of the children. The opinions of these experts may carry a lot of weight in the judge’s final orders, but they are not controlling.
It is imperative you have an attorney who has the ability, processes, and procedures to educate these experts during their evaluations and to understand how to interpret and, if necessary, challenge the basis of the expert’s conclusions and recommendations. We have successfully bolstered the reports of expert witnesses and have successfully had some or substantially all of the findings and recommendations of these experts disregarded by the court.
Complex Child Support and Alimony Issues in Arizona
Complex child support and alimony cases in Arizona typically arise when one of the parties’ income is not easily determined because they are either self-employed and do not accurately represent their income on business financial statements or are paid in cash, which is not reported on their business financial statements.
Your attorney should be equipped with the experience and knowledge on how to use various methods to uncover hidden income. There may also be questions pertaining to whether an unemployed spouse has the necessary skills to return to the workforce to earn an income sufficient to pay their living expenses or contribute to the support of the parties’ children.
A vocational evaluator may be necessary to evaluate the prior education, training, and experience a spouse may rely upon to obtain employment, as well as to issue a report containing his or her expert opinion regarding the various jobs a particular spouse may be able to secure, the amount of salary and other employment benefits the spouse is eligible to obtain, and the future growth in salary and benefits the spouse should be able to earn in the future.
Child support and alimony cases can also be complicated due to one spouse claiming either a physical or mental disability that impacts their ability to obtain employment. If the court finds the spouse has a condition that affects his or her ability to work, the court could order the other spouse to pay alimony indefinitely.
In such cases, an attorney should obtain all of the spouse’s medical records and, at a minimum, have them reviewed by an independent medical professional to evaluate whether the doctor who made the diagnosis followed the correct protocol in reaching his or her conclusion.
You may also retain an expert witness to conduct an Independent Medical Examination of the spouse claiming the disability to refute the spouse’s claim of a disability. It may also be appropriate to hire a private investigator and interview various witnesses who may have witnessed the spouse participating in physical or other activities that are inconsistent with the claimed disability.
Complex Community Property Issues in Arizona
Complex community property issues in an Arizona divorce case typically involve the valuation of a business that was either started during the marriage or was the separate business of a spouse but that business has increased in value thereby creating a community property interest in that business.
The Arizona Court of Appeals has ruled the trial judge has broad discretion regarding which valuation methodology should be used and whether the community’s interest in the business should or should not be divided in the divorce.
The differing valuation methodologies, as well as the evaluation of the income, expenses, assets, and debts of the business necessarily require you hire an attorney with a financial background to ensure the expert and the court are applying the correct methodologies and have come to the correct conclusions with respect to the value of the business.
It is also important that your attorney understand the interplay between alimony and an award of a community interest in the business since both alimony and the value of the business are both primarily determined based upon the income produced by the business.
Complex Divorce Cases Because of an Abusive and Controlling Spouse
A divorce case may also be classified as complex if one or both of the parties simply wish to use the legal system as a way to harass or control the other party or one or both parties have a personality disorder. These can be the most complex divorce cases because it may take a long time before the unreasonable spouse may engage in obstructionist, litigious, and abusive litigation tactics for a very long time.
If children are involved, most qualified child custody evaluators will require both parties to take various psychological tests for the purpose of obtaining some information regarding the mental health of each party. However, these tests are not likely to result in an actual diagnosis of a personality disorder. You may, therefore, also need to hire an expert to conduct a full psychological and/or psychiatric evaluation to dig deeper into the mental health of one or both of the parties.
If a diagnosis is made and the diagnosis impacts the parent’s ability to parent his or her children, the court may order the parent to participate in continued therapy to protect the best interests of the children.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about complex divorce cases in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about a complex divorce in Arizona. Chris is a family law 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.