Having moved to Arizona a few years ago from Chicago,
there were a few things that surprised me about Arizona divorce and family law. These surprises so much impact a potential
client, I thought that I would share these secrets with you and here they are:
No. 10 - Divorce lawyers in Arizona ask for giant retainers. This is very different than
in other States (like Illinois) where retainers are set around $2,000, plus or minus, depending on the lawyer. In Arizona,
my clients have informed me that their prior lawyers had asked for $5,000 to $10,000. I guess the good news is that
I continue to offer low retainers, despite the Arizona standard.
No. 9 - Judges will order that your house be sold. Nearly every State in the country has laws that allow a house
to be sold in a divorce; however, many Judges will not force the issue. Usually Judges prefer that spouses decide who
will get the house, subject to dividing the equity. However, in Arizona, Judges have no issue with selling a house.
File a motion, and so long as your spouse isn't very ready to give you your portion of the equity, your house is going on
the market with a Court Order.
No. 8 - You may
have signed a post-nuptial agreement without knowing it. Yep. That's right. In Arziona they have this type
of Deed that's called a Disclaimer Deed. It looks like any other Deed, except a few words on that document says that
you waive your rights to the house. So, if you've refinanced your house, you may have signed a Disclaimer Deed and not
known about it. Arizona courts have upheld Disclaimer Deeds to act in the same manner as a post-nuptial agreement waiving
your rights to the equity (which is sometimes the most valuable asset of a marriage).
No. 7 - You can hire a lawyer that's far away. Arizona divorce cases are famous
for not having a lot of court activity and the resulting drama. In fact, in some of the most contentious cases, your
lawyer will likely only have to go to court once or twice. That's it! So, it's not uncommon in Arizona to hire
a lawyer that you like, even though he or she is in another County or an hour away from the courthouse.
No. 6 - Your child can be taken away permenantly (and very quickly).
When I practiced in Illinois, I would always suggest to clients not to involve DCFS (usually because a client wanted to turn-in
their spouse for parenting flaws to get better leverage on a custody case). DCFS was something I avoided because it
made the case messy and more complicated. Also, most Judges knew that a client called DCFS to get leverage in the litigation.
In Arizona, however, the case will not only get messy, but the bar to take children appears to be pretty low. And now,
I've been involved in a few cases, where children were taken away and parents' rights terminated.
No. 5 - Hiding assets is the norm. Airzona disclosure rules are wonderful, but because
the initial financial disclosure affidavit doesn't mandate a disclosure of assets, I'm seeing more and more spouses trying
to hide or move assets around. The good news is that coming from the Chicago divorce arena, those opponents don't stand
a chance against me. But, it's amazing to see just how many spouses try to hide assets in Arizona.
No. 4 - You can stop your responsibility on your spouse's spending
problem by filing a divorce. Unique to Arizona is the rule that once you have your spouse served, the marriage is no
longer responsible for debts that your spouse accrues after that date. So, if your spouse is racking up credit card
debt, just file and serve, and any debt accumulated thereafter is only on your spouse - you are off the hook. In other
States, you have to go through a lot time, expense, and risk to get that same result.
No. 3 - The system is designed for settlement. In many States, litigation is encouraged
and judges routinely will approve fees that would choke a horse. Not in Arizona. While your case could be expensive
(if you and your spouse want to fight until the cows come home), but the court system, court rules, and statutes are designed
to push your case into a quick and economical settlement. Follow the rules, and your case is over and quickly.
No. 2 - Alimony is evasive in Arizona. Getting alimony in Arizona
is tough. Some say nearly impossible. Make sure you can support yourself post-divorce, because getting a Judge to give you
an alimony award that's as sizable in other States, is nearly impossible. The right facts can maybe help you, but it's
certainly not as easy or automatic like a spouse would see in Illinois or any other state out East.
And the No. 1 Divorce Secret - 50/50 parenting time (visitation) is pretty much the norm
in Arizona. While in Illinois, many Judges continue to follow the old school visitatation schedule (dad's getting every-other
weekend and an afternoon or two during each week), in Arizona they have evolved and actually follow a gender neutral parenting
time schedule. These are true 50/50 schedules. One is called the 5/2/2/5 schedule and the other is called the
2/2/3 schedule. Most Judges promote this equal time schedule (which also greatly reduces the amount of child support that
one parents must pay to the other).
If you need
more divorce information, or would like to explore using my services, just send an email to: email@example.com
or call Paul Nordini at (480) 527-9000.