It is no secret that going through a divorce in Arizona can become expensive, especially if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement. You may choose to proceed with a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) divorce in Arizona to reduce lawyer expenses.
However, there is a strong possibility that you will not save money handling the divorce yourself if you make (costly) divorce mistakes.
In this article, we will cover what you should know about divorce in AZ and the top 10 divorce mistakes to avoid when filing for divorce yourself in Arizona.
Going through a Divorce in AZ
While divorce is difficult in all 50 states, each state has its own laws that can make it significantly more or less difficult.
While preparing for a divorce in Arizona without a lawyer, verify all legal resources specifically refer to Arizona laws instead of laws applying to another state because they do not apply to your Arizona divorce.
Below are some basic laws you should know about divorce in Arizona.
Arizona is a no-fault state. This means that you can file for divorce without a legal reason, such as addiction, abuse or adultery.
Arizona does not recognize common law marriage unless a couple established a common-law marriage in a different state before the couple moved to Arizona.
While dividing assets can get tricky, Arizona usually divides community property obtained during the marriage 50/50 between both parties. Property obtained before the marriage and inheritance may not qualify as community property. A valid prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement will change the community division based on the terms of the contract.
When deciding child custody, Arizona judges consider what agreement suits the child’s best interests, usually favoring active involvement from both parents instead of keeping a parent away from a child.
Child support payments and alimony (spousal maintenance) vary greatly from case to case. Many factors are involved to determine the appropriate amount if any.
What is the Process to File for Divorce in Arizona?
Every case must start with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition and accompanying documents must be served on the other party. After service, the other party may file a Response to the Petition. What happens next depends on your matter. But every case must end with a Decree or Final Order/Judgment.
When it comes to how to file for divorce in Arizona, you have two main options: file through the assistance of a divorce lawyer with years of experience dealing with all of the issues that can arise, or file yourself.
A Phoenix divorce attorney knows the processes, deadlines, and best practices. They can also offer invaluable advice. However, if you have a firm grasp of divorce proceedings in Arizona already, you may opt to file yourself to save money on legal fees.
Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid Filing for DIY Divorce in Arizona
If you decide to move forward with a do-it-yourself divorce, you need to know the mistakes that can end up putting you in an undesirable position. Below are the top 10 most common mistakes to avoid filing for a divorce yourself in Arizona.
1. Improperly Serving Your Spouse
As we stated above, to initiate a divorce, you must file a petition for the dissolution of marriage. Most people refer to this primary document as “divorce papers.” After you file for the divorce with the Superior Court Clerk, you will also need to serve the other party with the papers.
Do not assume that just because you filed the paperwork with the Clerk that you are done. You must properly serve divorce papers to your spouse, even if you know they are aware of your intentions.
There are rules for the proper procedure of serving divorce papers and if you do not follow them, it can seriously delay your case and could affect the distribution of community property.
2. Not Going Through Proper Procedures
The State of Arizona has strict requirements about how you present them with a motion during your divorce. Motions refer to formal requests that you have regarding the outcome of the divorce, child-related topics, and other issues that must be addressed.
Some very common motions that you may consider submitting, depending on your current situation, include:
Motion for temporary orders
Motion for a custody evaluation
Motion for mediation
Motion for a parenting conference
Legal processes take a long time. Filing a motion with the court moves your case along more quickly – as long as you fill out the motion precisely according to the format the court requests and follow the procedures in the filing. Otherwise, the motion will take longer or possibly get denied.
3. Missing Deadlines
There are deadlines regarding how much time you have to respond to certain paperwork and court dates. Just about anything filed in your case will have an applicable deadline to respond.
Once your spouse is properly served, they have 20 days to file a written response (30 days if located out of state).
This is just the beginning deadline. You will regularly have deadlines to submit responses to certain motions, respond to discovery, and complete disclosure. If you fail to respond in time, it will reflect poorly on you and could convince the judge to rule in favor of the other party.
Pay close attention to all deadlines and handle things in a timely manner.
4. Negative Comments Regarding Your Spouse on Social Media
Divorce brings out the worst in people. No matter how ugly it gets, you will only hurt yourself if you choose to vent your feelings online. Online ridicule shows emotional instability and a lack of self-control. It would be best if you also were careful about what you share online while out with friends, whether with the children or not.
During your divorce, limit your social media presence to the bare minimum.
It’s not only social media. Remain respectful when talking about the divorce, even to your friends in private correspondences. Your spouse and your spouse’s attorney can and will find information to use against you. They may trick friends and family into providing information under the guise that it will help your case.
5. Not Creating a Detailed Parenting Plan
Arguably the most important negotiation that takes place during divorce proceedings involve any shared children. You and your spouse will need to agree on a detailed parenting plan.
The parenting plan will cover each parent’s financial responsibilities, who make important decisions, and the parenting time schedule, along with many other important details like extracurricular activities and who can claim the children on their taxes. The agreement will also address who will make decisions regarding healthcare and education. You will also clarify how to resolve issues, such as a schedule conflict or parental disagreement, when they occur.
Both parents must agree to the terms in order for the court to accept the plan. Or, the judge will come up with a plan for you and your spouse (and you may not like it).
If you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement, you will likely need to forego the DIY divorce and enlist the services of a divorce lawyer in the Phoenix area.
6. Failing the Child Custody Evaluation
If you or your spouse file a motion for a custody evaluation, prepare yourself for a detailed examination of your role as a parent and your parenting skills.
You may also need to go through an evaluation, even if you are the one who requested the evaluation. You will also need to pass Arizona’s “Parent Information Program.”
The evaluation generally takes months. During this time, evaluators will determine how much time you spend with your children and how you interact with them. They will also perform interviews with family members, friends, teachers, and anyone else who can provide insight into your home.
Many parents experience frustration at court-ordered parenthood courses and professional critique of their parenting. Despite your feelings, put your best foot forward and take the process seriously. If you refuse to complete the class or demonstrate poor parenting abilities, it can have devastating consequences in your custody ruling.
7. Not Getting the Proper Insurance
Going through a divorce should open your eyes to how quickly your circumstances can change. Insurance covers you financially in the case of an unforeseen tragedy, but what insurance topics come up during divorce?
Start by ensuring that both parties have adequate life insurance. Life insurance covers any end-of-life expenses that occur in the case of your death.
You also need to confirm the beneficiaries on your life insurance policy, especially if you listed your spouse as a beneficiary in the past.
You may also request that your spouse get what’s known as “order for life” insurance. “Order for life” insurance is a policy that ensures that you continue to receive payments from your spouse (or their insurance company), even if they die or can’t make the payments themselves.
8. Not Knowing the Value of Your Assets
A large part of divorce involves dividing assets between you and your spouse. Many people estimate the value of their homes, vehicles, and other assets, with the estimation leaning in favor of the person generating the numbers. However, the courts will not accept an estimate.
Get a proper valuation of your assets from a professional. Openly display all assets, too. When you present everything transparently and get a professional assessment, it will allow your case to move forward smoothly.
If you and your spouse get different valuations of your assets, you may need to hire a third party to perform the third, independent assessment, taking more time and money. Do your best to come to an agreement on the value of the lifestyle you and your spouse once shared.
9. Having a Bad Attitude or Vindictive Attitude
Judges, Mediators, or Arbitrators do not appreciate a negative attitude. Remain respectful and even friendly throughout all interactions with your spouse and the court.
Part of demonstrating a positive attitude also means using professional language and dressing professionally during court hearings. During your court hearing, have all documents in order and organized with all requirements due that day fulfilled.
Avoid making snarky remarks, rolling your eyes, or shaking your head when your spouse makes false claims or outlandish requests. Keep your composure.
Not only will a good attitude encourage the judge to see you favorably, but you may even be able to come to agreements with your spouse, eliminating court costs for additional mediation or going to trial.
10. Not Getting Legal Representation For Your Divorce
Navigating a divorce without a lawyer is highly inadvisable unless you happen to have no assets to divide and agreed on all the details for child custody with your spouse.
Simply not understanding the divorce laws is not a defense in the eyes of the court, and if you make a mistake that could have been easily corrected by a lawyer, you will end up paying dearly.
We are here to help. Let our experienced and aggressive legal team take charge of your divorce. We offer completely free consultations with our divorce lawyers that usually take 30-60 minutes. We will evaluate every angle of your case and come up with the best solution in your favor. Do not go through it alone.
A divorce ruling greatly affects your future quality of life. Don’t punish yourself even more than you’ve already experienced during the divorce. Even if you choose to handle the divorce yourself, you should still enlist the help of a Phoenix divorce lawyer to look over your divorce paperwork before you submit it and answer your questions.
You’ll also need legal counsel if you and your spouse disagree about how to split your assets or child custody.
Certain things, such as time with your kids, are priceless. When something so valuable is at stake, you do not want to take chances by blindly going through the process yourself.
Hiring a Lawyer When Going Through a Divorce in AZ
Do you have questions about how to process a divorce in Arizona properly? Are you curious about what you can handle yourself and when you should call a professional for help?
Contact the Arizona divorce lawyers at Colburn Hintze Maletta to schedule a consultation. Our lawyers understand how difficult of a time this can be, and we work to make things as inexpensive and efficient as possible to reduce how much the experience drains you both financially and emotionally.
Whether you need complete legal counsel through every step of the divorce or limited service as needed, we can create a plan with you that finds that fine balance between saving money and developing a successful case.
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I, recently, consulted with Darin after my wife filed for divorce. He was referred to me by a friend whom I very much trust. Darin was the antithesis of the first two attorneys I consulted (who were matter-of-fact and had very little empathy about the fact that I was struggling emotionally with what was transpiring). From the first few minutes of speaking with Darin, it was obvious that he was very knowledgeable and skilled with divorce and family matters. While that was most important to me, the thing that made the difference was his calming, logical, and empathetic approach. He took the time to listen and empathize with me. He took the time to understand what I wanted to achieve through this process and laid out my options. After the consultation, I knew he would be my attorney if I had to pull the trigger. I, ultimately, didn’t have to engage Darin’s services due to a reconciliation with my wife. I hope I never have to go through that process again, however, if I do, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt who I will be hiring to represent me…Darin R. Colburn. Darin, thank you for caring and being more than an attorney.
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I hired David Maletta and it was the best decision of my life. His knowledge, genuine interest, overall attitude, and ability to connect with people is incomparable. I could talk about all of this at length. I COULD do all of that, but that wouldn’t do David justice. He first and foremost demonstrates his interest and genuine care for his client. Being in uncharted territory with a criminal charge and nowhere to turn, David’s presence and personality put all nerves at ease. I went through a jury trial with David beside me. The trial ran for 3 days and I spent a significant amount of time with David one-on-one. During this stressful time, he wanted to hear my input and thoughts on everything. David was incredible from the first day I met him. Not only is he a great attorney, but he is also a great person who cares about people and finding justice for his clients. He connects to the human side of people. I can’t put into words how much David cares about the individual in a case. When it comes to the courtroom, there is NOBODY I would rather have defending me than David.
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Before I hired Darin I went through a total of 3 different attorneys in two different states fighting a jurisdiction battle, when my daughter was taken to a different state. It was a very difficult decision to switch attorneys at one of the most difficult, time sensitive and important times in my case, but I’m very glad I did. Upon receiving my file from previous attorneys Darin came very familiar with my case quickly. Like other people have explained he took the time to lay everything out and explain how the process was going to proceed and what to expect and continued to do this as new issues arrived. He is also very quick at responding to emails and phone calls. My case was getting close to trial as told by my previous attorneys, I did not want to go to trial as I know this is very costly (most attorneys will convince you that you need to.) Darin knew my situation, fought for what was right and got the results I wanted while avoiding a costly trial. He is extremely knowledgeable in the Child Support Guidelines as well. Because of Darin I got my daughter back. I would highly recommend him and would hire again for any future issues. Thanks Darin!
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Dave stayed with me while he pushed back and forth with Covid-19 and the delays with court. Once cited, the state basically decides that you’re guilty through the automatic suspension of your drivers license. Dave immediately took care of that problem and I never lost the privilege of driving. Dave took notes like crazy and was upfront about our uphill battle. I was also well aware that the plea deal that was given to us, was unacceptable and through Dave’s knowledge and experience I had put my trust in him to guide me to make the right decision on how to proceed. With Dave’s guidance I had decided that we needed to fight for something better than what the prosecutor was offering and Dave was 100 percent behind me on that decision. We knew the risks, be we also knew we had very little to lose based on the prosecutions stance. We decided to go to trial… Watching the prosecution and then watching Dave was night and day!! It was clear to the jury that the prosecution didn’t have their facts straight and were not addressing the facts that they could not address…There was a lot at stake for my personal life and my work life. I was found NOT GUILTY. Dave won the trial for me.
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I had an incident and was Given the catch-all charge. There wasn’t really anything I could do by myself to get out of it. Tim was absolutely amazing and worked diligently to ensure that I would have the best possible outcome from my case. Which he successfully achieved! As of right now I am on the path to having my case fully dismissed. A couple things that really helped me through this process was that Tim did an amazing job at was answering my questions. He was available almost anytime and would respond promptly when he got my emails. He was also very approachable and comforting to be around while we had in person meetings and especially when I was at the court house. I would trust him and the company he works for with any other cases in the future and as of right now they will be my first choice if I need a lawyer in the future.
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