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:
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
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.
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.
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
If you need more divorce information, or would like to explore
using my services, just send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or call Paul Nordini at (480) 527-9000.