The Divorce Process in Arizona

divorce processDivorce is difficult for any person to go through.  Not knowing what to expect or be prepared for can be difficult.  This blogpost will go over the major aspects that occur during a divorce proceeding in Arizona.

Property and Asset Division

One of the first questions that people consider in a divorce proceedings is how property is going to split up.  Arizona is a community property state.  This means that Arizona courts view assets and property acquired during the marital relationship as equally shared between the spouses. Generally, during a divorce proceeding in Arizona, courts will distribute martial assets equitably. Property in this aspect are things like personal property, real estate, bank account funds, personal property and retirement accounts like 401(k)s.

Note that martial property is split equitably. Anything that you brought into the marriage or things that are considered separate property will stay with the determined spouse.  It is important to understand that this separate property can be converted into community property.  If a spouse comingles separate property with martial assets, it may lose its separate nature and community property, subject to equal distribution between the spouses at the time of divorce.

While Arizona is considered a community property state, the Arizona court still holds the discretion to divide marital assets as they see is fair. The rule is to divide property equitably, which does not necessarily mean in an equal, 50-50 manner.

Child Custody

In the best case scenario, the spouses will agree on a custody plan and can incorporate that plan into the divorce decree.  Many times however, tensions and emotions run high and this cannot be agreed upon.  Custody is a term referring to the right of a person to make decisions about the care and welfare of the child.  These decisions include education choices, health care, and religion. The parent who holds custody is called the “custodial parent.” Generally, the child will also live with the custodial parent for the majority of the time.

If parents cannot determine custody, the court will intervene. The court will order a custody plan. This will determine how much time is spent with one parent, who is considered the custodial parent, and parenting time.

The standard for the court to make this decision is based on the child’s best interests.  Contrary to many, the court will not base its decision on the sex of the parent or give favor to one parent of the other.

Parenting Time

Parenting time is often considered when determining a custody order.  This can also be called “visitation.” This is a legal term referring to the opportunity for the child to spend time with the parent but does not have sole legal custody. This parent is usually called the non-custodial parent.  The court will determine the specifics of the parenting time, like whether or not the non-custodial parents gets certain weekends or days for residential custody.

Child Support

During divorce proceedings, the parties may ask for the court order child support.  Child support amounts and how much a parent needs to pay to the other parent will be determined by the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Both parents’ incomes are used to calculate the amount that one parent will pay to other to financially support the children.  Child support is a serious order.  Child support orders will be held superior to any other debts the parent owes if the paying parent becomes financially insolvent or files for bankruptcy.  The state also has the power to garnish wages or tax refunds if the parent fails to pay.

Click here for information on who gets the pets in an Arizona divorce.