Do you understand the divorce process in Arizona? Chances are most people do not fully understand what it is involved when they decide to end their marriage. To start with, divorce is actually called the “dissolution of marriage” in Arizona. Regardless of what term you use, divorce can be painful and confusing.
Most divorces center on the division of property, spousal support orders and child custody and child support issues (if children are involved). Below are some common terms and related issues that divorcing couples should understand before filing for divorce:
- Community/Marital Property: This is property acquired during the course of the marriage. Any property collected after the date of marriage is considered community property and is subject to an equitable division. This means that community property will be divided in fair way. This does not necessarily mean that all property will be divided in a equally. Some property, even if accrued during the marriage, is sole and separate property of one person or the other. These include property owned by one spouse before the marriage and gifts or inheritances received by a party during the marriage. Premarital assets and property or assets received as an inheritance or gift is usually awarded to the person who received the property. There are instances where sole and separate property may be divided depending on how the property was treated upon receipt (DO NOT PUT INHERITANCE INTO JOINT ACCOUNTS EVER). For these reasons, it is imperative to analyze property concerns with an attorney.
- Child Support: The purpose of child support is to help even out the costs for raising the children. This includes clothing, food, shelter, schooling, insurance, medical needs and other expenses. Either spouse can request a temporary child support order while the divorce is still in progress, with any temporary orders terminating once the divorce has been finalized. Child support orders usually continue once the divorce decree is signed by a judge. In Arizona, child support is affected by each party’s income, who is providing medical insurance for the children, how much time each party spends with the kids (parenting time), child care costs, whether there are additional minor children not of the parties’ relationship and other factors.
- Legal Decision-Making Authority (Child Custody) and Parenting Time: Once a divorce petition is filed, the court is given the power to make decisions regarding legal custody and parenting time. However, most courts want parents to reach a parenting time agreement through mediation. If this is not possible, the court will enter a ruling related to custody and parenting time.
The divorce decree can include other issues related to a couple’s specific situation, which may include complex property division. Once all issues are decided (either by agreements of the parties or by trial), the court will grant a divorce decree, which must be signed by a judge to become final.
With Arizona ranking high in divorce rates compared to other states, it’s important to be prepared. If you are thinking about filing for divorce or are already in the process of ending your marriage, it is pertinent to understand all aspects presented by your personal fact pattern. Professional preparation, analysis and experience helps focus negotiations, increasing your chances of successfully settling. For these reasons, you should consider working with an experienced divorce attorney to ensure your rights are protected and all options are explored before signing your divorce decree.
If you have any questions about divorce, please contact Centuori & Associates, family law and divorce attorneys of Tucson, at (520) 314-6526.