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The sad truth is that not every marriage works out. Regardless of the circumstances, leaving your spouse can be a stressful proposition. However, if you have minor children, the decision is especially fraught. Along with worrying about the effect the divorce will have on them, you may be fielding requests from well-meaning friends and family to “stay together for the kids.”
Additionally, you are likely dealing with fears surrounding parenting time, visitation, child support, and more. This articles explains how the divorce process works in Arizona and learn what steps to take before dissolving your marriage.
How to Get Divorced in Arizona
Arizona has strict laws surrounding marriage dissolution. In order to file for divorce, both you and your ex first have to reside in the state for a minimum of 90 days. If you have not yet been in the state for 90 days, you will have to wait until the requirements are met to file. Additionally, children have to be living in Arizona primarily for a period of six months before the courts can rule on parenting time or child support.
Divorces in Arizona are either contested or uncontested. With a contested divorce, couples disagree on fundamental issues surrounding the way the marriage is dissolved. On the other hand, in an uncontested divorce, couples agree on how the marriage will be terminated.
If you and your spouse file an uncontested divorce, you get to make decisions on your own and not worry about the judge ruling on your parenting time and custody. With a contested divorce, you expect to attend court hearings and spend time in front of a judge.
How to Pay for Your Divorce
Money is often a concern in divorce cases. After all, the legal process isn’t free, and if you’re thinking of leaving your spouse, you might be wondering how to pay for an attorney. The good news is that the court may opt to award attorneys’ fees against one party.
Most often this happens when a petition is filed for improper purposes or with the goal of increasing litigation costs. Additionally, attorneys’ fees may be awarded in the event that a significant disparity exists between the respective parties’ incomes.
How Custody Is Decided
If you have minor children, one of your greatest concerns when deciding to leave your spouse is likely what will happen to them after the divorce. As of 2013, Arizona passed Law SB1127, which replaced the word custody with the term “legal decision-making.”
Courts generally try to award decision-making rights to both parents. However, circumstances may arise in which one parent gets primary authority. Here are some of the issues that affect the way a court rules on legal decision-making:
- Severe mental health concerns
- Domestic violence
- Child abuse or neglect
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Criminal history
Additionally, the court may rule on parenting time in a contested divorce. Even if spouses receive joint legal decision-making, they won’t necessarily have equal parenting time, which refers to the actual time children spend with each parent. The goal is to find an arrangement that works with parents’ schedules while serving the best interests of the children involved. Here are some of the topics you can expect to discuss when designing a parenting plan:
- Daily parenting time
- Holidays and vacations
- Custody exchanges
- Parental communication
In the event that you and your spouse can’t agree on a parenting plan, the family court will create one for you.
Steps to Take If You Want to Leave Your Spouse
If you’re planning to leave your spouse, there are steps you should take prior to filing for divorce and once you’ve already separated. The following tips are designed to improve the outcome of your case:
Gather Your Documentation
Whether or not you have minor children, it’s a good idea to gather important documents before leaving your spouse. Records play a crucial role in divorce cases and may affect your ability to secure child or spousal support. If you’re thinking of filing for marriage dissolution, start by collecting financial account records, phone records, emails, and any other documents that may be useful.
Adjust Your Behavior if Necessary
The court considers parents’ behavior both before and after a divorce when awarding decision-making and parenting time. For this reason, individuals who are thinking of leaving their spouses should take steps to adjust any behaviors that may look less than positive in the eyes of the court.
Regardless of where you are in the process of dissolving your marriage, your children’s welfare should come first. Never keep your child from your spouse or use them as a weapon against the other parent. Similarly, you should refrain from asking children to spy on your spouse or requesting that they deliver messages for you.
Additionally, parents should take care to keep children away from new romantic partners. While it’s natural to want to move on with your life after a relationship ends, in the past judges have looked unfavorably on clients who move in with a romantic interest or invite new partners to spend time with children. For best results, avoid introducing children to new partners until a divorce is finalized.
Don’t Leave Your Child Behind
If your spouse is abusive or simply creating an unpleasant home environment, you may be tempted to leave the house. However, doing so can cause problems down the line if you’re leaving minor children when you go. In the eyes of a judge, you either opted to leave your child in a dangerous setting or lied about the extent of the peril. Protect your future decision-making rights and parenting time by taking children with you if you opt to leave the home.
Trust JacksonWhite Law With Your Divorce
If you think your divorce case is likely to result in a custody battle, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney prior to filing. At JacksonWhite Law, our talented team has the knowledge and experience needed to aggressively protect your rights. Whether you’re facing issues involving separation, child support, spousal maintenance, or custody, you can trust our team to be in your corner.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.
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