Even the sunniest day in Scottsdale, AZ can surprise us with some pretty dark clouds. When relationships falter, when there has been an arrest, or when you need guidance preparing an estate plan in Scottsdale, you need to know you can call upon a top Attorney in Scottsdale for the job. Call on the Stewart Law Group at (480) 425-1400.
Scottsdale Family Law Services:
- Military Divorce
- Spousal Support
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Father’s Rights
- Property Division
Are You Looking For An Experienced and Respectful Attorney in Scottsdale?
Every client’s case is unique. And every case presents unique challenges. We believe each of our clients deserves the best legal advice available from a lawyer who has years of experience in that practice area, and the respect of both clients and colleagues. To be hiring a professional who is both knowledgeable of the law and respectful of that individual’s situation.
Mutual respect builds trust. And trust is crucial for productive communications between attorney and client. No one deserves a dressing down for having made a mistake. For not having gotten a will prepared sooner. For wanting a divorce. Or for believing the other parent would be a better custodian for the children. Everyone is different and everyone deserves respect. They also deserve the best representation they can get.
Contested Divorce vs Uncontested Divorce in Arizona
No one should go it alone when navigating a divorce in Arizona. Arizona is a community property state that demands the equitable distribution of marital property between both spouses after divorce. It’s also a state that holds 50/50 child custody as in the best interests of children in most divorce situations. When spouses file for divorce in Arizona, there are many matters to settle, including:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Distribution of marital assets and determining separate assets from marital ones
- Spousal maintenance
In the best case scenario, divorcing spouses can agree to part ways amicably and form their own divorce settlement agreement in which they agree on all of the above factors. In this case, it’s an uncontested divorce. Most judges simply sign off on a mutually agreed-upon divorce settlement, unless it’s egregiously unfair to one spouse or it appears that one spouse signed the agreement under duress or intimidation.
A contested divorce in Arizona is more common than one in which both parties agree on all terms. If divorcing spouses disagree on the distribution of assets—such as both parties in the divorce seeking to retain the family home or one spouse disagreeing that an asset they possessed before marriage became a marital asset due to comingling—or if they disagree on child custody, the divorce becomes contested.
A contested divorce becomes much more complex than an uncontested divorce and requires courtroom litigation. However, a contested divorce may become uncontested at any time in the divorce process if both spouses attend mediation, negotiate an agreement through their lawyers, or otherwise come to mutually agreeable terms.
Prenuptial vs Post-Nuptial Agreements
No one begins the walk down the aisle expecting the journey to end in divorce court, but sometimes people come to the understanding that they must go their own ways. In some cases, a couple about to join their lives may have assets of special significance that they wish to retain as separate property in the event of a future divorce. Choosing a prenuptial agreement to protect individual assets does not mean that divorce is inevitable, or that you anticipate divorcing in the future. Often, it only means that you’re protecting an asset you wish to pass on to a child from a previous marriage or retaining something you worked very hard for. In this case, you can consult with an attorney and form a prenuptial agreement protecting those assets by preventing them from being subject to equitable distribution under Arizona’s community property law. A prenuptial agreement may also include guaranteed protections for a spouse in the event of divorce. A signed prenuptial agreement makes it possible to file for an uncontested divorce.
A postnuptial agreement is not as common as a prenuptial one, but it’s a viable option for protecting individual assets from becoming marital property through commingling. Again, signing this type of agreement doesn’t mean you expect a divorce. If you or your spouse gains an asset of particular financial or sentimental value during the marriage, either party can choose to protect that asset in the event of marital dissolution by asking the other spouse to sign a postnuptial agreement. A postnup may also address:
- Spousal support
- Debts accrued by one spouse
- A detailed plan for asset division in the event of a divorce
- An infidelity clause with penalties for one party during a divorce if that spouse is unfaithful.
While it may not appear a romantic choice, forming a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement serves to protect both parties in the event of a divorce by forming a legal agreement while on good terms, thus eliminating contention later if divorce becomes necessary.
What Is Commingling of Assets?
One of the most important reasons divorce attorneys recommend couples file prenuptial or postnuptial agreements to protect their separate assets is due to the accidental commingling of separate assets during a marriage. This common phenomenon often gives a spouse a valid claim on an asset that the other spouse assumed was their separate property.
Typically, separate property is any asset or property that a spouse owned before their marriage and anything one spouse inherits or receives as a gift in their name only during the marriage, while joint property refers to all assets and debts a couple accumulates together during their marriage. Unfortunately, the lines between separate and joint assets easily become blurred. Some examples of a separate asset that may become subject to equal distribution as a marital asset due to marital commingling include:
- A property that belonged to one spouse before marriage or was inherited by one spouse during the marriage, but the other spouse invested significant money, time, or both, into making improvements on the property
- A separate bank account or investment account to which one spouse allowed the other spouse access during the marriage
- When one spouse begins depositing funds earned during the marriage into an account in their name only existed before the marriage
- When the profit from the sale of an asset or property owned by one spouse before the marriage is used to buy something used by both spouses during the marriage
It often takes a skilled attorney with the help of a financial specialist to untangle separate and joint assets, especially in cases of high-asset divorces or extensive commingling.
How Long Does a Divorce Settlement Take in Scottsdale?
The length of time an Arizona divorce settlement takes depends heavily on whether or not the spouses can agree on terms and file for an uncontested divorce, or whether the matter must go before a judge to decide. Professional mediation can help divorcing spouses form their own agreement on issues of child custody, child support, spousal support, and division of assets. In an uncontested divorce, spouses need only wait the mandatory 60-day period after filing the divorce petition before submitting their agreement to the judge.
A contested divorce takes significantly longer than an uncontested divorce. In a contested divorce, after the 60-day waiting period, the attorneys from both parties may negotiate back and forth in an attempt to form a mutually acceptable agreement or the spouses could use professional mediation in an attempt to settle their contentious issues. If they are unable to reach an agreement, their case goes to trial, where both sides argue their positions before a judge. A judge hears the testimony, reviews any submitted evidence, and then makes a decision on all contested matters in a final divorce decree that compels both spouses to follow.
Complex cases such as high-asset divorces or divorces with complicated child custody issues take longer to settle or litigate than a divorce between a couple with few assets and no children.
What are Scottsdale’s Child Custody Laws?
If parents cannot decide fairly on child custody, either during a divorce or between unmarried parents, the court must decide for them. Child custody is often the most hotly contested matter in a divorce. Arizona does not decide child custody issues with a bias toward mothers or fathers, but instead prioritizes the best interests of the child with the favorable goal being approximately 50/50 custody between parents. Before making child custody decisions, the Arizona courts carefully consider the following:
- The role each parent has played in the child’s daily care since birth
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- How willing each parent is to facilitate frequent continuing contact between the child and the other parent
- A parent’s history of domestic abuse, child abuse/neglect, or drug and alcohol addiction
- Each parent’s physical and emotional health
- The child’s adjustment and attachment to their community
- Whether or not a parent has attempted to mislead the court in order to sway a custody decision
- The child’s preference if a child is mature enough to express an opinion
The way each parent behaves toward the children, the court, and each other during the legal proceedings may also impact a judge’s decision on child custody in Arizona. Regardless, a Scottsdale child custody attorney can help navigate any issues you may have.
Deciding on Child Support in Arizona Divorces
Arizona considers each parent responsible for contributing to the care and maintenance of their children. The state requires each parent to contribute a proportionate share of their income toward raising their children. When deciding on child support, the state considers the income of each parent and the amount of parenting time each parent has with the child in their custody. Typically, the non-custodial parent contributes their share to the custodial parent, but in cases of 50/50 custody, the higher-earning parent pays their proportionate share to the lower-earning parent.
The goal in deciding on child support is to minimize the disruption to the children’s accustomed lifestyle during a divorce.
Expert Legal Representation and Client Care
At the Stewart Law Group, we are passionate about our work in the Scottsdale community. Known for superb negotiating skills and legal stratagems, our attorneys are always prepared to turn up the heat when trial is necessary to protect our client’s rights and interests. That is always so, whether we represent a parent in a dispute over legal decision-making authority (child custody); the economically disadvantaged spouse in a complicated divorce and property division; or the claimant-heir in the contested probate of the decedent’s estate.
Our job description includes litigating matters that could not be resolved consensually by agreement between our clients and opposing parties. We take our professional responsibilities seriously and are proud of the good results we obtain for our clients.
When we provide family law, divorce, estate planning, or probate representation, our clients have confidence knowing they will be prepared and expertly guided through every civil, probate court proceeding, or estate planning matter. That means top representation in settlement negotiations, discovery, pre-trial hearings, conciliation counseling and mediation preparation, trial, post-judgment motion practice, reconsiderations, and appeals. Attorneys with the Stewart Law Group do everything in their power to obtain the best possible results for our clients. Contact a Scottsdale divorce lawyer today for a free case evaluation.
Our Family Law Office in Scottsdale, AZ:
Scottsdale, AZ Family Law Firm Case Types
Estate Planning & Probate
Scottsdale Criminal Defense
Family Lawyers Representing Clients in Scottsdale
Are you familiar with Scottsdale’s Jack Knife, the bucking horse with rider in the Arts District? Ed Mell’s well-known sculpture may be a welcoming sight for visitors, but it is also a metaphor for a life in chaos, even crisis. Is everything in your personal life rocking up-and-down, swinging side-to-side, and moving back-and-forth despite your best efforts to regain control? Hanging on for this wild ride may be difficult. Don’t let go! Hand over the reins to a top Scottsdale family law office.
With the Stewart Law Group, you will never have to worry about being kept apprised of new developments in the case. We keep our clients informed on every discovery matter, every legal motion and hearing, every court proceeding, and every judicial ruling and decision. If trial is necessary, we will prepare you for that, too.
Which Court Will Hear Your Scottsdale Family Law Case?
Generally, there are three courts where cases are heard, depending upon the type the subject matter. They are the Scottsdale City Court, Superior Court, and U.S. District Court.
For most of our Scottsdale clients, their civil, probate, and criminal proceedings are initiated either in the Superior Court in Maricopa County or in Scottsdale City Court. Divorces and family law cases are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Superior Court. Collateral matters relating to the main criminal prosecution or family law case, such as an order of protection, may be handed in Scottsdale Municipal Court. A Scottsdale alimony attorney can help navigate a potential alimony dispute or lawsuit.
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“If you’re looking for an amazing family law attorney, Kareen O’Brien is the one to call. She will fight for you all the way.”
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Quality Representation for All Scottsdale Clients
Our legal team is committed to serving Maricopa County, Pinal County, and all of Arizona with the absolute best quality of representation. Call our Scottsdale office and schedule a confidential consultation with an attorney who can help. Or you can email us here and we will quickly and discretely respond.