Phoenix Divorce Lawyer
The Law Offices of Thompson & McGinnis, located in Phoenix, Arizona, provides legal representation to cli ents in need of an experienced family law attorney who is compassionate and caring with clients. She is assertive of their interests whether confronting divorce and child custody concerns or facing other family law concerns. If children are involved she is very focused on what is in “the best interest of the children”.
After focusing her practice on mainly family law , Phoenix divorce attorney Susan McGinnis has gained significant insight into all aspects of divorce and family law, including divorce litigation, collaborative divorce, child custody, child support, property division, spousal maintenance and other complex family issues. Contact The Law Offices of Thompson and Mcginnis and ask for Susan Mcginnis or one of her associates at 602-952-2666 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Family Law Questions:
What is a no fault divorce?
What are fault grounds for divorce?
How does a contested divorce go through the family court system?
What are the advantages of getting an uncontested divorce?
What are the disadvantages of getting an uncontested divorce?
Do I need to hire a lawyer for an uncontested divorce?
What is a waiver of service?
What are the steps to an uncontested divorce?
Why should I get a Legal Separation rather than a divorce?
How do I file for Legal Separation in Arizona?
What if I want to get a divorce after I file for a Legal Separation?
What is Community Property?
What do I do if my spouse is hiding assets or I need to find out if they are?
What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
What is Divorce Mediation?
What are settlement conferences?
Spousal Maintenance Eligibility
Spousal Maintenance Amount and Duration
Termination of Spousal Maintenance
How do I apply for child support in Arizona?
What factors go into determining child support in Arizona?
How do I enforce child support obligations in Arizona?
How do I change a child support orders in Arizona courts?
Modification of Arizona Court Order
What is required to modify child support?
What are some reasons to modify visitation?
Enforcement of Arizona Court Order
How does the court enforce court orders?
What is the approach if my ex-spouse has left Arizona?
Child Custody Resources
What are examples of abuse?
How does domestic violence affect child custody?
How does domestic violence affect child visitation rights?
How can an Attorney help me if I am in a domestic violence situation?
Child Abused Resources
In Arizona, the divorce statute requires the parties to state the marriage is “irretrievably broken in order to obtain a divorce. The court will conduct a hearing to see if reconciliation is possible. If both parties agree to proceed with the divorce, the court will grant the divorce. If one party objects to the divorce, the court may call for a conciliation conference.
You still need to consult a licensed Arizona family attorney when considering divorce. Even if both parties are in agreement, you still need to protect your legal rights and make sure the no fault divorce is settled on equitable grounds.
Over History there had to be a reason for the divorce such as cruelty or adultery. Arizona now allows fault based divorces so the parties do not have to allege a reason for the divorce. However, sometimes reasons are given for the divorce as a strategy for gaining an unequal property division or child custody. The fault grounds are still listed in the Arizona code, but it is not a requirement to allege fault to obtain a divorce in Arizona. The fault grounds for divorce are laid out in Arizona Statutes Title 25 Chapters 312, 901 and 903 respectively:
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Drug or Alcohol Abuse
- Separation for at least 2 years or more without reconciliation before a divorce can be granted
A divorce attorney can provide you with the correct strategy for filing your divorce. Remember that no-fault divorces are available and very common in Arizona. Each divorce is unique so consult an experience Arizona attorney to help you file or fight a divorce.
Please contact with questions and to set up your consultation:
Contact The Law Offices of Thompson and Mcginnis and ask for Susan Mcginnis or one of her associates 602-952-2666
Jurisdiction is the most important thing to establish in an Arizona divorce. The party filing for divorce must have been a resident of Arizona for 90 days prior to filing the divorce petition.
In order for a divorce to start in Arizona, parties much allege sufficient grounds for divorce. Since Arizona is a no-fault state it is permissible to state the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
At this stage, if the parties agree to the terms of divorce the lawyers can write an out of court settlement and have the judge finalize the divorce. In contested divorces, hearings and court proceedings will need to occur for the judge to make a final ruling on the divorce. The basic divorce litigation process is:
- Petition– the filing of the petition starts the divorce proceedings
- Summons– the formal notice to your spouse that a divorce action has been initiated.
- Response– the response is the other party’s answer to the summons and acknowledgment that a divorce proceeding is underway.
- Motions– these are formal requests to the court for action before the actual divorce trial begins. An example of a pre-trial motion is a protective order or restraining order.
- Discovery– In this part of the divorce litigation process, the parties are able to gather information in order to support legal arguments. In a divorce case this is especially important in terms of property division and determining the worth of the marital estate and community property. Depositions or interviews will occur at this stage of the litigation.
- Hearings– The judge can decide some matters like temporary child custody or restraining orders while the divorce is still pending.
- Temporary Orders– If your spouse is hiding assets it is possible to get a court order to force the parties to provide information in order to have an equitable property division.
- Trial– All the previous steps were preparation for the trial. At the trial witnesses, friends, the parties, financial experts, psychologists and others give testimony and present records in order to convince the judge to divide property and award child custody in the manner that is best under the particular circumstances of the case.
- Judgment– This part is the judge’s final decision in the case. It is the judge’s final ruling on all the issues presented to the court and should encompass property division, child support, child custody, visitation and any other matter litigated during the trial. The court ruling is called the final divorce decree and officially ends the marriage.
· Uncontested Divorce
· An uncontested divorce means that the parties agree on the main issues such as child custody, child support and property division. Usually the parties in uncontested divorces do not need to go to trial in order to reach a divorce settlement. Generally uncontested divorces are faster and cheaper than contested divorces.
There are many advantages to getting an uncontested divorce. The ideal situation for uncontested divorce is if both spouses agree to end the marriage and are able to resolve major issues such as child custody and property division without a trial. Some of the advantages include:
If there is nothing to litigate then you don’t have to pay excessive legal fees and court costs because it is only a matter of filing papers and having the judge enter the agreement into the final divorce decree. It is possible to do a pro se divorce which means that none of the parties have legal representation. You can also have one lawyer draw up and file the legal papers for the divorce.
- Faster Divorce Process-
There is no need for motions and hearings and a trial so your divorce should be finalized in a matter of months.
The final divorce decree is always public record. With uncontested divorces, there is no trial so there is no witness testimony or depositions. The actual negotiation and compromises made to arrive at the final agreement do not need to be made public.
If you and your spouse can work out the divorce agreement then you have total control over everything. If you go to trial the judge has the final say on child custody and property division. You can try to appeal the judge’s decision but that will take more time and money and it can be very frustrating and expensive.
An uncontested divorce is going to be a disadvantage for the person who is:
- Not savvy about legal rights
- Dependent on the other spouse
- The victim of domestic violence
- Not able to communicate effectively with the other spouse
- Not represented by counsel and the other spouse is represented by a lawyer
If you are uncertain about the divorce process it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer about your options. It is still possible for you to have an uncontested divorce with both sides represented by counsel.
It is not always necessary to hire an attorney to represent you in an uncontested divorce case. Usually one of the spouses does hire an attorney to prepare the divorce papers. It is possible for both spouses to use one lawyer to prepare the divorce papers. However it is impossible for a lawyer to represent both spouses in a divorce case. If one spouse hires a lawyer and gets the divorce documents prepared, it is best for the other spouse to seek independent counsel to make sure their rights are protected.
Please contact with any questions :
Contact The Law Offices of Thompson and Mcginnis and ask for Susan Mcginnis or one of her associates 602-952-2666
In divorce cases it is necessary to serve divorce papers to make sure the other spouse has notice of a divorce action in the Arizona court. When a divorce is uncontested, it is possible for the other spouse to sign a waiver of service which acknowledges that he or she received the divorce petition and does not need to be officially served. This waiver satisfies the notice requirement. Also with the waiver of service of process the spouse can also waive the right to go to the final divorce hearing.
If the divorce is uncontested it is usually not necessary for both parties to attend the court hearing. If you do not attend the divorce hearing make sure you do not sign a waiver which requires you to approve and sign the final divorce decree.
The steps for an uncontested divorce are:
- Prepare the divorce petition and get the other spouse to sign a waiver of service.
- File the divorce papers with the court. The court will set a hearing to finalize the divorce.
- Both parties may not need to attend the hearing. The petitioner needs to go to court and the judge will verify the requests made in the divorce petition. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to obtain a Decree of Dissolution without the need of hearing. As an experiences Pheonix divorce attorney I can help you determine whether or not your case may be resolved without a hearing.
- The judge may ask some questions to clear up any issues and confirm the terms of the divorce then the judge will grant the divorce.
Under Arizona law the court must wait a minimum of 60 days after the date the Respondent was served with the divorce documents before a final Decree can be presented to the court. Even if you and your spouse agree on the disposition of all assets, debts, custody and visitaiton, you may still be required to wait prior to submitting your Decree to the court.
A legal separation in Arizona is almost identical to a divorce. However, there are significant differences you must consider before choosing a legal separation rather than a divorce.
Generally, the reasons people choose a legal separation rather than a divorce are because of religious or cultural beliefs. After a divorce the marriage is dissolved and the parties are no longer married. In a legal separation the parties remain married. The parties would be unable to remarry in the future without converting the legal separation into a divorce.
Another common reason people choose a legal separation rather than a divorce is since the parties are still married many health insurance providers allow the parties to remain on each other’s health insurance plans. Given the ever increasing cost of health insurance proceeding by a legal separation in Arizona may be more cost effective for the parties. Finally, a legal separation ends the martial “community”. That means neither party is legally responsible for the other parties’ debts.
A legal separation is filed just like a divorce in Arizona. One party begins by filing a Petition for Legal Separation. However, procedurally there is one major difference. Both parties must agree to a legal separation. This differs from a divorce were the parties are not required to agree that the marriage is irreconcilable. Assuming the parties agree on a legal separation the court will divide property and debt, determine custody, visitation and child support just like in a divorce.
If prior to the entry of the final Decree of Legal Separation one party would rather get a divorce they may ask the court to convert the case into a dissolution of marriage. If after the entry of the final Decree of dissolution one party wants to get a divorce they must re-file a Petition for Dissolution.
Marital Property Division
One of the most contentions parts of a divorce is the division of assets and property acquired throughout the marriage. Whether you have a simple estate or a large estate, it is important to get a just and equitable division of all the marital property. Things like investments, pension plans, real estate, houses, and cars are part of the marital estate. Most people do not have a clear idea on how to protect these assets or receive their fair share of the assets. A qualified Arizona family law attorney can help you find out the best way to divide your assets.
Community property or marital property is defined as the property and assets acquired during the marriage. Arizona is a community property state which means that when spouses get divorced in Arizona, each spouse is entitled to half of the assets acquired during the marriage.
It is common for spouses to hide assets if a divorce is on the horizon. It is illegal and considered a fraud on the marital estate to hide assets because the court cannot equally divide the marital estate if a spouse has stolen from the estate. If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets hire a lawyer and an accountant to go through your property and assets. Spouses commonly hide assets in the following areas:
- Secondary Bank Accounts
- “Gifts” to Friends and Family
- Artwork and Antiques
- Hobby Items and Collectibles
Make sure that you get antiques and collectibles appraised because their value may change over time. Make sure you look at tax returns and paycheck stubs. In addition to a lawyer and accountant, maybe hire a private investigator. Check with legal counsel to determine the best strategy to uncover hidden assets.
- Settlement Conferences
Today it is typical for divorcing couples to attend some form of dispute resolution in order to speed up the divorce process. In fact it is a requirement for couples seeking a divorce in Maricopa County to engage in some form of alternative dispute resolution. ADR seeks to reduce the cost of litigation by using mediation, arbitration, or settlement negotiations in order to resolve cases faster. ADR is a voluntary and usually less expensive way of solving problems then completing a trial.
What is Divorce Mediation?
Mediation is a much more informal process than arbitration. The mediation process is run by a neutral third party called a mediator. This person usually does not have specialized knowledge in the area of dispute, but usually the person went through a training and certification process in order to be licensed as a mediator.
During the mediation, each side will be able to present their side of the story. The mediator acts as a facilitator to help the parties communicate and reach a mutually agreed upon divorce settlement.
Unlike arbitration, the settlement reached in mediation is not binding on the parties. Also mediations are completely confidential so nothing said in the mediation can be used in trial. The mediator cannot be called as a witness during trial to testify as to what occurred during the mediation
Arizona family courts order parties to engage in at least one settlement conference to see whether or not the parties can come to an agreement. The settlement conference is held before the judge and each side is able to give an assessment of their case and the likelihood of reaching a consensus.
The judge cannot force parties to settle at the conference, but it is highly encouraged for the parties to make a genuine and reasonable effort to come to an agreement at the settlement conferences. It is possible for attorneys to request additional conferences or other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) meetings
For questions and to schedule an appointment contact
Contact The Law Offices of Thompson and Mcginnis and ask for Susan Mcginnis or one of her associates 602-952-2666
Maricopa County ADR Information – Court website that explains ADR and provides resources and contacts for mediators and arbitrators.
Spousal Maintenance / Alimony
Alimony is a troublesome idea to consider when ending a marriage. It is a burdensome thought that you will have to continue to support someone that is out of your life. For the person receiving spousal maintenance there is uncertainty as well because the ex-spouse does not know how long the alimony will continue. The law offices of Thompson and Mcginnis understands the frustrations of both parties and is willing to help. The general purpose of alimony or spousal maintenance is to make sure both spouses are able to support themselves individually after the marriage.
Arizona does not have a statute regarding “alimony.” In the code the official term is “spousal maintenance” and both men and women are eligible to receive spousal maintenance. Instead of strict formulas determining spousal maintenance payments, the Arizona Revised Statute §25-319 sets out factors the court consider when awarding spousal maintenance.
The factors the court examines to decide spousal maintenance includes:
- Can a person support themselves with reasonable employment?
- Does the person have other assets that can help meet their reasonable needs?
- Is the person disabled and not able to work?
- Is the person a primary child care provider and should stay at home with the children and work part time?
- Did the person contribute to paying for the education or business opportunities for the other spouse?
- How long was the marriage?
- How old is the person requesting spousal maintenance?
The factors that determine the amount and duration of spousal maintenance are:
- The standard of living during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age, employment history, earning ability, mental state of the parties.
- Whether one person can pay spousal maintenance and still have a livable wage to meet his or her reasonable needs.
- Does one person have more property or make more money than the other person?
- Did one person support the other person with their education goals?
- Did one person support the other person with their career goals?
- Does one person need additional education and training in order to get employment that covers his or her reasonable needs?
- The length of time it would take a person to reasonably obtain employment.
- Did one person act in bad faith during the marriage and wasted or hid marital assets?
The most obvious reasons for spousal maintenance to stop are the death or re-marriage of the person receiving the spousal maintenance payments. Generally in the court order for spousal maintenance the judge will set a time period for the spousal maintenance payments.
There are so many factors to consider in awarding and terminating spousal maintenance so it is beneficial to get legal assistance to try to ensure the spousal maintenance are for a reasonable amount and last for a reasonable time.
Child custody is one of the main issues parents face when they decide to get a divorce.law offices of Thompson and Mcginnis knows that child custody is one of the most emotional parts of a divorce for the parents as well as the child. Child custody is a delicate balance between protecting your rights as parents and at the same time shielding your child from the unpleasant but necessary aspects of negotiating a child custody arrangement.
To apply for child support in Arizona, you must go through a legal process where the court determines the monthly amount of money the non-custodial parent pays for the child. The non-custodial parent is the one that does not have physical custody of the child. Usually in the divorce case, the lawyers will work out a child support order.
If you are unmarried and want to apply for child support, you will still have to get a court order. Arizona’s child support regulations are handled by the Arizona Division of Child Support Enforcement. You can go through that office and file for child support or you can hire an experienced lawyer. You will have to establish the paternity or the maternity of the child then based on the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, the court will create a child support order.
In Arizona, the court order determining child support is based upon a set of standard child support guidelines established by the state. The guidelines are extremely detailed so it is advisable to hire a competent attorney to explain which guidelines apply to your situation.
Generally the courts consider the actual needs of the child and the finances of both parents. The main factors spelled out in the Arizona Child Support Guidelines are as follows:
- Adjustments to income prior to calculation of support
Arizona allows you to use your gross income instead of net income when calculating which financial schedule you fall under for child support payment. Other considers factor into the income adjustment such as other children you are already supporting and spousal maintenance or alimony obligations.
- Additional childrearing expenses besides basic child support
Every case is different, but examples of additional childrearing expenses are things like health insurance, extraordinary educational expenses such as private school or special needs education.
- Adjustments for Older Children
Arizona’s policy is older children cost more to support than younger children so in light of that premise the guidelines allow up to a ten percent adjustment for older children.
- Low Income Adjustment
If the noncustodial parent’s income will be less than $710 a month it is possible to get a low income adjustment to ensure the non-custodial parent is able to maintain a minimum standard of living.
- Cost Associated with Parenting Time
Arizona law recognizes that the non-custodial parent will provide basic childcare obligations during visitation so there is a provision that allows the non-custodial parent to offset some child rearing costs from the child support obligation.
This list is very general. The Arizona Child Support Guidelines is very detailed so it is highly advisable to seek an attorney to find out your eligibility for these adjustments.The guideline have undergone significant changes and The law offices of Thompson and Mcginnis is prepared to assist you in determining how the new guidelines will affect you.
You can alert the Arizona Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) office for options on enforcing court ordered child support. Some remedies to enforce child support obligations include:
- Income withholding
- New hire reporting
- Liens again real and personal property
- Driver’s license suspension
- Other judicial procedures
You can go back to the court which granted the child support order and ask the judge to re-examine the case due to new circumstances. These circumstances need to be substantial such as a loss of employment or a change in custody or visitation.
You can also make a request to the Arizona DCSE office to modify the child support order. The office will make a review of the parents’ finances and the expenses for the child and make a decision.
The Arizona family court allows parties to modify court orders providing there is a significant change in circumstances. Parties can go back to court and modify a number of court orders that pertain to:
- Child Custody Modification
- Child Support Modification
- Visitation Schedule Modification
- Spousal Maintenance Modification
It highly suggested that you obtain legal representation to modify court orders. The family court usually requires substantial evidence to change court orders after a divorce or custody arrangement is finalized.
Arizona follows child support guidelines so a parent will have to demonstrate a significant change in income for the court to modify child support. If the parent can prove:
- Circumstances have changed in a substantial and continuing manner
- The new amount would be at least 15% higher or lower than the existing amount
Usually income or custody changes qualify as significant changes. Ask an experienced modification lawyer to help you with your child support modification requests.
You can modify visitation if major changes occur in your life. Sometimes the court will modify visitation if you are not in compliance with the court orders. Some reasons to modify visitation include:
- Health problems
- Drugs/alcohol abuse
- Child abuse
If there is a danger to the child the court will probably authorize supervised visitation. In very rare cases would Arizona court deny visitation altogether.
In Arizona there are a number of tactics the court uses to enforce court orders. Depending on the situation the court can:
- Hold the ex-spouse in contempt of court
- Seize bank account assets
- Garnish wages
- Revoke driving privileges
- Change custody and visitation privileges
- Issue an arrest warrant
Once a family law matter is started in Arizona, the courts retain jurisdiction of that matter. If your ex-spouse has left the state, it is possible to still enforce the court orders. The states recognize court orders from different states so you can file a copy of the court orders where your ex-spouse currently resides.
If you do not know where your ex-spouse has gone, it is possible to put out a warrant for his or her arrest. It is also possible to garnish tax returns and social security benefits to pay for child support and other court ordered obligations.
For questions and to schedule your consultation
Arizona State Government: Clerk of the Court24601 North 29th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85027
Child Support Enforcement Administration1510 West Adams Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007-2605
There is a wide range of abuse that can fall into the family violence category. Abuse does not just have to be physical. Abuse can be emotional and mental and still qualify as domestic violence. Some of the main types of abuse found in domestic violence cases are:
- Name calling
- Threats of Physical Harm
- Physical Harm
- Controlling Money
- Sexual Assault
- Stopping the victim from getting a job
- Not allowing the victim to talk to family and friends
Criminal acts of abuse are physical assault like pushing and hitting, stalking and sexual assault. Emotional, mental and financial abuse may not violate criminal law, but they are still forms of abuse. There are still legal remedies that can be applied to make sure that the abuse does not escalate into violent behaviors that put your life at risk.
Arizona courts award child custody using “the best interest of the child” standard. Arizona family court philosophy is that children benefit from a relationship with both of their parents. If there is a history of family violence in the home, it will be a factor in determining child custody.
Just because you are the alleged victim of domestic violence does not automatically mean you will win or lose child custody. Just because your partner is the alleged abuser does not mean you will be denied child custody. The court will investigate to see how the abuse affected the child and whether or not the child was also abused.
Every family situation is different. It is important to have the help of an experienced family lawyer familiar with divorce and child custody arrangements. With the help of counsel you will be able to present the facts of your case to the court in the best light.
Arizona courts default position is that children should have regular contact with both their parents. Even in cases of domestic violence, it is rare that visitation rights will be completely denied.
The court will make a determination whether or not it is in the best interest of the child to have regular visitation with the parent initiating the abuse. If the court has any fear regarding the child’s safety, they will order supervised visitation.
Supervised visitation is utilized where domestic violence or child abuse is present to reduce the stress on the child and the parent. The court arranges a structured visit between the abusive parent and the child. The court will generally order a staggered arrival time so the abusive parent and the other parent come into limited contact.
The abusive parent and the child are placed in a room with a trained counselor or social worker. The child and abusive parent are allowed to interact by talking, playing and socializing. The social worker does not intervene with the child and parent interaction unless a threat of violence or other inappropriate behavior occurs.
If a problem does arise during the visit, the social worker or counselor will end the visit immediately to ensure the safety of the child. Usually courts will order supervised visitation so that the parent child relationship is able to continue without risk of harm to the child.
A lawyer can advise you on the legal options available to help you and your family. If you want to file criminal charges against the abuser, the local police department or District Attorney Office can assist you with making your claim. The prosecutors can give you detailed information regarding the criminal procedures. The prosecutors can also tell you if they need you to testify at a trial or any other court proceeding.
A family lawyer can give you advice on your civil rights concerning property, child support, and child custody if you decide to leave your abuser. A family lawyer might also be able to assist you with filing temporary orders and injunctions against your abuser to ensure your safety and the safety of your children.
Domestic Violence.org – how to recognize domestic violence and ways to get out of abusive relationships
Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence – serves as an advocate for domestic violence victims.
Domestic Violence Law in Arizona – Official Arizona court website that provides information on filing protective orders and other legal ways to stop family violence.
For your consultation call