Divorce Attorneys in Peoria, Arizona
Divorce is a challenging time in a person's life. The proceedings seem complex and situations are emotionally charged. Tough issues need to be resolved. Child placement, legal decision-making, division of assets and debts, and substance issues are often at the heart of contentious separations. It is important to hire attorneys that are experienced and prepared to represent you during this time in a compassionate and accessible manner. We are glad you made the decision to consider our firm.
Below is an outline of how a divorce works in Arizona. Many clients are new to this process. We want to give clients an overview of the system and identify common issues associated with each step.
Arizona is a no-fault divorce state. That means the only reason for a divorce can be that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." A spouse cheating, stealing, using illegal substances or alcohol excessively, or acting inappropriately are not factors a court will entertain or consider in dividing marital assets, debts, or awarding spousal maintenance. These may be considerations in awarding parenting time if minor children are involved.
To be divorced in Arizona, one spouse must have lived here for at least 90 days before filing for divorce.
Petition and Response
One party will file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. A formal Response to the Petition is required to avoid a default judgment and you generally have 20 days to file it. The Response will include any disagreements or objections to the terms listed in the Petition. If the parties agree on all issues, it is possible to submit a final order for approval to the judge. Once a final order is submitted and approved by the court, the parties must wait 60 days for the documents to be valid under Arizona law.
A judge can enter temporary orders in cases involving minor children and/or if one spouse has unmet financial needs. Temporary orders (“pendente lite orders”) will determine child custody, placement, child support, alimony, access to the marital home, and even those who must pay the mortgage on a temporary basis. Temporary orders can be modified before the divorce is finalized by requesting a hearing. They can also be modified through agreement. Temporary orders govern these issues until a final order is made by the court at the conclusion of your case.
Parenting Time (Child Placement) and Custody (Legal Decision Making) in Arizona
The two main issues involving children and divorce are (1) parenting time and (2) legal decision making.
Parenting time (sometimes called “physical custody” or “child placement”) manages the amount of time a minor child spends with one parent pursuant to a schedule. The presumption in Arizona is that placement should be shared equally between parents. However, there are many factors that a court must consider in determining a final parenting time order. If parents cannot come to an agreement on the issue of parenting time, a judge will hear evidence and following a trial, decide the issue based on the child's best interests.
Custody has to do with making legal decisions on the child's behalf. These include making medical, educational, religious, personal grooming, or legal decision on your child's behalf. The law presumes that joint custody is in the child's best interests. As with parenting time, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, a judge will take evidence and award legal decision powers based on the child's best interests.
Child support is calculated based on each parent's income and the number of children involved. There is a child support calculator used to award child support and is based on the Arizona child support guidelines. There are some factors that could cause a court to deviate from the guidelines and usually involve situations with significant medical expenses for a minor child.
Divorce Process – Discovery
After filing for divorce or being served with a Petition for Dissolution and after temporary orders have been entered, the discovery process begins.
The process of obtaining and exchanging documents related to the marital estate and any other property of the marriage is called discovery. During the discovery process, you will have the opportunity to ask your spouse written questions about certain documents and accounts. Depending on the issues surrounding your marital estate, discovery can be easy and quick. It can also be a lengthy and arduous process. Simonds Law Group, PLLC will be there to submit and receive all issues surrounding your marital estate with your assistance. We use interrogatories (lists of written questions); requests for production of documents (formal requests ordering the other party to produce all financial documents related to the marital estate); and can even request depositions.
Divorce Process – Mediation
Once information about the financial status of the marriage has been obtained, we start to focus on our client's goals in their dissolution of marriage case. Many times, we advocate for our clients and reach a resolution with the opposing spouse or their attorney.
When reaching an agreement with the opposing spouse or their attorney is not possible, judges will order that mediation occur. In fact, many times a trial will not even be scheduled unless the parties have attempted mediation.
At mediation, parties meet with an independent, neutral, third-party mediator. Frequently mediators are lawyers or former judges, but a mediator does not provide legal advice. That is your attorney's job. Effective mediators encourage settlement by highlighting the risks or merits of the issues you expect to present to the judge.
Mediation can be a great tool to complete your case. Simonds Law Group, PLLC frequently experiences success with clients in mediation. Spouses reaching their own agreements have more control over their cases and can focus on resolving issues of prime importance.
If the parties can reach a final agreement, we can submit documents reflecting their position and begin finishing their case. Parties that cannot come to an agreement will have their case set for trial.
Divorce Process – Trial
A divorce trial in Arizona generally consists of each side presenting evidence to support their position to a judge. The trials are scheduled for a specific duration and are limited (often, each party only has 1 hour to present evidence). The judge will hear the evidence and make decisions resolving the issues that the parties cannot agree on. Evidence is a party's testimony, testimony from witnesses, and presentation of exhibits.
It is difficult to predict the results of a trial because each case, and each judge, are different. Regardless of the specific judge's values, history, viewpoints, and opinions, they will enter a final order that you and your spouse must follow. The only option around that order would be an appeal. Appeals are costly and parties face a difficult burden in pursuing an appeal.
Combined, Kate and Chris have successfully litigated nearly every issue possible in divorce cases including:
High net worth marital estates
Domestic violence allegations
Substance abuse issues
Restraining orders/Orders of Protection