Getting a divorce in Surprise or elsewhere in Arizona can be either an easy or complicated process. It depends on the parties and their circumstances. For instance, if the parties disagree about the division of property, or if child custody and support issues arise, the divorce could become complex and lead to a lengthy court battle.
At Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, our Surprise, AZ divorce attorneys will listen closely to you and understand your goals as you go through a divorce. We will then pursue those goals in the most efficient and cost-effective manner as possible, including seeking an agreement with your spouse which can minimize your time in court. To learn more, call or reach us online today for a confidential consultation.
Are You Eligible For a Divorce In Surprise?
One of the first steps you must take in a divorce in Surprise is to determine whether you meet the Arizona divorce residency requirement. To meet that requirement, you or your spouse must have been “domiciled” in the state or stationed here as a member of the armed services for at least 90 days before the filing of the divorce petition. “Domiciled” basically means that you or your spouse are physically present in Arizona and intend to remain here for an indefinite period of time.
If your divorce will involve child custody or support matters, you must have resided with your children in Arizona for at least six months before you file for a divorce. If you will ask a court to decide child custody or support issues, then Arizona must be your child’s primary residence. When you meet with our lawyers in Surprise to discuss your divorce, we can help you to determine whether you meet Arizona’s residency requirements.
What Are Grounds for a Divorce in Arizona?
For regular, non-covenant marriages, Arizona is a no-fault divorce state. So, you do not need to give any reason for why you are getting divorced. Instead, you must simply state that you believe that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
Because of the nature of a covenant marriage, it is more difficult to dissolve. After all, when you enter a covenant marriage in Surprise or elsewhere in Arizona, you make a promise that the marriage will be a commitment for life. As a result, to obtain a divorce in a covenant marriage, you must assert specific grounds. Those grounds include:
- Commitment of a high-level felony (or one resulting in imprisonment or capital punishment)
- Abandonment for at least one year prior to the divorce filing
- Physical, sexual or emotional abuse (or domestic violence)
- Living separate and apart for at least two consecutive years prior to the divorce filing
- Regular drug or alcohol abuse.
If you are currently in a covenant marriage, you can file for a divorce if you already obtained a legal separation, and you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least one year, or if both spouses agree to dissolve the marriage.
When you work with Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, an experienced Surprise divorce lawyer from our law firm can review your circumstances and explain what you will need to establish in order to obtain a divorce. If you must prove one of the above grounds in order to dissolve a covenant marriage, we can work with you to obtain and present the necessary evidence to establish those grounds.
How Does The Divorce Process Work In Surprise?
If you live in Surprise and meet the state’s divorce residency requirement, you would file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Superior Court. At the time you file the divorce petition, you would need to serve a copy of it on your spouse. If the spouse lives in Arizona, the spouse would have 20 days to respond to the petition. If the spouse lives in another state, the spouse would have 30 days to respond. If your spouse fails to file any response, then you can file a request for a default.
If your spouse wants to stay married, then your spouse can ask the court for a conciliation meeting or counseling. The divorce proceeding can be postponed for up to 60 days in order for the meeting or counseling to take place. If you and your spouse resolve your differences and agree to stay married, then you would file a request to dismiss the divorce petition. If not, then the divorce will move forward after the 60-day “cooling off” period passes.
How long it takes to finalize the divorce will depend primarily on two factors:
- Whether you and your spouse can agree on issues such as division of property, spousal support, child support, child custody (legal decision-making authority) and parenting time
- The court’s schedule.
While you cannot control the court’s schedule, you can do your best to agree with your spouse on matters related to your divorce and enter into a separation agreement. A separation agreement can avoid the time, expense and stress that will arise if you must ask a court to decide those matters in a hearing (or series of hearings).
After you and your spouse enter a separation agreement or go through a divorce hearing, the court will issue a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. This decree will officially terminate the marriage.
What Are Issues Related to Your Divorce?
A divorce can involve several related issues that will require the assistance of an attorney in order to fully protect your rights and interests (and, depending on your circumstances, your children as well). Those issues include:
- Property Division – Arizona is a community property state. All community property, or property held in common with your spouse, will be subject to division and distribution in a divorce. Typically, it is a 50/50 split. Property that you acquired before your marriage or as a gift or inheritance during the marriage is considered to be separate property. So, it will not be divided. It is important to work with a lawyer who will know how to identify and valuate community property and seek the amount you are due.
- Spousal Support – Depending on your circumstances, you or your spouse may be eligible to receive spousal support, or alimony, upon dissolution of the marriage. Several factors must be taken into account when determining one’s eligibility for spousal support as well as the amount of support, including the standard of living established during the marriage and whether one spouse sacrificed his or her income and/or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse during the marriage. Keep in mind: Even if you or your spouse receives spousal support, it can end or otherwise be modified.
- Child Custody – If you and your spouse are parents, then you will need to also take into consideration who will have legal custody of the children, or the ability to make decisions that affect the child’s welfare, and who will have physical custody of the child, or where the child will live. You should make the child’s best interest your primary consideration as that will be the standard which a court applies.
- Child Support – Both parents are responsible for providing financial support of their child or children. Typically, if a child does not live with a parent, then that parent will be the one responsible for paying child support. If circumstances change, however, a child support order may be modified.
Mediation can play a key role in the resolution of these issues. During mediation, a neutral mediator will work with you and your spouse to get you to reach an agreement on these issues. However, if mediation fails to produce an agreement, you should work with a lawyer who will be prepared to aggressively protect your rights and interests in the courtroom.
How Can Our Surprise Divorce Attorneys Help You?
The attorneys of Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC understand how the terms of a divorce can significantly affect the future for you and your family. We will use our skills as negotiators and litigators to pursue the best outcome for you, including:
- Meeting with you and taking the time to understand your objectives
- Handling all of the technical aspects of your divorce, including making sure that all necessary documents are filed and served in a timely and professional manner
- Negotiating with your spouse (or your spouse’s attorney) to reach a separation agreement that protects your rights and interests and meets your objectives
- Presenting a solid case on your behalf in court if you and your spouse cannot agree on issues such as spousal support, property division, child support, child custody and parenting time.
- Our Surprise family law attorneys are well-versed in all aspects of divorce. We will provide you with compassionate and professional legal guidance and representation throughout the divorce process.
What Steps Can You Take Before a Divorce?
The decision to go through with divorce is rarely an easy one to make. However, once you make that decision, you can take several steps to prepare yourself for a divorce. Those steps include:
- Gather your financial information, including information about your income, bank accounts, credit accounts and outstanding loans.
- Make a list of your personal and real property, including your home, other real estate, autos, household items, furniture, jewelry and other valuables.
- Establish a budget that will allow you and your children to live within your means as your divorce is in the process of being finalized.
- Find a place to live if you will be leaving the marital home.
- Open your own individual financial accounts and close any accounts which you hold jointly with your spouse.
- Notify your child’s school or caregiver if your separation or divorce will result in changes to your child’s schedule or change who drops off and picks up the child.
Our Surprise Divorce Attorneys Are Ready To Assist You
If you are facing divorce, an experienced divorce law firm can make a difference in the process and in the outcome for you and your family. To discuss how we can help you, contact Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC today for a confidential consultation with one of our experienced and compassionate Surprise divorce lawyers.