dissolution (divorce)

The decision to divorce, or the knowledge that your spouse wants to divorce, is usually not an easy realization. The life that you know will change. You may have to move to a different home. You may not see your children as often as you are accustomed. These scenarios can sound problematic and scary.  As your attorney, I commit to protect your future, your children and your property. 

 

Whether you and your spouse agree on the major issues or are facing a contested divorce, having a skilled attorney on your side is the best way to move forward. I will guide you through this transition with your rights and best interests in mind.  While I have represented high net worth individuals and their spouses, business owners, and other professionals, I also represent everyday people from all walks of life. I am committed to providing the same high-quality service to each of my valued clients.

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You’re going through one of the worst times of your life, and I can help make it easier on you and on your family.  If you’re wondering, “Where can I find a family attorney near me that can protect my rights?”, you’ve come to the right place. I can provide advice and representation that you can trust to guide you through this experience.  I will fight to protect your fair share of assets in disputes over property division and for your rights in child custody.  I have the skills and experience to handle even the most complex divorce cases.  My priority is to help you through the difficulties, the decisions and the negotiations that are involved in ending your marriage.

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My office has represented many clients in cases ranging from routine divorce to military divorce, high net worth divorce, disputes regarding parenting time and child supportpost-decree modifications, domestic violence and more. I only take cases for which I believe I can provide meaningful help and when I think I can make a real difference in the life of my client.  I keep my caseload small so that I can focus my efforts on achieving the best possible results for every client.

 

As a client you need and deserve competence, communication, and compassion from your attorney.  If you are facing a divorce, you are seeking advice and representation that you can trust.   I am here to listen to your struggles and to help you craft solutions that will enable you to go forward positively into your new circumstances.

I am a seasoned family law litigation attorney.  My first objective is to try to negotiate case settlements prior to trial and have the client avoid the cost of a lengthy trial with an uncertain outcome.  However, some cases simply cannot be settled prior to trial, usually due to disagreements over the division of parenting time and assets.  When cases go to trial, I make a thorough presentation of exhibits and witness testimony that will place my client in the best light. 

 

In order to sue for divorce in Arizona, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the county where you are filing for at least 90 days beforehand. In Arizona, there is a waiting period of at least 60 days from the time the petition is served before the divorce is finalized, but most divorces take six months to a year to be completed, depending on how many issues are contested.

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  • Competent representation means that I can identify and advise you about the family law issues that apply uniquely to your case.  I know and understand family law statutes and rules, and I will guide you through the legal process to achieve a comprehensive and fair resolution of all issues.

  • Communication between attorney and client is a high priority for me.  My clients receive prompt access to me for answers to their questions.  If I am not available when you call or e-mail, I usually call clients back or respond by e-mail on the same day.

  • Compassion is offered as clients navigate a stressful and uncertain time in their lives.  I am here to listen to your struggles and to help you craft solutions that will enable you to go forward positively into your new circumstances. You can emerge from this process with dignity and self-respect.

  • Children are the top priority for clients who have them.  If you have minor children, you feel concern for them and their future most acutely.  Their best interest will also be my number one priority.  Children are the most precious asset of all.

The legal process choices available to you are:

 

*         Litigation: You hire an attorney to represent you.  Settlement options are fully explored.  If you and your spouse are unable to settle, a judge will decide all issues after hearing each spouse testify and present evidence. 

 

*         Mediation: You and your spouse could use a mediator to assist you in reaching an agreement.  The mediator cannot provide you with legal advice, so you may still want an attorney to review the agreement, and advise you. 

 

*         Self-representation: You represent yourself without the advice and assistance of an attorney.  Your spouse may either self-represent or hire an attorney.  You do not incur legal fees, but you assume various risks.  If your spouse has an attorney and you do not, you may be outmaneuvered in either settlement negotiations or in trial.  If you settle without the advice of an attorney, you may risk agreeing to something unfair or unenforceable.  You may also completely miss key areas that should be dealt with.

 

For more information on these dispute resolution methods, or for information on any issue particular to your case, you can explore this website further or give me a call to schedule an appointment to discuss your options.

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HIGH ASSET AND HIGH NET WORTH DIVORCE

 

Generally in Arizona, the presumption is that all of the property that you or your spouse earn or acquire while married is community property that you both own and must be divided equally upon divorce.  Overcoming this presumption and establishing that property is separate property requires proof that is clear and convincing.  High-asset  divorces can be complicated because of the nature of the property the couple accumulated during the marriage.  

 

A high-asset divorce may also include the division of retirement funds, stock options, pensions and other assets for which the value is not immediately apparent.  High net worth divorces sometimes involve the messiness of hidden assets, trusts and corporate structures.  Similarly, intellectual property or multiple homes and vacation properties may need to be valued.  Couples that own a family business may have different senses of what their business is worth.  I work with expert appraisers and financial experts as necessary to establish an equitable division of marital property.  I act equally for those seeking to protect their wealth and those fighting to claim their fair share.

How to Choose a Divorce Attorney

 

Divorce is a big decision that is made even more complicated by the emotions you feel for each other and the physical and financial remainders of the life you built with each other. The existence of those complexities is precisely why you should be consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer.  No matter how amicably you have handled your divorce, there is too much at stake to leave the result up to the courts—and then, of course, there are the big five: the five reasons you definitely need to hire a divorce lawyer.

 

  • Children. The number one reason is your minor children. When you have those tiny humans depending on you, you need to do what it takes to ensure that their lives post-divorce are as secure as they were when you were married. That means addressing parenting time and legal decision-making issues like how far away you want those kids to be moving to stay with the other parent.  A lot needs to be done to ensure the best interests of the children remain the focus. I will make sure that happens.

  • Financial security. It doesn’t matter how amicable your breakup is, if you both contributed your own finances towards building a life together, then separating while ensuring fairness can be complicated.  Do either or both of you have retirement accounts or a pension that needs to be divided fairly?  I can help you sort out those details so no one feels the settlement was unreasonable.

  • The power of separate property vs. community property.  Did you own bank accounts together? Do you have separate property, such as a house you purchased prior to the marriage or an inheritance received during the marriage?  Was only one of your names on the title to the house even though it was purchased during the marriage by both of you?  And what about the family dog?  When you are married, things stop being “hers”, “his” and “mine”; the division between who owns what gets cloudy.  Your attorney can help divide and complete the paperwork on co-owned property and accounts so neither of you feels slighted by the agreement.

  • Clarity and conclusiveness. It doesn’t matter how amicable this is; it’s still an ending, and that means it’s emotionally upsetting and stressful. As your attorney, I can ensure those emotions don’t lead to mistakes and unwanted blow-outs.  I ensure that all legalities are clear, and that all of the T's are crossed so there is no confusion and no possibility for the other person to bring a grey area to your attention in the future.

  • Avoiding the delays.  Once a petition for dissolution has been filed and a preliminary injunction has been served on the other party, neither of you can transfer funds or property without the knowledge and consent of the other party.  When a client comes to see me and feels that the other party is planning to make an unneeded major purchase, move assets or change beneficiaries, I can quickly prepare the necessary documents and achieve service on the other party so as to protect the client’s interest in community assets.  Later, during the process, I personally ensure all paperwork is filed correctly and on time so there will be no delays in the proceedings. 

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Arizona Law Regarding Divorce

 

Arizona is a no-fault divorce state.  This means that no grounds for divorce (such as adultery, mental cruelty or irreconcilable differences ) are needed or alleged.  Instead, the petitioning spouse alleges that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that there is no reasonable prospect for reconciliation. 

 

There is no defense to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  One spouse cannot prevent the other spouse from ending the marriage.

 

If a spouse wants to try and reconcile the marriage, a Petition for Conciliation can be filed which results in both spouses being ordered to attend at least one mandatory free marriage counseling session with the Family Court of Conciliation.  If one spouse still wants to end the marriage, the case will proceed and the marriage counseling will end.

 

THE PROCESS -- WHAT TO EXPECT

A divorce action is initiated by one of the spouses filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  In some cases, the filing party needs to request Temporary Orders.  This means immediate assistance with things like child support, spousal support or access to the marital home. 

 

The other spouse must be served with the Petition and other required documents.  This would include the Petition for Temporary Orders and Notice of Hearing in those cases.  In some instances the other spouse agrees to sign an Acceptance of Service, eliminating the need for a process server to physically serve the papers. 

 

The other spouse is required to file a Response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage within the required time frame to avoid a Default Judgment.  If a Response is NOT filed, I proceed with the papers to obtain a default Decree of Dissolution.  In most cases, however, a Response is filed.

If a Petition for Temporary Orders is filed in conjunction with the Petition for Dissolution, the assigned judge will set a hearing date.  The items requested in the Petition for Temporary Orders will be ruled on at that hearing and those orders will typically be in force until the final Decree of Dissolution is finalized. 

The next step is to negotiate a settlement.  In cases where the parties have differing opinions on important topics like parenting time and property division, both spouses will need to work together to reach an agreement.  Sometimes the court will schedule a settlement conference, which is where the parties and their attorneys will meet to discuss the status of the case.  Mediation will often be scheduled, which is where a neutral third party will help facilitate discuss between the spouses to resolve parenting time issues.  During this stage, the attorneys for both parties will exchange documents such as bank and retirement statements and mortgage and credit card statements in order to determine the amount of assets and debts.  Attorneys may decide to file discovery documents in which the other party is asked questions they are required to answer or produce documents.  If settlement negotiations are successful, an attorney will draft a decree called a Consent Decree, wherein the parties "consent" to all of the terms of the divorce without having to go to trial.

If settlement negotiations fail, the matter will proceed to trial, where the judge will rule on such issues as parenting time, legal decision-making, spousal maintenance, equitable division of joint and community property, equitable allocation of joint and community debts and payment of attorney’s fees and costs.  

 

A dissolution of marriage ends the marriage, and either party is thereafter free to remarry.