Paul Rowley

Divorcing Parents – Avoid Alcohol Abuse, Illegal Drugs, or Excessive Prescription Drug Use #DivorceAttorney

Divorce and Substance AbuseIf you as a parent have filed for divorce or are seeking sole or equal decision making of your minor children, the court must decide what is in the child’s best interests, if you are your spouse cannot agree.

If your spouse alleges you abuse alcohol or drugs, most likely the court will require you to be drug tested. Usually this is a urine test but could also include a hair follicle test. Hair follicle testing can detect drug usage as far back as 90 days, whereas a urine test only detects drugs in the past week or so. If you are ordered to do a hair follicle test and you shave your head or body hair it will be impossible to test and it will look like you have something to hide! At least 1 ½ inches in length is required for testing purposes.

If you have used drugs in the past few days you could test positive in the urine test and negative in the hair follicle test. Recently we have been seeing parents who abuse opiates and prescription pain medication, like vicodin or percocet. Methamphetamine is also commonly detected. Even if you take a diet weight loss medication, it could show positive for amphetamine. Alcohol and marijuana are also detectable in a urine test.

So if you are a parent, whether divorcing or not, if you use:

  • alcohol
  • marijuana
  • amphetamines
  • barbiturates
  • benzodiazepines
  • cocaine
  • opiates
  • phencyclidine, or
  • propoxyphene

and your fitness to have custody of your children is questioned, use of any of these drugs can trigger a loss of legal or physical custody. Also, if you test positive the court may require you to test randomly for several months until you are free and clean of drugs in your system.

My advice:

  • Avoid all drug use unless it is prescribed by a physician and you take it as prescribed.
  • Never drink and drive.
  • Never abuse drugs and drive.

Several states have legalized marijuana use, but if you are trying to keep custody of your children, being under the influence of legal marijuana is not a great defense when it comes to the “Best Interests” of your child.

We are experienced divorce attorneys in Mesa, AZ, and we can help you. Call us if you have any questions whether it is for family law, criminal defense, or any other legal situation you may be facing.

Attorney Profile: Paul S. Rowley, Divorce & Family Law Attorney

Cost of Divorce a Top Concern for Arizona Filers

A recent survey by Avvo.com revealed that for those seeking information on divorce, one of the primary concerns was: How much is this going to cost me?

Of those survey respondents without children, nearly 60 percent said that the cost of the proceedings was the No. 1 concern they had for the divorce process. Division of property ranked No. 2. Respondents with children cited their No. 1 concern as child custody, with the cost of the divorce ranking at No. 2.

Our Mesa divorce attorneys recognize cost as a legitimate concern. Some estimates put the national average cost of divorce at around $15,000.

Of course, the cost of a poorly executed divorce may be incalculable. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do in preparation for the filing that might help to reduce your costs.

There is a wealth of information online regarding “do-it-yourself” divorces. These sites can make it sound a lot simpler than it is. Nothing will replace the help and advise of an experienced Arizona divorce attorney. This is an emotionally wrenching time, and there are a lot of practical concerns to consider. These issues are even more complex if you have children, have been married a long time or have amassed a fair amount of property or other assets during the course of your union.

A lot of people think that if they can agree on the basics, they don’t need to worry about involving attorneys. We understand the reluctance to enter litigation. But consider what you may not have considered: Division of retirement accounts, tax implications, division of debt, potential concealment of debt, and health care considerations. What if one parent decides to move out of state with the children? Failure to address any or all of these elements can end up costing you dearly in the long run.

You might save a few bucks on the divorce lawyer now. However, an unfair tax burden could mean you lose out on thousands of dollars. And once a divorce agreement is finalized, it may be an arduous – and expensive – process to go back and change it.

So what does all this mean for you?

When you begin contemplating divorce, start setting some money aside. You don’t have to tell anyone. (In fact, you should probably refrain from telling your spouse.) Just quietly begin putting a little away here and there. If you never have to use it, that’s great. But if the time comes and you need to get out, you will be much better prepared.

Along these same lines, work on establishing good credit in your own name. It can be very tough for someone who is newly single with no recent work history and no real credit to strike out on his or her own. If this sounds like your situation, make this a priority. Credit bureau Experian has some good advice about how to do this responsibly.

And finally, you’ll want to put some time into researching law firms and attorneys to find a divorce lawyer who is going to be the best fit for you. One of the advantages of working with Rowley Chapman & Barney is that we have experience not only in the areas of divorce and family law, but also in bankruptcy, estate planning, real estate and civil litigation. Because divorce has the potential to affect every aspect of your life, having the backing of a firm with that kind of knowledge and experience can be a true asset.

If you are seeking a divorce in Arizona, contact our Mesa  divorce attorneys at (480) 833-1113.

Additional Resources:

Two Divorce Trends Identified in the Legal Marketplace, Sept. 10, 2013, By Jeff Landers, Forbes.com

More Blog Entries:

Is there an advantage to filing first in an Arizona divorce? Sept. 28, 2012, Mesa Divorce Lawyer Blog

Arizona’s New Child Custody Law: Nearing 1 Year

We are rounding out nearly 1 year since the passage of a new Arizona law that governed how much time divorcing parents are granted to spend with their children.

Senate Bill 1127, called the “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time” law, officially went into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

Our Mesa child custody attorneys know that the new measure updated a number of old statutes pertaining to the way the courts approach the issue.

The law encourages parents to enter into joint parenting time agreements, as opposed to one parent being granted the majority of the time while the other is relegated to slots every other weekend.

It also specifically forbids the court from handing one parent a preference in custody matters solely on the basis of the parent’s or child’s gender. Of course, this remedy was specifically enacted as a means to address the court’s well-known practice of favoring the mother in matters of child custody, particularly custody disputes involving female children.

The law also goes out of its way to label custody terms in a way that more accurately reflects an equitable process.

For example, “physical custody” is no longer called “physical custody.” It is now referred to as “parenting time.” Further, “legal custody” is now referred to as “legal decision-making authority.” So a parent who has legal decision-making authority has the power to make decisions not just about the child’s education and health care, but also about personal care matters, such as ear piercing and hair cuts.

Additionally, there are sanctions for parents who are deceptive to the court or attempt to delay court proceedings. Primarily, those sanctions would be in the form of mandatory fines. Previously, those fines had been optional.

Additionally, any time a parent wishes to move a significant distance from his or her current residence, they must now abide by much stricter notification requirements.

While the state supreme court doesn’t keep track of how judges rule in child custody cases, we do know that outside groups have indicated that joint custody has been on the rise over the last decade-and-a-half. Researchers reported that in 2002, joint custody was awarded about 5 percent of the time. By 2007, it was awarded 15 percent of the time.

There are no further updated figures, but we anticipate the new law will prompt that figure to continue to rise. In our own experience anecdotally, we know that judges have been more inclined in recent years to award joint custody.

No longer can we say that mothers have the upper hand in custody cases. This is partially a reflection of a larger cultural shift, wherein fathers are taking a much more active role in parenting their children and being involved in their lives.

As such, many other states have passed similar measures in recent years. However, while many of those states have mandatory minimum parenting time requirements for each parent, Arizona gives judges a great deal of discretionary authority to determine parenting time arrangements.

Exceptions for parenting time are made for situations where abuse is reportedly involved.

The new law didn’t change much for those parents who already had an arrangement in place. However, those seeking a change in custody arrangements would have their cases considered under the new parenting time laws.

Contact our Mesa parenting time lawyers at (480) 833-1113.

Additional Resources:

New child custody law begins Jan. 1, Dec. 25, 2013, By Alia Beard Rau, The Republic

More Blog Entries:

When Talking Child Custody and Parenting Time, Should Your Ex-Spouse’s Significant Other Be Around Your Children? July 1, 2013, Mesa Child Custody Lawyer Blog

Arizona No-Fault Divorce Doesn’t Mean Fault Won’t Matter

While all 50 states have some kind of no-fault divorce option, Arizona is one of those that offers it unconditionally, without requiring a period separation and absent the option of seeking a fault divorce.

Our Mesa no-fault divorce attorneys know that there are a number of advantages to this system. But what we also want people to understand is that “no-fault” does not mean that marital misconduct will never play a role in your divorce and family law proceedings.

This is important to know because we need for you to prepared for the possibility that issues like infidelity, financial irresponsibility or substance abuse could become an issue in your divorce.

Likewise, if you are the one who has suffered in the marriage as a result of these actions, you may have an advantage at certain points in the negotiating process.

The whole idea of a no-fault divorce is to make it easier for married couples to split. There is no need for either one of them to prove that the other person did wrong in order to have the divorce formalized.

When you file for a no-fault divorce in Arizona, you are simply stating that the reason for the separation is not one that is recognized by the state. It’s enough to say that you had irreconcilable differences, without going into detail about those differences.

There are a lot of states in which you would have to live separately from your spouse for a period of time before you could file for a no-fault divorce. Arizona doesn’t require you to wait. You don’t need the consent of your soon-to-be-ex.

Some of the advantages to this include:

  • Empowering abused spouses to leave a dangerous situation;
  • Less conflict during divorce, which can mean less harm to children involved;
  • Reduction of caseloads in family court;
  • Shortens the length of time between filing and finalization.

The issue of whether you committed adultery probably won’t play a role in how much you are ordered to pay in support, as the court’s goal isn’t punishment.

However, let’s say the issue before the court is one of child custody. The standard the court will apply is the “best interests of the child.” In deciding who the child should spend more time with, the judge may factor the moral standards of both the former husband and wife. If one of those individuals has a proven history of lying and deceit (i.e., in conjunction with concealing an affair), that might become an issue.

Domestic violence, too, would become an issue in terms of child custody. A spouse with a documented history of physical abuse toward a household member is in a weak position to ask for custody of a child.

Another example would be in the area of property division. With Arizona being an equitable distribution state, the court is going to look at a division of property and assets that is fair. That doesn’t always mean a 50-50 split. If you have one spouse who has wasted a fair amount of the family savings on, say, gambling or a drug addiction, the court may factor that in when determining how much to award both sides.

Unlike in a civil case, you won’t find a family law judge awarding punitive damages, even to spouses who have suffered some of the worst cases of marital misconduct. However, there are ways in which the court will seek to even the playing field that has resulted from wrongdoing within the union.

If you are interested in pursuing a divorce in Arizona, contact our Mesa family law attorneys at (480) 833-1113.

Additional Resources:

Child Custody: The Divorce Files, September 2013, By Joseph Cordell, Askmen.com

More Blog Entries:

When Talking Divorce – No Fault and Default – Not the Same Thing, #DivorceLaw, Oct. 9, 2012, Mesa Divorce Lawyer Blog

Mesa Child Custody Lawyers Can Help Defend Victim Rights

When convicted kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro pleaded guilty earlier this summer to hundreds of crimes involving three victims over the span of a decade, he asked the judge that he be allowed to have visitation with a child he fathered with one of his victims.

While such a request may seem outlandish, the fact is that in Ohio, just as in Arizona and 29 other states, convicted rapists are permitted to sue for custody and visitation rights to the victim’s child. The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that 1 out of every 6 women in the U.S. will become a victim of rape at some point in her life. A study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology estimates that annually, some 25,00 to 32,000 pregnancies are the result of rape. Even by low estimates, about one-third of those women who were raped and became pregnant as a result kept their child.

Our Mesa child custody attorneys understand that new legislation was introduced in late July that would provide monetary legal incentives for victims who wish to fight or terminate the custody rights of their attackers.

H.R. 2772, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), is also called the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act. The measure purports that men who father children through the act of rape should be barred from visiting or having custody of those children.

Schultz cited the Castro case as a clear example of why such a measure is necessary.

Few would disagree, particularly in cases like the Castro crime, where the evidence was overwhelming and a conviction was forthcoming. A rapist who pursues parental or custody rights would in effect force the survivor to have continued interactions with him, which can have a detrimental effect not only on the mother, but the child as well.

Where this may get a bit tricky is that rape is a vastly under-reported crime. Even those that are reported don’t always result in a conviction. But should family courts simply rely on the word of the alleged victim? The bill cites the U.S. Supreme Court case of Santosky v. Kramer, which holds that the process for terminating or restricting parental rights. This decision held that the standard was establishment of “clear and convincing evidence” that would satisfy due process for such allegations.

In other words, a criminal conviction would certainly help, but it wouldn’t be necessary so long as the victim could present clear and convincing evidence of how the child was conceived.

As it now stands, only six states have statutes that specifically allow rape survivors to petition the court for termination of parental rights of a rapist based on the clear and convincing evidence standard.

Still, even if a woman weren’t able to prove that the child in question was the result of rape, judges do have the power to prevent fathers who are unfit from seeing their children. Our attorneys are committed to helping you fight for the best interests of both you and your child.

Contact our Mesa family law attorneys at (480) 833-1113.

Additional Resources:

Child custody rights for rapists? Most states have them. Aug. 1, 2013, By Ed Payne and Ted Rowlands, CNN

More Blog Entries:

Military Issues in Divorce and Child Custody Matters, Mesa Child Custody Lawyer Blog

“Abandonment” in Arizona Child Custody Cases

There are perhaps few greater wrongs that a parent could inflict on a child than abandonment.

While the meaning of the word may be interpreted subjectively by the child and remaining parent, our Phoenix child custody attorneys know that the term “abandonment” has a very specific and narrow meaning under Arizona law.

This definition was recently underscored in the child custody case of Calvin B. v. Brittany B., decided in June by the Court of Appeals State of Arizona Division One. In this case, the court held that one parent’s efforts to restrict the child custody/visitation rights of the other can’t be used as evidence to support an argument for abandonment in a petition for termination of parental rights.

According to court documents, here’s what happened:

Calvin and Brittany were married in the fall of 2006. Their son was born the following December. Just three months later, Brittany filed for divorce, which was granted three months after that.

The divorce decree granted Brittany sole legal and physical custody of the child, though it allowed Calvin to have liberal visitation as his schedule would allow, with the understanding that such visits were to take place at Brittany’s residence, in her presence. Calvin was not required to pay child support, but he was ordered to provide financial assistance “as required by Brittany.”

The following summer, Calvin petitioned for a child custody modification that would allow joint custody, arguing that Brittany only allowed him to see the boy once or twice a month for less than a half hour at a time. However, 10 days after that petition was filed, Brittany filed a petition requesting an order of protection against Calvin. She alleged that when she was pregnant two years earlier, Calvin had kicked her and slammed her head into a wall. She alleged that since that time, Calvin has threatened her constantly, including a specific threat made that spring to strangle her.

The court ultimately granted Brittany’s petition and held that Calvin was to have no contact with her. Any visitation with his son would have to be facilitated and in the presence of Brittany’s parents. Brittany asked that the court dismiss Calvin’s petition for joint custody, as he had failed to complete a parenting education program, as provided by the divorce decree. She also alleged he was a substance abuser with severe anger problems who had given her a total of $600 to care for the boy since he’d been born.

The court ordered Calvin to complete the parenting course, and stated that Brittany did not have to allow visitation until he had done so. He was also required to pay $265 monthly, as well as $1,500 to cover the cost of a surgical procedure for the child.

However, Calvin did none of these things. Brittany ended the visits. Calvin attempted to resume them, but this resulted in him twice being arrested for violating the order of protection still against him.

Then two months before the protection order was to expire, Brittany requested the court terminate Calvin’s parental rights on the basis of abandonment, as he had failed to have any meaningful contact with the child.

A Superior Court judge sided with Brittany, terminating Calvin’s parental rights, saying he had failed to promptly and persistently grasp the opportunities to develop a relationship with his child or assert his legal rights.

However, the appellate court disagreed and reversed this decision.

A.R.S. Rev. Stat. 8-537 governs child custody termination adjudication hearings. It holds that a decision of this magnitude must be based on “clear and convincing evidence” of the allegations made therein. A.R.S. 8-5333(B)(1) defines abandonment as:

“The failure to provide reasonable support and to maintain regular contact with the child, including providing normal supervision. (It) includes a judicial finding that the parent has made only minimal efforts to support and communicate with the child. Failure to maintain a normal parental relationship with the child without just cause for a period of six months constitutes a prima facie evidence of abandonment.”

It’s not measured by parental intent, but rather by parental conduct.

In this case, the court found that clear and convincing evidence was lacking because Brittany had repeatedly blocked visitation from Calvin. Specifically, the justices determined that contrary to the mother’s allegations, the father had throughout the child’s life sought active involvement, even though he was prevented at many turns from engaging in this. Even though he failed to uphold certain court-ordered obligations, he still sought to visit with his son.

As such, the court ordered that his parental rights be restored and the case was sent back to the lower court for reconsideration.

Contact our Phoenix child custody attorneys at (480) 833-1113.

Additional Resources:

Calvin B. v. Brittany B., decided in June by the Court of Appeals State of Arizona Division One

More Blog Entries:

Beware: Child Support is a Priority Payment, Sept. 24, 2012, Phoenix Child Custody Lawyer Blog

Arizona Divorce Mistakes Could Ruin Your Retirement

Divorce can be emotionally messy business.

However, our Phoenix divorce lawyers know that absent proper planning, the whole process can quickly unravel into a serious financial mess too, particularly if you are nearing retirement age. In fact, a poorly-planned divorce could even derail your retirement completely.

The U.S. Census Bureau says that between 1990 and 2010, the number of divorces among individuals aged 50 and older has doubled. By 2010, one in four divorces involved at least one party who was over the age of 50.

It’s called the “gray divorce,” and there are many theories as to why it’s happening. Part of it is the product of longer life spans. Some of it is the product of more women being financially independent.

Regardless of the reason, it can be economically devastating for certain folks – particularly women who may have been out of the work force for several decades in order to raise their children.

Divorce in general forces both parties to reduce incomes, work more years than previously planned or require you to get a part-time job through your retirement.

A recent study by ING U.s. found that people who are divorced are less likely to feel financially prepared for retirement, as compared to couples who have remained married. On average, divorced individuals say they have saved $11,000 or less for retirement. On average, ING found that women had $34,000 less than men in total retirement savings.

Men, on the other hand, have had to delay retirement as they dip into savings to cover costs for court-ordered alimony or certain household expenses for their ex-spouse.

Certainly, divorce is going to have a negative impact on your finances. But our experienced family law attorneys are well aware that there are numerous ways to minimize that impact.

First, one mistake many people make is heedlessly choosing the house over other financial assets in a divorce settlement. A lot of people simply assume that a house is one of the best assets to maintain in a divorce, but this isn’t always the case. When you compare it to, say, retirement savings, a home may have less value when you consider the ongoing and sometimes unexpected expenses of home ownership. Plus, you don’t know whether that home is going to retain its current value. A house may not allow you the financial return necessary to fund your retirement.

A second mistake too many people make is ignoring what may be the tax implications of retirement funds. For example, let’s say one spouse is given the $450,000 401(k) while the other party is given the $450,000 Roth IRA. On the surface, it seems equal. It’s not because each is taxed differently, and in the end, the Roth IRA is going to result in bigger returns.

Finally, far too many people make the mistake of withdrawing too much from their retirement funds before they actually retire. Bear in mind, if you are 50 years-old, you are going to need these funds to live on for the next 20 or 30 years. “Borrowing” a little here and there has the potential to significantly impact your future lifestyle.

The best way for divorcing parties to prevent significant havoc on retirement futures is to plan well in advance with the help of an experienced Arizona divorce lawyer.

Contact our Mesa family law attorneys at (480) 833-1113.

Additional Resources:

4 Divorce Mistakes That Can Derail Retirement, Aug. 27, 2013, By Marilyn Timbers, Next Avenue

More Blog Entries:

Divorce: Is it His, Mine or Ours? Sept. 11, 2012, Phoenix Divorce Lawyer Blog

Arizona Child Support Cases Weighed Carefully by Judges

An Arizona appellate court has revisited an earlier ruling in the divorce settlement of Phoenix-area NBA star Steve Nash and his now-ex-wife, Alejandra Amarilla Nash.

Our Maricopa County divorce attorneys understand that there were two primary points of contention:

  • An earlier child support agreement.
  • The ongoing disparaging comments both parties were making publicly about one another.

First, let’s talk about the child support issue. In the state of Arizona, A.R.S. 25-501(A) stipulates that both parents – custodial and non-custodial – must provide “reasonable support” for their minor children. This is not an optional obligation. To ensure that children’s welfare is prioritized in these cases, the courts always look at them through the lens of, “What is in the best interest of the child?”

Of course, that’s a highly subjective measuring stick. But generally, it means that child support obligations will be given priority over all other financial obligations throughout the proceeding.

Every case is different, but the guidelines hold that generally, a parent will pay support that is approximate to what he or she would have spent on the children had the parents remained together. Factors that are considered are employment and income of both parents, prior standards of living, costs of health care and child care and costs associated with shared parenting time.

In the case of Nash, who left the Phoenix Suns last year to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, the two parties have been battling for the last three years. A previous divorce settlement between the two resulted in Nash, the non-custodial parent, making a one-time, lump-sum child support payment of $5 million for their three minor children.

However, a three-judge appellate panel recently determined that the lower court’s decision to let Nash off the hook for further support payments was erroneous. The court overturned this agreement, finding that the lower court failed to properly consider the state’s basic guidelines for the determination of child support, as well as a legitimate request by Nash’s ex-wife for an increase in payments.

So that aspect of the case will go back to the lower court for reconsideration, and Nash will likely end up paying a fair amount more in monthly child support obligations.

However, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s earlier ruling, holding that both parties must refrain from publicly disparaging one another. Amarilla had argued that such a ruling interfered with her First Amendment right to exercise free speech.

The court had said that Amarilla’s Twitter account had been used to dispense “biting criticism” of her ex after their split. The court said that the order does not violate her right to free speech because both parties agreed to limit their speech, per their joint custody agreement.

As such speech might ultimately be damaging to the children, the court ruled, the parents have an obligation to limit it.

This case reveals that even when a divorce is granted, the case may not be over. When children are involved, there are likely to be ongoing issues, and it may at some point be necessary to return to court to have those issues addressed, particularly when they impact the well-being of your child.

We’re here to help.

Our Maricopa County divorce attorneys may be reached at (480) 833-1113.

Additional Resources:

Steve Nash Should Pay Child Support in Divorce With Alejandra Amarilla, Appeals Court Rules, July 23, 2013, By Ray Stern, Phoenix New Times

More Blog Entries:

Military Issues in Divorce and Custody Matters, July 16, 2013, Mesa Divorce Lawyer Blog

Time for a New Mesa Divorce Lawyer: When to Move On

Breaking up is hard to do – especially if you have to do it twice in the same divorce, one of those being with your attorney.

Our Mesa divorce lawyers want to stress that the decision to switch attorneys mid-case is not one you should take lightly. One missed phone call or a single unfavorable decision by the judge might be understandably upsetting, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your attorney is doing a bad job or that you need to switch.

However, there may come a time when you need to reconsider your approach to the case, and that could very well mean changing attorneys.

One recent example of this is the newly-announced divorce of wealthy media mogul Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng, wife of 14 years and mother of his two youngest children.

As do many couples who are extremely wealthy, the pair signed a prenuptial agreement and even two postnuptial agreements, indicating how their assets would be split in the event of a divorce.

When those agreements were signed, Deng used the services of a high-profile family law attorney based in Manhattan. However, during the course of the Murdochs’ marriage, that lawyer became friendly with the couple.

Deng was reportedly surprised to be served with divorce papers by her husband in recent weeks, and immediately hired the same family law attorney to advise her. However, sources close to Deng say the attorney’s closeness as a family friend prompted Deng to seek a firm with a little more professional distance.

While she was smart in securing legal counsel immediately, she rightly considered that personal relationship a potential conflict-of-interest. Deng reportedly interviewed eight firms before choosing one that she felt best suited her needs.

Of course, not many people have the kind of resources to which Deng has access. One way you can head off potential conflicts is to properly vet your lawyer before agreeing to hire him or her.

Some things to consider prior to establishing an agreement include:

  • Meet with more than one lawyer and interview them as you would a job candidate. Bring a list of potential questions.
  • Ask the attorney to clearly explain the fee structure up front.
  • Avoid if possible hiring a  friend or friend of the family or friend of a friend. You’re dealing with highly personal matters, but it’s still a business relationship. Best to keep it professional.

Now, let’s say you’ve hired an attorney and things aren’t going well. As we mentioned earlier, not every slight is a firing offense. Here are some signs it might be time to sever ties:

  • Your relationship with the lawyer has broken down. You are uncomfortable talking with him, you’re afraid to ask a question or you don’t communicate effectively.
  • You aren’t communicating much at all because he or she isn’t responding to your calls or e-mails. Everyone gets busy sometimes, but your inquiries should generally be answered within 1 to 2 business days.
  • You feel abandoned or ignored while in court. This is an anxious time and your lawyer should be by your side to support you. If he or she is off socializing with friends while you wait for your case to be heard, this isn’t fair to you. Speak up. If the behavior doesn’t change, consider moving on.

If you are considering changing divorce attorneys in Mesa, call us today to learn more about how we can help.

Our Mesa family law attorneys can be reached at (480) 833-1113.

Additional Resources:

Wendi Murdoch Said to Hire New Lawyer in Rupert Divorce, July 31, 2013, By Chris Dolmestsch, Bloomberg News

Property Division in Arizona Divorce Cases

Just as no two relationships are the same, every Arizona divorce is going to be different.

When it comes to property division, our Mesa divorce attorneys understand that as a community property state, all property acquired by the couple during the course of the marriage is going to be divided equally under the letter of the law. However, the reality typically leaves plenty of room for negotiation and interpretation. In theory,  factors such as financial need or fault or ability to earn are not taken into consideration when reaching a divorce settlement.

However, it all comes down to how property is classified. The only property that is subject to division is marital property. The state of Arizona sets a strong presumption that all property and assets acquired during the marriage is marital property.

Non-marital property would be property that one spouse owned or earned prior to entering the union or that he or she received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage. The burden of proof regarding non-marital property is on the spouse seeking to classify the property as non-marital.

So whether existing law is favorable to you is going to depend on your individual situation. The process of defining property can be a complicated one, particularly if one spouse owns a business or other assets. Even if that spouse had the company prior to the marriage, if labor or funds were contributed by the other during the course of the marriage, it may still be considered community property.

If your lawyer analyzes your case and determines the law isn’t generally favorable to you, there are some options. The first of which would be to attempt to mediate with your soon-to-be-ex on some of these issues. For example, you could ask for all rights to your business in exchange for the house, or visa versa.

This is known as “buying out” the other party’s share in certain items of property. You don’t want to make these kind of determinations, however, without the careful prior consideration of your attorney. In some situations, we may even call for an appraisal of some of the larger ticket items and assets. This will help to give you a concrete idea of the value of each item exchanged.

Another option would be to agree to continue to jointly hold that property after a divorce. We recognize that many times, this isn’t an especially attractive choice for many couples because it does require some semblance of ongoing contact with the other person. However, there are sometimes reasons, particularly when children are involved, why it could make sense. One common example of this would be when a couple agrees to jointly hold a family home until the children are grown and out of school. At that point, the two can decide if they want to sell the home and split the proceeds. In other cases, they may choose to keep it as an investment property.

There are relatively few exceptions under Arizona law for which property might be considered exempt from equal distribution. One of those might be if one party wasted a large portion of the marital property or assets with an addiction to drugs or gambling. Or alternatively, the aggrieved party could ask the court for the addicted spouse to shoulder a greater share of the debt accrued as a result of  the other party’s negligence.

These matters are complicated. We’re experienced.

Contact our Mesa divorce lawyers at (480) 833-1113.

Additional Resources:

Understanding How Assets Get Divided in a Divorce, June 14, 2013, By Jeff Landers, Huffington Post

More Blog Entries:

When talking child custody and parenting time, should your spouse’s significant other be around your children? (And what Steve Nash can teach us about it), July 1, 2013, Mesa Divorce Lawyer Blog