Proceed with your divorce with the confidence of knowing you have experienced and empathetic representation advocating for you.
Divorce is the dissolution of a marriage. Divorce matters include:
When a couple gets divorced or legally separates, the marital property must be divided. Arizona is a "community property" state and, with limited exceptions, each party is entitled to an equitable share of the community. Common examples of community property include each party’s income earned during the marriage, real and personal property purchased during the marriage, and employee and employer contributions to retirement funds made during the marriage.
Community property is distinct from separate property. Separate property is:
- any property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage,
- any property or money acquired by one spouse during the marriage by gift or inheritance,
- any property or money acquired by one spouse during the marriage as a result of an increase in value, receipt of rent, or the like, from defined separate property, and
- any property acquired by one spouse after service of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage/Petition for Legal Separation.
Issues commonly arise when separate property is “comingled” with community property. For example, where one spouse owns a home before marriage and then uses community property or income to improve the home or pay the mortgage during marriage, the other spouse may have a claim, referred to as a "community lien" on this separate property. I can help you identify community and separate property, and ensure that you receive a fair award of the assets.
In a divorce or legal separation, the court may order one spouse to contribute to the other spouse’s support and maintenance through regularly scheduled payments. This is known as spousal maintenance (formerly alimony). The court may award spousal maintenance when one spouse is unable to meet his or her reasonable needs; when one spouse contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse; or when there is a marriage of long duration and the spouse seeking support may have difficulty obtaining gainful employment because of his or her age. Once the court finds that a spouse is entitled to spousal maintenance, the court then considers several factors to determine the amount and duration of the payments. The factors the court considers includes the duration of the marriage, the physical and mental health of each spouse, the financial resources of each spouse, and the financial needs of each spouse. In awarding spousal maintenance, the court may not consider whether either party is at fault for the divorce, or what caused the divorce.
Spousal maintenance may be modifiable and non-modifiable. Spousal maintenance is "modifiable" if the court can adjust the award when circumstances change. The court can only award modifiable spousal maintenance, but parties may agree to non-modifiable spousal maintenance, meaning that neither party can change the award even if circumstances change.
I can help you understand whether spousal maintenance may be appropriate in your divorce and how much the court might award. I can also explain to you the pros and cons to modifiable and non-modifiable spousal maintenance. And, if it becomes necessary, I can effectively litigate spousal maintenance issues to ensure that you receive fair treatment from the court.
Attorney’s Fees and Costs
At the outset of any divorce, both parties need to understand who will be paying the attorney’s fees and costs for the divorce. Where there is a disparity of income and/or where one side takes unreasonable positions in the litigation, the court may award attorney’s fees and costs. For example, where one spouse earns a significant income and the other spouse does not, the court may order the high earner to pay funds to the other spouse to fund his or her attorneys' fees. This order might come at the outset of, during or at the conclusion of the divorce proceedings. I pride myself on being efficient and adding value for my clients by minimizing attorneys' fees where possible and when appropriate.
Children - Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time
Formerly known as legal custody, legal decision-making is the right and responsibility to make major decisions for a minor child. In deciding whether to award a party joint or sole legal decision-making authority, the court must consider the best interests of the child as determined from past, present and potential future relationship between the parents and child, the child’s relationship with extended family members, the child’s wishes (if the child is of suitable age and maturity), mental and physical health of the parents and the child, and other factors affecting the child’s best interests.
Parenting time is separate from legal decision-making. Parenting time refers to how the parents share time with their children. Parents can share joint legal decision-making, but not share equal parenting time. Similarly, parents can share equal parenting time, but not joint legal decision-making
Legal decision making and parenting time are typically negotiated and the parties' agreement is set forth in a parenting plan. A typical parenting plan will cover how the parents share legal decision-making, parenting time, including holidays and vacations, and how the parents will communicate with one another regarding the children.
When the parties cannot agree, they will present the evidence to the judge, who will order a parenting plan that is in the child's best interests. This is an area where I excel. During my many years as an Assistant Arizona Attorney General, I litigated hundreds of cases on behalf of Child Protective Services (now DCS) that centered on the best interests of the child. I understand how to effectively present your case and I have years of experience and education in parenting, bonding and child development. Unfortunately, there are times when parents become unfit by virtue of mental illness, personality disorders and/or substance abuse. I am adept at litigating these complex and difficult issues and I care deeply about what happens to the children in a divorce.
This information is intended for informational purposes only. For case specific legal advice please call Nicci Hinderaker at Hinderaker Family Law -- (520) 398-5067.