Divorce Basics

The divorce process can seem complex and downright overwhelming.  Distilling the issues to divorce basics helps individuals understand that they can and will get through the process.  There is hope, and there is life after divorce.

Divorce Issues Simplified

Virtually all issues in divorce cases fall into one of the following five major categories:

  1. Dissolving the marriage relationship;
  2. Deciding child custody and parenting time;
  3. Determining whether spousal maintenance (alimony) should be paid and, if so, how much and for how long;
  4. Calculating child support; and
  5. Dividing up assets and debts.

1)  Dissolving the Marriage Relationship

In “no-fault” divorce states, if one spouse believes the marriage is “irretrievably broken”, a divorce will be granted.  There is no need to prove grounds for a divorce, such as an infidelity or abuse.

2)  Child Custody

In cases involving minor children, two issues must be addressed: 1) legal decision-making authority over the children; and 2) the parenting time schedule – when the children will be with their father and when they will be with their mother.  While there are many sub-issues to address here, the overarching consideration is always the best interests of the children.

3)  Spousal Maintenance

In certain cases, where one spouse is unable to support herself through appropriate employment, it may appropriate for one spouse to help contribute to the support of the other spouse by paying alimony (spousal maintenance).  In general, spousal maintenance, when it is appropriate, is paid in an amount and for a period of time to allow the spouse receiving it to become self-reliant.

4)  Calculating Child Support

Separate from spousal maintenance, in cases involving minor children one parent may be ordered to pay the other parent-child support.  The Arizona Child Support Guidelines create a formula for calculating child support which is based on both parents’ incomes, the schedule of parenting time with the children, the cost of medical insurance for the children, and the cost of child care for the children.

5)  Dividing Assets and Debts

Absent a premarital agreement, most assets and debts acquired or incurred during the marriage are “community” assets/debts, and they are divided roughly equally between husband and wife in a divorce.  Property owned before the marriage and certain property acquired during the marriage (e.g., gifts and inheritances) are the separate property of the person who owned the property before the marriage or acquired it during the marriage, and the owner of the separate property does not have to share those separate assets with her spouse in the event of a divorce.

Agree or the Judge Decides

There are only two ways to address and resolve the issues that exist in Arizona divorce cases.  First, the husband and wife may agree on how to resolve the issues.  When husbands and wives agree, judges virtually always approve those agreements.  Agreeing on how to resolve the issues can greatly reduce the financial and emotional costs of divorce.

When husbands and wives are unable to reach agreements, judges will decide the issues for them.  Each party has a brief opportunity to present evidence on each issue to the judge in a courtroom trial, and after considering that evidence, the judge will decide each issue on which the parties were unable to agree on their own.

Litigating a contested divorce case without a lawyer is a bad idea.  Contact my office to find out how hiring an experienced divorce attorney can benefit you.