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1.How do I begin a divorce?

Van Wickler Law PLLC schedules initial consultations, and once you have retained our firm, we will prepare and file the divorce petition and accompanying documents to begin the divorce process. However, the law does not require that an attorney prepare the documents.

2.What do I do? I was just served with divorce papers?

If you were served in Arizona, you have twenty (20) days to file a response. If you were served out of State, you have thirty (30) day to respond. Van Wickler Law PLLC recommends you seek legal advice before filing any response to ensure your rights are best protected.

3.What are the different types of custody?

Arizona has replaced the term “custody” with the phrase “legal decision-making”. There are several types of legal decision-making, the most common being joint legal decision-making. Joint legal decision-making entitles both parties to make legal decisions on all major non-emergency issues concerning the child/children in the areas of education, medical care, religious upbringing and personal care. In a sole legal decision-making arrangement, one party makes all the decisions. Legal decision-making is separate and apart from parenting time (formerly known as visitation), which is the schedule of time during which each party has access to a child/children at specified times.

4.How will legal decision-making and parenting time be determined?

Legal decision-making and parenting time are determined by agreement of the parties, either on their own or through mediation by a court mediator, or by a judge after a hearing or trial. In determining legal decision-making and parenting time, the primary focus is on what is in the best interest of the child/children.

5.What if my spouse and I are unable to agree on a legal decision-making designation or a parenting plan?

In this situation, it may be best to seek the assistance of a court-approved mental health provider to evaluate the children's best interests. This individual will meet with the entire family unit and any other important people in the children's lives (known as collaterals) and issue a comprehensive report with recommendations for the court. A similar, less comprehensive, assessment is available through the court known as a Parenting Conference. One last alternative, is to present the circumstances to the court for consideration and ruling.

6.How is child support determined?

Maricopa County and the State of Arizona have instituted guidelines for calculation of child support. The main factors to be considered are: the income of both parents, spousal maintenance paid/received, if any, whether either party has a minor child or children from another marriage, the terms of the parenting plan, and  health insurance and child care costs paid on behalf of the child/children. There are other factors that can contribute to the calculation of child support. It is important to note that Arizona Child Support Guidelines can frequently undergo substantial changes. Van Wickler Law PLLC recommends that you consult legal counsel to determine how these guidelines may affect your circumstances.

7.Can I get alimony/spousal maintenance?

Arizona uses a needs based approach when analyzing a claim for spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is based on many different factors, including, but not limited to, the length of the marriage, the liquid assets available to each party; the difference between the parties' incomes, the earning ability of the spouse seeking spousal maintenance, the ability of the spousal from whom maintenance is sought to meet his/her pay his own expenses while paying spousal maintenance to the other party, and the ages of the minor child/children. The Courts look at all of these factors before determining an award of spousal maintenance. It is recommended that you consult legal counsel with any questions concerning spousal maintenance.

8.How will our property and debts be divided in the divorce?

Arizona is a community property state. All community property is divided equally between the parties. In addition, all debts incurred during a marriage (no matter whose name they are in) are community debts and both parties are liable for the payment of them. Any separate property or debt of a party prior to the marriage is awarded to that party. In many cases, the parties disagree over their community property and sole and separate property and a judge must make a ruling as to who will be awarded what property. Our office works for you to ensure that all property is divided as equitably as possible. There are many complex issues when sole and separate property is commingled with community assets/property. These are best analyzed by legal counsel.

9.How long will my divorce take?

The State of Arizona requires a 60 day period after service of the divorce petition. This is often referred to as a "cooling off" period. This cannot be waived and is the minimum time a divorce action take. Unfortunately, in some cases, divorces can linger on for up to two years or longer if they proceed to trial and if there are many contested matters.

10.What is the difference between an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce?

An uncontested divorce is where both parties have agreed on the resolution of the divorce; including legal decision-making, parenting time, spousal maintenance as well as property and debt distribution. However, most divorces are contested. Van Wickler Law PLLC handles both contested and uncontested divorces.

11.Do I have to prove my spouse did something wrong in order to get a divorce?

No. The State of Arizona is a no - fault state. Therefore, all divorces are filed based on irreconcilable differences and no one is at fault for the divorce.