Do I need to hire an attorney for my divorce?
A divorce is one of the most significant events someone experiences in life. At stake are the most important personal and life-altering issues. The results may forever affect your life, your financial future, and the lives of your children. Choosing to have counsel and selecting the right attorney are crucial decisions. While choosing ‘to go it alone' may work out for some, for many others it is among their most regretted decisions. Mistakes made at the beginning of your case, may have far reaching consequences. If you are thinking about proceeding in a divorce without legal representation, it is strongly advisable to at least consult with an attorney first to determine whether your expectations are real, whether your goals are obtainable, what the potential risks are, and whether there are issues to be determined that you never even thought of.
Should I file for divorce?
The decision to initiate a divorce is an intensively personal and difficult decision. There are many factors to consider, including the effects on children, the ability to provide for one's reasonable needs going forward, the division of assets and the responsibility for debt. If you're considering filing for divorce, it is important that you consider all important information so that any decision you make will be in your best interests. Consulting an experienced attorney before you file can give you the guidance and information you need to decide the best way to go forward.
What is needed to file for divorce?
As long as you do not have a covenant marriage, and as long as you or your spouse has resided in Arizona for at least 90 days, you may file for a divorce in Arizona. No reasons, (grounds), are needed to file for divorce, other than your own belief that there are irreconcilable differences with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. The information necessary to determine what documents to file and the right time to file will vary depending on the specific facts of your particular case. If you are thinking about filing for divorce by using a ‘one size fits all' or ‘check-the-box,' form, you should proceed with caution at your own risk. One of the first steps we take for our clients is to fully analyze every aspect of your situation, provide experienced and informed advice on each and every issue, determine the best procedures, and prepare the appropriate documents to file with the Court that are drafted for your individual needs.
What is a covenant marriage?
A covenant marriage is a specific type of marriage entered into by agreement. If you enter into this type of marriage and you later wish to divorce, special rules apply that are different than filing for divorce had you not entered into that covenant marriage agreement. The requirements for a covenant marriage are set forth in Arizona law, A.R.S. §25-903. A covenant marriage requires participation in pre-marriage counseling. It also requires an agreement that there will be no divorce unless the spouse requesting it proves that at least one of several specific reasons exist for getting the divorce. In a non-covenant marriage, neither spouse needs to prove any reasons exist, other than their own belief that the marriage is irretrievably broken with no reasonable prospects for reconciliation. In order for a couple to have a covenant marriage, they must specifically and knowingly apply for it on their marriage license that includes:
1. The following written statement: A Covenant Marriage We solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for as long as they both live. We have chosen each other carefully and have received premarital counseling on the nature, purposes and responsibilities of marriage. We understand that a covenant marriage is for life. If we experience marital difficulties, we commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marital counseling. With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we do declare that our marriage will be bound by Arizona law on covenant marriages and we promise to love, honor and care for one another as husband and wife for the rest of our lives.
2. An affidavit by the parties that they have received premarital counseling from a member of the clergy or from a marriage counselor. Premarital counseling shall include a discussion of the seriousness of covenant marriage, communication of the fact that a covenant marriage is a commitment for life, a discussion of the obligation to seek marital counseling in times of marital difficulties and a discussion of the exclusive grounds for legally terminating a covenant marriage by dissolution of marriage or legal separation.
3. The signatures of both parties witnessed by a court clerk.
There also needs to be a notarized attestation that is signed by the clergy or counselor that must be submitted with the application for a license that confirms the couple were counseled as to the nature and purpose of the marriage and the grounds for its termination and that the counselor provided them with the informational pamphlet developed by the Supreme Court of Arizona. If there is a covenant marriage, then one of the following reasons, (grounds) must apply in order to get a divorce:
1. The respondent spouse has committed adultery.
2. The respondent spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment in any federal, state, county or municipal correctional facility.
3. The respondent spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for at least one year before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage and refuses to return. A party may file a petition based on this ground by alleging that the respondent spouse has left the matrimonial domicile and is expected to remain absent for the required period. If the respondent spouse has not abandoned the matrimonial domicile for the required period at the time of the filing of the petition, the action shall not be dismissed for failure to state sufficient grounds and the action shall be stayed for the period of time remaining to meet the grounds based on abandonment, except that the court may enter and enforce temporary orders pursuant to section 25-315 during the time that the action is pending.
4. The respondent spouse has physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking the dissolution of marriage, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living in the matrimonial domicile or has committed domestic violence as defined in section 13-3601 or emotional abuse.
5. The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage. A party may file a petition based on this ground by alleging that it is expected that the parties will be living separate and apart for the required period. If the parties have not been separated for the required period at the time of the filing of the petition, the action shall not be dismissed for failure to state sufficient grounds and the action shall be stayed for the period of time remaining to meet the grounds based on separation, except that the court may enter and enforce temporary orders pursuant to section 25-315 during the time that the action is pending.
6. The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least one year from the date the decree of legal separation was entered.
7. The respondent spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.
8. The husband and wife both agree to a dissolution of marriage.
How much are the filing fees for a divorce?
The Clerk of the Court will charge a filing fee to each party. The Petitioner, (who originates the case), will pay $338.00, and the Respondent will pay $269.00. (Fee waivers and deferrals are available for those who qualify).
How much will a divorce cost?
It is important to understand that the true cost of a divorce is not just the amount of attorney fees. The real cost includes the future financial consequences you will face after the divorce is final. This true cost will likely affect your life for years to come. That's why it is critical for you to find out as soon as possible, what you may expect at the conclusion. Typically these expectations will include a range of possible results. Where along that range of possibilities you end up at, may be significantly determined by the legal strategy employed in your case. An early assessment of your case will enable you to properly and knowingly plan for your future. Additionally, it will enable your attorney to develop the optimum legal strategy to obtain the most favorable outcome for you. Determining the range of possible results you are facing, requires a comprehensive understanding of all the relevant information in your case, plus a thorough knowledge of the applicable law. Additional skills and experience are needed to develop a strategy for obtaining the most favorable outcome for you. Further skills are necessary to best implement that strategy. Every divorce is different. The amount of attorney fees will vary from case to case and will depend largely on the complexity of the issues, the extent and type of disputed issues, and whether or not agreements are ultimately reached. Our attorneys analyze each case with vast experience and intense scrutiny aimed at providing you with knowledgeable advice on what you may expect , plus a qualified analysis of how to obtain the most favorable outcome.
What are my rights in a divorce?
This is a common question and a complex one. Generally speaking, you have the right to a get a divorce and the right to a fair and equitable division of your community property and debts. You also have the right to obtain Court Orders for legal decision-making and parenting-time that are in the best interests of any minor children involved. You have the right to a fair determination and resolution of all other related issues including the amount of child support and spousal maintenance if appropriate. You also have the right to your day in court and to have your case heard by a judge if a full agreement cannot be reached. Of course, these are just general answers. What applies in your individual case depends on your individual circumstances. After gathering the relevant information and factual background, an attorney will be able to give you specific advice about your case and what specific rights you have.