Budge Law Firm, PLLC

Family Law FAQ

How do I decide if I need a family law attorney?

Unless you have a simple and uncontested divorce, it is probably wise to consider hiring a lawyer. If you and your spouse disagree about whether or not you should divorce, or there are complications regarding property, child custody, or taxes, and especially if your spouse has hired a lawyer; you may need a professional to represent you. Please contact our office today at 480-246-8050 or send us an email. We will be happy to answer your questions about a divorce.

What is the divorce process?

A divorce is initiated by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, along with other pleadings, with the Superior Court. After filing the petition, a copy of the pleadings are then served on the other spouse. The other spouse then files a response to the petition and has a copy delivered to the Petitioner. Next, is the phase of disclosure and discovery. In this process the parties identify the legal positions of each spouse and disclose anticipated exhibits and witnesses. Each party may secure information and documents from the other party through a variety of methods including: interrogatories, depositions, requests for admission, or requests to produce documents. A settlement conference may then be requested or ordered by the court in which the parties will be provided with an opportunity to come to an agreement on any or all issues. Typical areas where disputes arise include: custody (also called decision-making authority), parenting time, support, spousal maintenance, asset distribution, and debt allocation. Any issues that the parties cannot resolve will be determined by the judge. Filing fees may be found by visiting the Clerk of the Superior Court’s website.

How long will my divorce take?

The amount of time it takes to get a divorce varies. State laws require a waiting period of at least 60 days from the time the other party was served with the petition for dissolution. After the 60-day period passes, the steps necessary to obtaining a divorce will depend on your situation and the complexity of your case.

What do I do if I am served with divorce papers?

You or your attorney must file a written Answer and Counterclaim within 20 days from the date you are served with the Summons and Complaint for Divorce (30 days if served outside the state). If you do not file a written response, the court may enter a default judgment against you grant the divorce based on the terms of the petition. If you want the divorce as well, you should also file a Counterclaim for Divorce. This means that if your spouse changes his/her mind in the future and asks the court to dismiss the divorce, the court could deny that request and grant you a judgment of divorce instead on your counterclaim.

What if the other party does not respond to the petition?

If a Petition for Dissolution has been filed and served on the other party and the responding party has not filed a written response within the allotted time period, the filing party may file and affidavit and application for default and request a default hearing in order to obtain a divorce based on the terms of the petition. A default hearing cannot be set for at least 61 days from the date that the petition was served on the other party.

What is "joint legal custody"?

When the court grants joint legal custody, each of the parents has the same rights to make decisions about the child’s care and welfare and neither parent’s rights are superior to those of the other parent. In the best interest of the child, the court may direct that certain decisions be made by only one parent, even when joint legal custody is granted. The court may order joint legal custody without ordering joint physical custody.

If parents have joint legal custody, does the child live with each of them for equal amounts of time?

Not necessarily. Having joint legal custody does not mean that parents also have joint physical custody or equal parenting time (see section 25-403, Arizona Revised Statutes).

What is "joint physical custody"?

When the court grants joint physical custody, the place where the child lives (the child's physical residence) is shared between the parents in a way that the child will have essentially equal time and contact with both parents. Joint physical custody may be granted in situations where parents share joint legal custody or when one parent is granted sole custody.

Does the law favor joint custody or sole custody?

Arizona law does not favor one form of custody over another. Also, the court may not prefer a parent as a custodian because of that parent's sex.

What is alimony and when can it be granted?

Alimony, also called spousal maintenance or spousal support, is a court-ordered allowance to be paid from one former spouse to the other. Alimony is typically awarded to serve one of three purposes: 1) to provide permanent support for a needy former spouse; 2) to provide temporary support to allow a former spouse to acquire education or training that will enable him or her to become self-sufficient; 3) to provide a means of achieving an equitable distribution of the marital property. Although a court may order periodic alimony payments, a lump-sum payment, or both; the courts usually require the payment of a fixed monthly amount. How are custody and parenting time issues determined?

Unless one parent is unfit or or poses a danger to the children, courts tend to lean towards joint custody or decision-making authority. Where proper, it is beneficial to encourage both parents to be involved in the lives of their children. However, while custody can be fairly simple, parenting time is a more difficult issue because it depends on many factors such as a parent’s work schedule, proximity to each other, and their child’s activities.

How much will my child support obligation be?

Child support is calculated according to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. The calculation takes into account the combined gross income of the parents and many other factors that affect the amount owed. The Court provides an online Child Support Calculator to estimate the cost of support.

What should I do if my spouse doesn’t pay the alimony or child support ordered by the court?

A party who fails to pay the court ordered alimony or child support is subject to a judgment for arrearages and collection and may also be liable for contempt. In either case child support is generally payable through a wage garnishment and the delinquent payer may also be subject to restrictions or suspensions of professional, occupational and/or driver’s licenses.

Can I get an annulment?

It is a common misconception that an annulment is based on the duration of the marriage or the fact that the parties feel that they made a mistake. An annulment may be granted when the court determines that the marriage is void. A marriage may be determined to be void based on factors including capacity to consent (mentally unable, intoxicated, duress) or fraud involving the essentials of marriage.

What is community property and sole and separate property?

Community property is any asset acquired with community funds during the marriage for a community purpose and may include separate property converted to community property. If an asset is acquired during the marriage it is assumed to be community property. Exceptions to this include gifts, inheritance, separate assets, or any relating interest or increase in value. Sole and separate property belongs to the party acquiring it. This includes property that was owned prior to marriage and that has not subsequently been gifted to the community.

What is meant by "sole custody"?

This means that one person has sole legal custody of a child. In this situation, the court orders that one parent be responsible for making the major decisions regarding the child’s care or welfare. Although both parents may discuss these matters, the parent designated by the court has authority to make final decisions in the event the parents do not agree.

What is meant by "joint custody"?

This means joint legal custody or joint physical custody or both. In most cases, in order to obtain an order for joint custody, both parents must agree to and submit a written parenting plan to the court.

Can more than one parent be granted custody by the court?

Yes. In addition to sole custody, the law allows the court to grant joint legal custody and joint physical custody or both.

What is "legal custody"?

Legal custody is the status where one or both parents are responsible for making the major decisions regarding the child’s care or welfare. When legal custody is awarded to one parent, it is called "sole legal custody." The law does not favor one form of custody over another.