Family Law Attorney in Arizona
Arizona Family Law Attorney
Are you searching for a family law attorney in Arizona? If you are facing a family law issue it is important to find a family law attorney that has the experience and practice style that will work best in your Arizona family law case.
You should ask the attorney how many years of experience he or she has in family law. You should ask what percentage of their cases are related to family law and what percentage of those cases were settled versus having to be resolved in a trial. You should look at online reviews to see what other people have said about that particular family law attorney.
You should also make sure you are comfortable and at ease with the family law attorney to whom you are interviewing. Family law encompasses many different practice areas, so it is important you hire an experienced family law attorney in Arizona. A qualified family law attorney in Arizona will have experience in all aspects of family law including, but not limited to, the following:
- Legal Separation
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Division of Community Property
- Impact of a bankruptcy on a family law case
- Impact of an estate plan in a family law case
- Impact of criminal charges in a family law case
- Impact of domestic violence on a family law case
- Impact of child abuse in a family law case
Your Family Law Attorney’s Experience
There is a reason attorneys tell you how long they have been “practicing” family law in Arizona. That reason is that a good family law attorney will be continuing to learn how to master their skills as a family law attorney over their entire career. There are many approaches and strategies that can be successfully employed to effectively and efficiently prevail in your family law case.
Those approaches and strategies are learned over years of experience. The area of family law is very complex requiring the attorney to have a strong understanding of the Arizona family law statutes, all the decisions from the Arizona Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, and have an organizational structure that enables them to work efficiently and effectively.
The Arizona family law attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC have over 100 years of combined legal experience representing families in family law cases in Arizona. We approach each case with the goal of building the strongest case for our clients in an attempt to settle the case to save the cost of attorney fees. If we do have to go to trial, we are prepared to present a compelling case to the judge why our positions should be accepted by the court as the final orders in the case.
Your Family Law Attorney’s Organizational Structure
It is absolutely imperative that your Arizona family law attorney has a detailed organizational structure within his or her law firm. We have seen many lawyers who have done a poor job representing their clients in part because they have either a bad organizational structure or none at all. It is important to have key employees within the firm to perform certain functions to ensure a disorganized structure does not negatively impact your family law attorney’s ability to focus on you and your case and not all of the office chaos that comes from being disorganized.
Hildebrand Law, PC has a well-defined organizational structure that ensures all of our attorneys have to focus only on their clients’ case. The administrative side of the law firm is overseen and operated by our Law Office Administrator who handles all of the administrative matters that need to be handled on a daily basis.
She also provides direct supervision and support of the paralegals she manages. Each paralegal who works at the Firm works with only one family law attorney. Other law firms will have a paralegal working for two or three attorneys, which means things move much more slowly for his or her attorney’s cases.
Our founder, Chris Hildebrand, works full time at the firm overseeing the management, direction, and strategy of every single case. He meets with the attorneys and discusses the case with each attorney to ensure nothing is missed.
Areas of Family Law in Arizona
If you’re dealing with a legal family issue, you aren’t alone, and a family law attorney can help. The right family law attorneys in Arizona are ready to help you handle any legal issue you might have that’s related to family law. For example, maybe you’re going through a divorce and aren’t sure what your rights are regarding custody. Perhaps you’re interested in legally separating from your spouse and aren’t sure what you need to do.
Maybe you’re wondering how you and your partner will divide your assets when you separate. No matter what questions or concerns you might have, the right family law office in Arizona can help you move forward as painlessly as possible. The goal of your family law attorney is to help you move forward through this challenging time and to guide you as you navigate your divorce or separation. Here’s what you need to know.
While divorce sounds like a straightforward experience, the truth is that divorce can quickly become very complicated. Because divorce typically involves a situation where emotions are running wild and stress levels can be high, it’s important to seek assistance with an Arizona family law attorney who can assist you during this time.
Your attorney will be able to help guide you through the entire process of divorce and help you understand what your rights are. Whether you and your spouse are parting on amicable terms or not, a family law attorney will be able to assist you and help you have a smooth experience during this process.
Even if you’ve been through a divorce before, understand that each divorce is unique, so it’s still important to seek representation if you’re going through a separation.
The first thing you’ll need to do when it comes to your divorce is to acquire the correct paperwork. Most of the Arizona divorce forms for your divorce are available online. You can print these out and fill them out at home. Check with your attorney to answer any questions about country-specific forms or any questions you aren’t clear on.
There are different forms available depending on whether your divorce involves children or not. It’s very important that you fill out the forms completely, legibly, and accurately. Failure to do so can make processing your divorce more time-consuming and challenging.
In Arizona, the term “divorce” is replaced with the phrase “dissolution of marriage.” Before you or your partner can file for dissolution of marriage, you’ll need to reside in Arizona for at least 90 days. Only one party needs to live in Arizona for the 90-day period in order to be able to file.
Note that if you are a member of the military and stationed in Arizona, the 90-day policy still applies and you’ll need to wait to file for dissolution of marriage until this time period has passed.
You may be required to provide proof of residency, so make sure you hang onto important documents with dates, such as your car registration or signed lease agreement detailing the dates you arrived or began living in the state of Arizona. The more documentation you can provide when it comes to separating from your spouse, the better off you’ll be.
Once you decide to pursue a dissolution of marriage, you’ll need to file the paperwork in the county where you reside. Even if your partner currently lives in a different county, your paperwork should be filed in your current county of residence. Your attorney can help you with this process and assist you when it comes to filling out forms and determining how to file them. Understand that once this paperwork is filed, it will still take time to process your divorce.
While it may seem straightforward, it’s important to be realistic when it comes to the time it takes to process your paperwork and enable your former partner to respond. Although you may be in a rush to move on with your life and separate legally from your partner, sometimes it may take a bit of time.
A copy of all paperwork filed should be served to the non-filing spouse. This means that they will receive a copy of all of the paperwork processed by the county in regards to your dissolution of marriage. You must serve these papers in a timely manner. You have 120 days from the time you file to serve the papers to your spouse. If you don’t get them the paperwork in time, you’ll have to re-file and begin the process again.
While facing your partner can be a difficult and challenging experience, it’s important that you pay attention to all of the policies regarding the timeliness of divorce paperwork. Don’t extend the time it takes you to separate simply because you’re feeling stressed or anxious about this time.
Always talk with your attorney about any concerns you may have when it comes to filing the paperwork. They will be more than happy to discuss all of your options with you and to help you make the right choices when it comes to processing your paperwork.
When you’re ready to serve your spouse with the paperwork, understand that there is a protocol for doing this legally. You cannot simply stop by your partner’s place of business or home and hand them the paperwork. Instead, you’ll either need to have a deputy sheriff or a process server deliver the documents to your spouse. If your spouse has not hired an attorney, these papers will be delivered directly to their home address.
If your spouse has a family law or divorce lawyer, you’ll have the papers served to the lawyer’s office directly. If your partner lives out of state or is difficult to locate, talk with your family lawyer about options for serving papers, as you may be able to send them via registered mail in lieu of serving the papers directly.
Once your former partner receives the paperwork, they will have a chance to respond to the paperwork. This is called a Response to the Petition and your former partner is called the Respondent. If the person lives in Arizona, they need to respond to the filing within 20 days of being served.
If they are outside of the state of Arizona, they will have a full 30 days to respond. During this response, they can consent to your terms of the divorce or they may protest these terms. Once they have been served with the divorce paperwork, understand that there is a 60-day waiting period before you can go to court to finalize your divorce in the state of Arizona.
Some couples may feel ready to end their marriage, but might not be ready for a divorce. In these instances, you and your partner may choose to pursue legal separation instead of dissolution of marriage.
Being legally separated still carries with it many of the responsibilities and paperwork involved in a divorce, including custody agreements and financial arrangements; however, there are also some benefits to opting for legal separation in lieu of divorce.
If you and your partner are considering attending marriage counseling or simply want to take a break from your relationship, a legal separation is a less-permanent solution to divorce.
Many couples opt for a legal separation as a “trial divorce” because they’re not quite ready to terminate the relationship completely. It’s important that you take the separation seriously, however, and file all necessary paperwork to make sure that custody and financial arrangements are satisfactory for both you and your partner.
One of the primary concerns with legal separation is determining who will care for the children and how you’ll handle property arrangements. Do you and your partner plan to co-parent? Will one parent receive sole custody during this time? What about legal custody of the children?
Who will make the house payments? Will one parent get a specific car? What about your summer house? If you have children or properties, you’ll want to make sure you have documentation in place to ensure you and your spouse are protected during this time.
Although legal separation can be a challenging situation, there are some benefits to opting for legal separation instead of pursuing divorce at this time. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to legally separate in lieu of divorce is that there are some financial benefits for some couples to remain married.
Health care is one of those benefits. If you or your partner cannot afford health insurance as an individual and would benefit from remaining on your current family insurance plan, you might choose to stay legally married for a period of time until you and your partner can work out satisfactory health insurance arrangements.
Divorce is a challenge when it comes to any family. Both parents typically want what’s best for their children; however, this looks different in each family. With child custody, there are two forms of custody: physical and legal. Parents may share physical and legal custody, one parent may have full custody, or one parent may have full physical custody while both parents have legal custody.
Ideally, parents will agree on custody arrangements on their own; however, sometimes the courts do need to get involved if parents cannot reach an agreement they’re both satisfied with.
Ideally, you and your partner will be able to discuss your preferred custody arrangements in a neutral and understanding fashion; however, this is not always possible, and your family law attorney can help you.
Physical custody determines where a child lives and stays most of the time. For example, a father might have full custody of a child, and that child would live with him all of the time. The mother might have visitation rights, which means that although the child lives with the father, the mother is able to visit with the child. When determining which parent will receive custody, the courts will take into consideration where each parent lives, who the primary caregiver is now, and where the child currently attends school.
Legal custody determines which parent is able to make important legal decisions for the child, including where they will attend school and whether they will participate in family religious activities. Even if a parent does not have physical custody of a child, they may receive legal custody of the child and have a voice in how the child is raised. This is especially important when parents live in different counties or states, as it means that each parent can be involved in determining how the child grows up.
Regardless of who receives custody of the child, it’s important to create a parenting plan when it comes to divorce. A parenting plan is an agreement between both parents and outlines how the child will be raised. The parenting plan could include decisions on who will pay for medical expenses for the child, how educational expenses will be shared, where the child will spend holidays, and who will have custody during the summer months.
This ensures that each parent understands completely how they will co-parent their child going forward. A parenting plan also helps prevents arguments in the future if one parent disagrees with a decision the other has made. In this instance, you and your former spouse can examine your parenting plan to determine the right course of action.
If the parents cannot come to a satisfactory agreement as to who will receive custody of the child, understand that the Arizona courts can and will become involved. When it’s time to determine who will receive custody of the child, the courts will take a number of factors into consideration while making this choice.
For example, they’ll consider if one parent is currently the primary caregiver, the distance the parents live from each other, whether the child is more comfortable with one parent, which parent may be more qualified to offer care for the child, and what the child prefers. The primary goal of deciding custody is ensuring that the child involved is able to continue leading a life as normal and ordinary as possible with minimal changes to routine and lifestyle.
The primary purpose of child support is to protect the best interests of the child or children involved in a divorce. Because divorce impacts so much of a family’s lives, the court system requires child support to ensure the child continues to live the same lifestyle with the same benefits as they experienced prior to their parents’ divorce.
Even if a couple has joint custody of their child, one party may be required to pay child support to ensure the continued safety and wellness of the child. Note that several factors will come into play to determine exactly how much child support should be paid.
This can include the cost of housing, the financial situation of one or both parents, healthcare costs, and current lifestyle. If the parent paying child support is self-employed, they may be required to pre-pay their child support for up to six months, but this will depend on the court order.
While many couples may argue over child support and payments, it’s important to remember that child support is designed to protect any children involved in the divorce. It is vital that parents continue to focus on their child and to put them first during this difficult time. Child support ensures the child is able to continue to live a healthy, comfortable life regardless of the parents’ relationship.
One important aspect of divorce to consider is alimony. Alimony in Arizona is a form of support payments paid from one partner to the other after the divorce. Many couples are unsure whether alimony will come into play or not, so it’s important to discuss this with your family law attorney during the divorce process. Several factors will be utilized to determine whether a spouse qualifies for alimony payments or not.
The two biggest considerations are the length of the marriage and whether the spouse will be able to financially support themselves after the divorce. For example, if a couple has been married for twenty years and the wife did not work during that time, she may struggle to re-enter the workplace.
The courts will take this into consideration and may require the husband to pay alimony. Similarly, if a wife has been supporting the husband for a considerable length of time, she may be required to pay alimony to assist him in the divorce. This ensures the continued safety, care, and comfort of the spouse.
Even if both spouses are employed, the partner who was the primary financial contributor to the relationship may be required to pay support to the other spouse. This is something that will be discussed both with your family law attorney and in court. If you and your partner had a prenuptial agreement that eliminates the requirement for financial support after the dissolution of marriage, make sure you discuss this with your attorney and provide a copy of the agreement, as this will be needed during court to eliminate any financial responsibility you may have post-marriage.
Community Property Laws
Dealing with the dissolution of marriage is difficult in any state. Not only do you have to determine how you’ll share custody, but you also have to determine how you’ll divide your marital assets. Arizona simplifies the process by determining that everything shared in marriage is shared equally.
This is because Arizona is a community property law state. Community property law determines that all assets and debts in a marriage are to be divided equally once a marriage is dissolved.
If you and your partner have a large amount of credit card debt, you’ll be expected to share this debt. Similarly, if you have several cars or you own a home, you’ll be expected to divide this equally.
Community property laws may also apply to other aspects of your financial and personal life, including your pension, IRA, and business. This means that if you started and owned a business during your marriage, your spouse may be entitled to half of this.
Because some things cannot physically be divided or separated, sometimes it’s not possible to equally divide an estate. When this happens, one partner will be expected to pay the other a sum of money equal to half of the property. This is called an equalization payment.
For example, if you and your partner shared a house worth $200,000 and your partner receives the house in the divorce, they will be expected to pay you an equalization payment of $100,000. There are a number of options available for making equalization payments, including paying a lump sum, making payments over a period of time, and offering another asset in lieu of a payment.
Typically, property or assets acquired prior to the start of your marriage will be considered yours. This is called sole and separate property. There are other stipulations that may apply to certain properties or assets that could cause them to be considered sole and separate property.
For example, if you inherited a summer home from your grandfather and only your name is on the deed. Another consideration would be if someone offered you a gift, but did not include your spouse in the gift. For specific information on whether a particular asset is considered sole property or community property, make sure you talk with your family law lawyer, as they will be able to offer you more specific information.
Whether you’re considering separation, going through a divorce, or you just want a second opinion on how your family law situation is proceeding, it’s time to contact a family law attorney in Arizona. The right attorney will be able to help guide you through the entire process and will be a valuable asset on the road to your future.
Don’t wait. Reach out today to get the help you need to start living the life you want. Your family law attorney in Arizona will be experienced and trained in all aspects of family law and will be able to help you as you navigate the legal world around you.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about family law attorneys in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about family laws 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.