I’ve just been served with documents.  What do I do?

The first thing you ought to do is to contact an attorney to discuss your options.  Call sooner rather than later as you will have only a short amount of time to file a Response before the Court may find you in “default.”  Typically, that time frame is 20 calendar days from the date you were served with documents.

My spouse just handed me a Petition for Dissolution.  Have I been served?

Not unless you also signed a document called an “Acceptance of Service.”  Just being handed a set of documents does not mean you were served unless a law enforcement officer or a process server handed them to you.  You may not serve your spouse by personally handing them documents and your spouse may not serve you this way.  You can also be served by signing the “green card” to accept a piece of certified mail.  Call an attorney to determine whether the “service” you have experienced is proper.

How long will it take me to get divorced?

The soonest anyone can be divorced in the State of Arizona is 60 days from the date the Respondent-spouse was served with the Petition for Dissolution.  If there is a complete agreement, or the Respondent-spouse is in default, your dissolution process could be this short.  More often than not, however, the process takes much longer – possibly several months to a year or more.  The time frame mostly depends on what issues must be litigated and how cooperative the parties are with each other.

Why should I hire an attorney?

Attorneys have training and expertise to guide you through the Court system efficiently and effectively.  Attorneys also can provide a sense of perspective and objective advice in terms of what claims to pursue and what claims might be unreasonable.  This can save you time and, possibly, money, during your case.

What’s the difference between custody and parenting time?

“Custody” is now known as “Legal Decision-Making Authority.”  It is the determination of which parent has the right to make decisions for the children’s education, non-emergency medical issues, religious training, and personal care.  It is either “Joint” or “Sole.”  “Parenting Time” is the schedule dictating when each parent has the care of the child(ren).  Parenting Time schedules vary depending upon the needs of each family.

How long do I have to be married before I qualify for spousal maintenance/alimony?

There is not a strict rule as to how many years someone must be married before they may qualify for spousal maintenance (known as “alimony” in some other states).  Certainly, though, the longer a couple is married, the more responsibility that might be placed on the higher-earning spouse to assist the lower- (or non-) earning spouse in the event of a dissolution or legal separation.  The Court must look at the needs of each party and determine what, if any, contribution can and should be made to the spouse requesting maintenance.  Contact an attorney to discuss whether you, or your spouse, might qualify for an award of spousal maintenance.

How does the Court determine child support?

Arizona uses a set of Child Support Guidelines that the Court uses to calculate child support.  It takes into account each party’s income, any amounts paid for health insurance or daycare, and the amount of parenting time exercised by the paying-parent, among the most commonly utilized factors.  Sometimes a “deviation” from the Guidelines is appropriate and is something that should be discussed with an attorney.

What do I do if I want to change something about my current orders?

A modification of Legal Decision-Making, Parenting Time, Child Support, or Spousal Maintenance may be appropriate.  You will want to discuss your situation with an attorney to decide whether, and when, such a filing should occur.

My spouse and I agree on everything related to our divorce.  Can s/he just sign my Petition?

Yes and no.  Your spouse cannot just sign on your Petition in order to prove their agreement with the proposed terms.  However, you and your spouse can enter into a “Property Settlement/Separation Agreement” which can be considered binding.  You should discuss the details of such an Agreement, and whether you should enter into one, with an attorney prior to signing.

How old does my child have to be before they can decide where they live?

Eighteen, or legal adulthood.  There is no specific age at which a minor child becomes eligible to make such a determination.  A child’s opinion does matter to a judge but it is just one of several factors the Court must consider when determining Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time.  The older and more mature the child, the more persuasive that child’s opinion would be.  However, there is no definitive age that binds a judge to a child’s opinion.