February 18, 2018

Arizona Divorce Laws Overview

One could write a tome about the laws impacting divorces in Arizona.  Below is a brief description of what the laws require in the resolution of divorces or legal separations:

1.     Property Division. The Court will divide community property “equitably.”   Equitably means near equal.  Rather than dividing a couch in half, one person may get the couch and one person may get the television.  Community property is property acquired during the marriage except by gift or inheritance.

2.     Debt Division. The law on debt division is less well defined.  Almost all debts incurred during the marriage are considered community debts, and the Courts generally equitably divide them.

3.     Spousal Maintenance. Spousal maintenance may be awarded if a spouse is unable to support his/her reasonable needs through property awarded in the divorce or through appropriate employment.  It is also awarded where a party has contributed to the other party’s educational opportunities or where the spouse should not work because of a child’s age or condition.  Finally spousal maintenance may be awarded if the marriage is one of long duration and the spouse’s age may prevent him/her from gaining appropriate employment.  The amount and duration of maintenance depends on a number of factors, including the receiving party’s needs, the paying party’s ability to pay, the length of the marriage and the standard of living maintained during the marriage.

4.     Custody and Parental Access. The custody and parental access schedule must be in the best interests of the children.  Joint custody means the parties make decisions (educational, medical and religion) together, and sole custody means one party makes the decisions.  Joint custody is favored where it is feasible.  It is prohibited in certain cases of domestic violence and drug use.

5.     Child Support. Child support is determined through the use of a formula, considering each party’s income, the amount of spousal maintenance either party receives/pays to the other, the number of children each party has, the amount of medical, day care and special need expenses for the children and the parental access schedule.  Parties can request a deviation from the guidelines where appropriate.

6.     Attorney’s Fees and Costs. If a party incurs attorney’s fees and costs, he/she may ask for reimbursement based on the financial resources of the parties and/or the reasonableness of the positions taken.

Parties to a divorce do not have to leave these decisions up to a Judge.  The parties can go to mediation, reach their own agreements, and submit them to the Judge for approval.  The Court generally approves any agreement that appears to meet the best interests of the children, be consistent with the Child Support Guidelines and be fair and equitable as to the remaining issues.  Parties have much more flexibility when they mediate and reach their own agreements.

Alona M. Gottfried is a family law mediator and attorney in Arizona.  If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or alona@sglawaz.com.  This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice.  See a legal professional before making legal decisions.

Simmons & Gottfried, PLLC
8160 E. Butherus Dr., Suite #7
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

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This is a general interest website only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.