Family Law Attorney in Tucson
Elkins & Associates, PLLC, is here to help you navigate the tough times of a divorce. The Arizona divorce process can be confusing, so our family law lawyers work with our clients to clarify the process and to make it as simple and easy to understand as possible. With our experience, you can trust us to help you understand your rights throughout the process.
Throughout this website, our Tucson family law attorneys discuss things that are important to you: basics of Arizona divorce law, what you can expect during the process of dissolution, disputes involving children and children’s issues, asset and debt division, retirements, attorney fees and costs, retainers, and solid strategies for saving money. Our Arizona divorce attorneys can help guide you through your Arizona family law case. Two things that separate us from other law firms in Arizona are that we work hard to provide reliable answers for hard questions, and we offer an experienced support system for you during this difficult time. With our convenient online information regarding divorce procedures and divorce law in Tucson and throughout Arizona on our website, you can get quick answers to your questions about the divorce process anytime day or night.
The Process of Divorce in Arizona
Divorce will probably prove to be one of the most difficult periods in your life. The changes come fast and furious and are often beyond your control. There’s no shame in asking for help from family, friends, lawyers, doctors or clergy. Whatever the source, make use of it!
Arizona divorce cases are initiated with the filing of Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition and the required accompanying documents must be served on the other party, who then has twenty days to file a Response to the Petition. In a divorce petition, a party identifies the issues in the case and sometimes sets out what the Petitioner thinks is the best solution to the issues, including:
- Division of Assets
- Division of Debt
- Spousal Maintenance
- Child Support
- Parenting Time
- Decision Making
- Attorney Fees
Sometimes, and especially in cases involving children, your lawyer will file a Motion to Appear Re: Temporary Orders. This document tells the court that it is necessary for the parties to come to court for orders that will stay in place during the pendency of the divorce process. This is common when parties are unable to agree on issues of parenting time and child support. The court will set a hearing date, and the parties will appear for a proceeding that is sometimes similar to a mini-trial, where witnesses take the stand and explain the issues to the judge.
If the parties have children, each party will be required to take a court-ordered parent education course. This is offered through the Court of Conciliation. It is offered at different times and locations, and is extremely informative. It helps parents understand what children go through during and after the divorce process, and how to best help them through it.
After the Petition and the Response are both filed, a Motion to Set is prepared and filed. This document tells the court that it is time to put the case onto the court calendar for final resolution. More documents are required for filing, and dates are set for a Family Law Settlement Conference, and for trial. During this process, there are many opportunities to discuss and settle your case, and many, if not most cases are settled during this time period. JOY and TERRI work closely with you and opposing counsel and they will offer you realistic solutions to the issues that are unique to your family. Successful negotiation avoids the anxiety and high cost of trial, and JOY and TERRI will do everything they can to settle your matter while protecting your rights.
Arizona has a 60-day waiting period following service of the Petition before a family law court may grant a divorce. When your case has been settled and the proper paperwork is submitted to the court, the judge will sign a Divorce Decree and the marriage will be over. If the case does not settle, a trial will take place, the court will make its decisions, and issue a Decree. Typically, a divorce takes between sixty-one days and about nine months to be concluded. It can take even more time, depending on the parties’ attitudes and actions, and the complexity of the issues to be decided.
Most people want to know that life will go on after divorce. They want to know that they’ll be able to raise their kids, enjoy retirement, and have a roof over their heads. So much change occurs during a divorce, and at such a fundamental level, that it’s absolutely reasonable to fear the future and what it may bring. Life does move past divorce. Whether it moves in positive and exciting new directions, or spirals into conflict is, to a large extent, your choice. You can control the coping mechanisms – health and fitness, or you could choose to engage in self-destructive behaviors. You control many aspects of the conflict and even in the worst of situations, positive choices designed to move forward, can only help.
Division of Assets and Debts
Arizona is a community property state. So, what are “community” assets and debts, as opposed to sole and separate assets and debts? Absent a Prenuptial or Postnuptial agreement to the contrary, essentially any asset or debt that you and your spouse obtained or incurred during the marriage, is a community asset or debt, unless it was a gift, or an inheritance. If an asset was purchased with money earned during the marriage, it is jointly owned. If a bank or investment account contains money earned during the marriage, it belongs to both of you regardless of whose name is on the account. If a debt was incurred during the marriage, whether both spouses knew of it or not, it’s a community debt unless if was incurred for a non-community purpose. This can be a complex area of the law, especially when sole and separate assets are mixed with community assets.
The statutes say that assets and debts are to be divided “equitably.” Equitably does not necessarily mean equally, and there are times when the court takes factors such as unequal incomes, or unequal contribution into account when dividing assets and debts. Arizona statutes say that assets will be divided without regard to marital misconduct– thus a spouse’s bad behavior is most often not considered by the court in dividing assets and debts. This entire topic is complex, and the divisions are decided on an individual, case-by-case basis. It is usually best to engage a lawyer to help you, especially where retirement accounts, 401k accounts, and IRA’s are concerned.
Spousal maintenance, sometimes referred to as alimony in other states, is a slippery topic. There are multiple, statutory factors involved in determining whether a spouse qualifies for an award of spousal maintenance, and still other factors to decide how much should be awarded, and for what period of time. Because there are no statewide guidelines for an award of spousal maintenance, this area of the law is heavily dependent on the skill of the lawyers representing the parties. The lawyers at Elkins & Associates, PLLC, are very experienced in this area, and we encourage you to arrange a consultation to discuss your individual circumstances.
Crimes and Divorce
It’s not too uncommon for a divorce case to involve some potential, or actual, criminal activity. While criminal cases are prosecuted by the State of Arizona and take place in different courtrooms from divorce cases, these cases may have a huge impact on a divorce case. “Criminal” activity comes into a divorce case in one of two basic ways. First, one of the spouses is involved in criminal activity, while the other is not. For example, if a one spouse is using or dealing drugs, or gets charged with fraud, a divorce court might step in and prevent that parent from exercising any parenting time, or might order supervised parenting time. In the case of one spouse committing fraud, we could have an issue with liability for restitution. The second way”criminal” activity might come into a divorce case is when a spouse is the victim of criminal activity by the other. The obvious example is domestic violence-related crimes, but there are certainly other types. When it comes to domestic violence, courts take this issue very seriously. Our statutes prevent an abusing parent from having decision-making responsibility, and evidence of domestic violence is strongly considered in determining appropriate parenting time. Likewise, allegations of violence that cannot be proven work strongly against the accusing parent.
There’s never an excusable reason to abuse your spouse. You should be aware that there are many acts that are considered by the court to constitute an act of domestic violence, not just actual physical contact.
One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year, and 85% of domestic violence victims are women. Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they knew. Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.
There are resources for victims. There are things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones. Step one is to ask for help. Step two is to act. If you are a victim of domestic violence, please get to a safe place. If you need information about where and how to obtain an Order of Protection, go to the Pima County Courts website, Arizona Superior Court, and, for information about which court to go to, see: www.pimasheriff.org/about-us/frequently-asked-questions/general-information/how-do-i-obtain-an-order-of-protection-or-injunction-against-har/ or simply call one of the paralegals in our office. We don’t charge for this service, and you can get an Order of Protection without a lawyer. Protection Orders can help victims gain some independence and space from the abuser, and while not perfect, these Orders often provide the best protection possible. Be aware that the accused may request a hearing regarding the allegations, and whether you are the accuser or the accused, you may want to have a lawyer present at the hearing. These hearings are important; Orders of Protection can affect your employment or security clearance. Orders of Protection stay in effect for one year, and may be renewed for another year.
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