Frequently Asked Questions
CAN ONE LAWYER REPRESENT BOTH OF US?
Unfortunately, the answer is “no.” Even if two spouses agree on all the issues in their case there is a fundamental conflict of interest that ethically precludes one attorney from representing both parties in a divorce.
HOW LONG WILL THE DIVORCE TAKE?
On average, a divorce takes between six (6) to twelve (12) months. The amount of time it takes to resolve any case depends upon the complexities and number of the issues presented in the case. There may also be other professionals whose expertise is required, such as custody evaluators, appraisers for the property and/or businesses, and/or vocational experts.
Even without time consuming or complex issues, in Arizona, there is a mandatory 60 day waiting period from the time the petition is served on the other party until the divorce could be final.
As you might imagine, if your case becomes complicated, or if you and your spouse cannot reach agreements, the case will take longer to complete.
HOW MUCH WILL MY CASE COST?
Unfortunately, we cannot predict what the total fees will be at the beginning of the case because that will depend on so many things: the complexity of the case, the time involved, the level of your spouse’s cooperation, the availability of information, and so on. The breadth and depth of the issues in your case will become more apparent over time and your lawyer should be able to give you an estimate as to the likely future costs as the case progresses. You should discuss those costs with your lawyer in light of potential benefits to your case. An exhaustive “leave no stone unturned” approach can be cost prohibitive and simply may be unwarranted. Our attorneys’ hourly rates are: Stephen Smith and Jennifer Gadow – $475/hour; Kathleen Stillman and Jared Sandler – $300/hour.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO MY INITIAL CONSULTATION?
You do not need to bring anything. The consultation is designed to give you the necessary information to allow you to make an informed decision on how to proceed. The attorney will discuss with you parenting issues, financial issues, and other topics related to divorce. However, it is a good idea to have a general concept of what assets and debts are to be divided. Further, the attorney will ask about each parties’ employment status and income. If you have a pre-nuptial agreement, it is recommended that you bring a copy to the consultation.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON PARENTING TIME ARRANGEMENTS?
The courts will typically approve any parenting schedule which both parents agree is in their children’s best interest. Even if you work well with your former spouse, a specific schedule in writing is required by law. That way, you each will have the same expectations of when you will be with the children. Often, cooperating parents will have a parenting arrangement structured in their parenting plan but will use common sense to adjust the schedule from time to time.
Since each family is unique, parents need to determine which schedule works best for them and their children. This may change as the children get older or due to the natural evolution of the separate households.
In Arizona, there are Model Parenting Plans which are often helpful.
Some common arrangements include the following:
- “5-5-2-2” plan which alternates weekends and gives one parent every Monday and Tuesday overnight and the other parent every Wednesday and Thursday overnight. This is an equal parenting time schedule.
- “2-2-3-2-2-3” plan which alternates weekends and gives one parent Monday and Tuesday overnights one week and that same parent Wednesday and Thursday overnights the second week. This is also an equal parenting time schedule.
- One week on/ one week off, with a mid-week dinner visit. This is another equal parenting time arrangement.
Most parenting plans will include the following:
- Dividing school vacations and recesses.
- Alternating major holidays.
- Reasonable telephone/Facetime/Skype access.
- Vacation access.
- Provisions regarding the sharing of information about the children.
- A procedure for resolving future parenting disputes.
WHAT ABOUT ACCESS TO GRANDCHILDREN?
Arizona law does allow for grandparents to seek visitation with their grandchildren if certain conditions exist. Grandparent visitation matters can be extremely complex and fact specific. If you have questions about such issues, you should request a consultation to discuss the nature of your family situation.
WHO DECIDES HOW MUCH CHILD SUPPORT IS PAID?
In response to federal legislation, each state has adopted official child support guidelines. To receive federal funding, each state is required to have a standardized system for determining child support. These guidelines establish the method for calculating child support in each case and are designed to ensure consistency and predictability in child support amounts.
The Arizona Child Support Guidelines are a set of rules and formulas used to determine the proper amount of child support. The major factors that are considered include each party’s income, the cost of health insurance and daycare, and the time spent with each parent. In Arizona, using the guidelines is generally mandatory, however, the court or parties may deviate from the guidelines so long as there are specific reasons for doing so.
WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE?
The purpose of spousal maintenance is to assist a party who is not in a position to meet his/her own reasonable needs after separation or divorce to achieve the goal of financial independence. In order to qualify for maintenance, a party must meet one of the following criteria:
- Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs.
- Is unable to be self sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self sufficient.
- Has made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning ability of the other spouse.
- Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self sufficient.
- Has significantly reduced his/her income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
HOW LONG WILL I PAY OR RECEIVE SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE AND HOW MUCH WILL IT BE?
The length and amount of the award of spousal maintenance depends on a number of factors including but not limited to the following:
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
- The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
- The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
- The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
- The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
- The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
- The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently.
- The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available.
- Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
- The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved.
In contrast to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, there is no formula supported by law which determines the length or amount of spousal maintenance. Due to the subjective nature of the factors listed above there is often a wide range of possible outcomes for spousal maintenance.
WHAT PROPERTY GETS DIVIDED?
Arizona is a community property state. Simply put, all property acquired during the marriage except for gifts or inheritance is considered to be community property. Assets that were brought into the marriage by one party are considered to be that party’s sole and separate property and are not subject to division unless there has been a commingling of these assets. In some cases, the appreciation or increased value of a separate asset might be considered to be community property. Under those circumstances an experienced attorney would need to review the facts to determine if a community interest exists.