Top 5 Things to Know About Divorce in Arizona
1. Arizona is a community property state. This means anything either spouse earned during the marriage belongs to both spouses. On the flip side, it also means every debt incurred during the marriage belongs to both spouses. That said, certain exceptions exist including items acquired by gift or inheritance or if a pre-nuptial agreement or post-nuptial agreement is in place.
2. When dividing property, each party should be aware of all the assets needing to be divided and the worth of each asset. A family law judge once said, “When you divide one by two, you don’t get one.” In Arizona, we generally divide all community property and debts in half. 000As simple as it may sound to divide the community property in half, this task can sometimes be a complicated one. One of the most important parts of any divorce matter is disclosure and discovery, the process by which each spouse learns what assets and debts exist, and the values of each. Some attorneys will not even begin negotiating until discovery and disclosure is complete. In dividing the property, there is much to consider: deciding whether one party will keep the house or list for sale. If one party keeps it, the parties must select a buyout figure. There are similar concerns for a community business. Retirement accounts, pensions, stocks (both vested and unvested) also have special considerations. On the vehicles, who is keep what vehicle, and how do we remove names from titles and arrange refinancing, if necessary. In dividing the debts, we not only need to divide them, but provide protective language in case one spouse defaults on the debts assigned to them. Because attorneys regularly handle these issues, an attorney can be especially useful in protecting your property interests in a divorce.
3. Spousal maintenance (aka alimony) is the area of the law where the standards are the least clear. Arizona no longer has a spousal maintenance calculation. Spousal maintenance has become a very gray area of the law, and the awards can vary greatly from judge to judge. But an experienced lawyer can help you understand what a spousal maintenance claim will be in your case. We recommend, at a minimum, consulting with an attorney if you believe spousal maintenance might be an issue in your case.
4. Legal decision-making and parenting time collectively comprise what was traditionally known as custody. In 2012, the Arizona Legislature adopted the terms legal decision-making and parenting time to make those terms more descriptive of the custodial rights. As their names imply, legal decision-making is the right to make decisions on behalf of your children when it comes to decisions regarding their healthcare, education, religious, and personal care decisions. Parenting time refers to which parent has the child at any given date and time.
5. Each party has the right to seek temporary orders, if issues need to be decided right away. The trial court can decide, on a temporary basis, the issues of legal decision-making, parenting time, spousal maintenance, exclusive use of the marital residence, and an interim award of attorney’s fees based on disparity of income. Temporary orders still take time (the trial will occur 30 to 60 days after temporary orders are requested), but it’s much quicker than waiting nine or twelve months or longer for a final trial.