Tempe Divorce Attorney

Initiating the Divorce

A divorce is initiated with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage together with other relevant documents our courts require. The Petition includes important information regarding your marriage. It names you, your spouse and any children and states your preferences as to child custody, visitation, child support, spousal maintenance, whether there is separate property, the division of community property, and whether you want your attorney's fees awarded to you. If you are concerned about where you were married, it does not matter. To get a divorce, it only matters that you want a divorce, you have resided in Maricopa County at least 90 days, and your children have resided in Arizona for at least six months.

Temporary Orders

There are many issues to decide in a divorce case; and it can take from several months, and occasionally, several years to work out all those issues. Frequently, a parent will withhold a child from another parent or refuse to provide support while a case is pending. In such cases, our office will immediately file for a temporary court order to maintain your rights from the time the divorce is filed until a final divorce settlement agreement is negotiated.

Below is a list of issues that can be addressed with a temporary court order:

  • How much child support will be paid.
  • Who gets custody of the children.
  • A visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent.
  • Who is responsible for carrying health insurance on the children.
  • How much spousal support will be paid.
  • Which spouse will be able to live in the marital home.
  • Which spouse will pay the mortgage or whether the payment will be split between the spouses.
  • How household items will be split.
  • Who will be responsible for paying utility bills.
  • Who will drive which vehicle, who will pay for which vehicle.
  • Whether you can receive an advancement of attorney's fees.

Service of Process

The Petition (and accompanying documents filed with the Petition) and any requests for Temporary Orders must be served on the other spouse. This phase of the process is called "service of process." If both spouses agree to the divorce, the other spouse only needs to sign an acknowledgement of the receipt. We will hire a professional process server to personally deliver or serve the papers on your spouse or former significant other. This task can be difficult; however in eight years of practice, I have had only a few people that I could not locate and serve.

During the Divorce

After service is complete, the clock starts running on Arizona's 60 day waiting period or "cool off" period. At the same time automatic restraining orders on the spouses take effect and the date of separation is established which is important if your spouse wants starts accumulating debt without your knowledge. At this point, the spouses are not permitted to take any children out of state, sell or dispose of any property, borrow against property, and remove the other spouse from any insurance policies including health, life and automobile insurance.

The other spouse is known as the "Respondent." Although it's not required, the Respondent can file a response to the petition stating specifically whether they agree with the claims in your Petition. If a response is not filed within 20 days (30 if the other spouse is served out of state), the Petitioner (you) can request that a default be entered by the court. If that happens, you can ask for and receive typically what you are requesting from the court.

After the Response is filed, the parties conduct what is called discovery and disclosure. This means there is an exchange of all of the documentation and information necessary for the parties to have full knowledge of the issues, and make an informed decision. The discovery and disclosure process can be complicated. Parties may seek to withhold information about their assets or even personal issues such as a criminal past or a mental health problem. Great care, diligence and skill must be used to discover all information. Once this stage is completed, the parties can begin negotiating a settlement in their case - a separate art form that requires as much skill as gathering and analyzing the documents necessary to resolve the case.

Finalizing

If the divorce is uncontested and the spouses can agree on the terms of the divorce, the parties prepare a Consent Decree memorializing their agreements. If there are children, a Parenting Plan must be drafted. Once a Consent Decree is filed with the Court and signed, the divorce is final.

If there are disputes that cannot be resolved, there will be future court hearings and maybe even a trial will be required. Parties want to avoid a trial at all costs as it is costly and emotionally draining. You will have to ask yourself whether you want half of the assets you and your spouse own or 40% of the assets because you are spending the other 10% on your attorney.

Addressing Post Divorce Matters

Even after a divorce is completed, issues may arise, especially when children are involved. I regularly handle cases involving the following:

  • Modification: Our lives and those around us are constantly changing. We may change jobs, move to another state, remarry, have another child. Changes that may not be issues now, such as drug use, psychological breakdowns, domestic violence and abuse can and do occur in the future. When circumstances change that require a modification of child custody, parenting time, child support or spousal support, the courts will consider modifications.
  • Enforcement: All aspects of a divorce decree are legally binding and can be enforced if one party is not living up to his or her obligations.

Choosing the Right Attorney

Because your assets and children are at stake, you can't gamble with your choice of attorney. You need an attorney that will act quickly to protect your rights, has the knowledge to understand and assert your claims, and can effectively negotiate and/or litigate your case. I treat all my clients like family, taking a personal interest in each case; and I have the knowledge, skill and background to handle any divorce case. Contact me today to discuss yours.