Divorce is, by nature, complicated, especially if there are children involved. If you are faced with an impending marital break-up, having a capable, compassionate divorce attorney at your side can make all the difference in keeping your stress level to a minimum and making sure that you come out with your finances intact. At Cohen Family Law, conveniently located in Phoenix, our astute attorneys are well-informed about all laws and legal nuances regarding the divorce process. At this difficult time in your life, we will guide you every step of the way.
Stages of the Divorce Process
Under Arizona law, at least one of the parties divorcing must be a resident of the state for at least 90 days before filing for divorce. A Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage must then be filed. Because Arizona is a no fault divorce state, the divorcing parties need only state that their marriage is “irretrievably broken with no reasonable prospect for reconciliation.” Unless they originally entered into a Covenant marriage which has more restrive legal grounds for divorce, they need not state a specific reason for the split (e.g. adultery, incarceration, abuse). Typically, less than 1 percent of marriages in Arizona are covenant marriages.
Although divorce proceedings can be begun by only one of the spouses, the petition may be contested by the other party. Most of such contests are settled outside of court. In the same vein, if one spouse firmly believes that the marriage is salvageable, that party can petition the court to order marital counseling which results in a 60-day suspension during which the court determines whether reconciliation is possible or likely.
Divorce Decisions in Arizona
Many important issues must be decided by the divorcing parties, and since opposing views usually underlie the decision to divorce in the first place, negotiating agreement between the two spouses is no easy matter. Issues that must eventually be agreed upon or settled by a judge include:
Division of Property Arizona is a community property state, so any property or assets acquired during the marriage are subject to equitable division (generally 50/50) upon divorce. Property brought into the marriage by one spouse is retained by the owner when the divorce takes place. If one spouse receives an individual inheritance or gift during the marriage, this property, too, is retained by that spouse alone. Otherwise, all property and debt acquired during the marriage is considered to be jointly owned, including pensions and other work-related benefits. When one spouse has dissipated marital assets through excessive spending, gambling, or feeding an addiction, the amount lost may be included in marital assets when equitable distribution takes place.
Child Support Even in joint custody situations, one parent usually pays child support to the other unless the parents’ incomes are identical. In sole custody cases, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent with the intention of keeping the child’s lifestyle as intact as possible and with reimbursing the custodial parent for half of the childcare expenses. Child custody and support arrangements can be legally modified through your divorce attorney if conditions change.
Legal Decision & Parenting Time (Custody and Visitation)There are two types of child custody: legal and physical. In most cases, the parents will agree to share legal custody, meaning they will each have a say in the child’s education, religious upbringing, and healthcare. Physical child custody and visitation (parenting time) are another story. Because these issues are usually fraught with emotion, they are typically more contentious. Unless the spouses are able to agree on these issues, the court will make a decision based on what is believed to be in the best interests of the child. If the court is forced to make the decision it will consider:
- Existing parent-child relationships
- Preference and/or special needs of the child
- Any evidence of parental abuse, criminal behavior or addiction
- Which parent has been the primary caregiver
- Physical and mental health of the parents
- Which parent provides proximity to the child’s school, friends, grandparents
In some situations, the divorcing parents or the courts decide on joint physical custody, in which case the child will live approximately equal portions of the week or year with each parent. When sole custody is awarded, the noncustodial parent will be awarded substantial parenting time, typically one or more evenings a week and every other weekend.
Spousal Maintenance or Support – While in many cases, no spousal maintenance is necessary or even requested, there are situations in which one spouse not supporting the other would be patently unjust. Decisions to provide spousal maintenance support are based on:
- Duration of the marriage
- Age and health of spouse seeking support
- Comparative incomes of the two spouses
- Educational background and/or occupational training of spouse seeking support
- Estimated ability to be hired (if not working) of the spouse seeking support
- Unemployed spouse’s estimated earning power in the current job market
- Ages of children being tended by the spouse seeking support
Cohen Family Law Attorneys Are Also Adept Mediators
In an effort to make divorce less adversarial, and to save time and expense, many modern spouses decide to use an alternative method of severing marital ties — mediation. Mediation is designed as a means of assisting both spouses in reaching agreement on key issues without butting heads. The attorneys for each spouse are trained to keep the discourse civil and to avoid temper flare-ups. If you think mediation may work for your divorce, Cohen Family Law’s divorce attorney is ready to give you direction and support during the process.
Contact Our Phoenix Divorce Attorney
In the greater metropolitan Phoenix area, Cohen Family Law is a firm with over 30 years of experience and dedication to helping clients through the divorce process. We understand it is often difficult to take the first step toward divorce. However, we encourage you to contact our office today for your initial consultation.