Posted by Law Office of Karen A. Schoenau on 03/18/2016

Your Essential Guide for Divorce Planning in Arizona

Your Essential Guide for Divorce Planning in Arizona

When a marriage is over, planning for divorce can be crucial to protecting yourself as you move forward. In fact, the divorce plans you make before you file your paperwork with the court1 – and possibly even before you discuss divorce with your partner – can be pivotal to:

  • Reducing the costs and/or stresses you may face as your case proceeds
  • Protecting your interests in divorce
  • Positioning your divorce case for favorable outcomes.

If you are considering ending your marriage, the following guide presents some of the most essential aspects to consider when preparing for divorce in Arizona.

While the first part of our divorce planning guide focuses on financial planning issues, the second part is dedicated to answering some of the most frequently asked questions about divorce preparation in Arizona.


Financial Planning  for Arizona Divorce

An indispensable aspect of preparing for divorce can involve making certain financial plans. Although the specifics of this financial planning for divorce will hinge on the details of someone’s situation, in general, some of the most important factors to incorporate in this aspect of divorce planning can include (but may not be exclusive to):

  • The marital assets – Dividing up the marital assets will be a central part of an upcoming divorce. So, to get ready for this, the first step may be to figure out just what precisely comprises your marital assets (so you can determine which assets you may want to fight for versus what you may be willing to let go of or compromise on).

    As part of this aspect of financial planning for divorce, compiling and making copies of the following documents can be incredibly helpful:
    • Titles, deeds and other ownership documents
    • Bank, retirement account and/or investment account statements
    • Income tax returns (for the past few years, if possible)
    • Life insurance documents
    • Other documents verifying the ownership and/or value of your marital assets.

  • The marital debts – If you and your partner share any joint debt, gathering and copying documents related to these debt obligations is another important step to take when making financial plans for divorce. That’s because, just like your marital assets, your marital debt will be divided up in the divorce process. Examples of these types of documents include (but are not limited to):
    • Mortgage documents
    • Vehicle (or other property) loan documents
    • Credit card bills or statements
    • Medical bills or statements

  • Your business interests – If you own interests in a business that was started during (or that appreciated during) your marriage, this may be another important aspect of financial planning for divorce. Whether or not you have a buy-sell agreement and/or a pre- or postnuptial agreement in place, however, will impact what your best options are for planning to protect your business interests through divorce. An experienced divorce lawyer can review these details and provide more insight regarding your options, based on your situation.

  • The  prenuptial or postnuptial agreement – If you signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, reviewing the details of the authorized agreement is another important divorce planning step to take. While a valid pre- or postnuptial agreement may narrow down the issues in your divorce, a potentially invalid agreement may present additional challenges – or opportunities – as you proceed. Understanding these details and how they may benefit you in divorce is another way to financially protect yourself as you move forward.

  • Your savings/financial future – Regardless of your financial situation at the moment, having a healthy savings account going into divorce can be the key to minimizing your stresses through the process, as well as minimizing the chances that divorce will send you spiraling into debt. Divorce is, after all, one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the U.S.  

    To avoid divorce-related debt and position yourself for a promising financial future after divorce, make sure you have enough savings to cover you through the divorce process. In general, having enough savings to cover at least six months of the living expenses is recommended for those getting ready to file for divorce.


Additional  Planning for Arizona Divorce: FAQs

Aside from the financial plans for divorce, there can be other plans that are important to make and carry out before you discuss divorce with your spouse and/or move forward to file the divorce petition with the court.

To shed some light on these aspects of divorce planning, below are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding the logistics of planning to file for divorce in Arizona.


Q – Are there residency requirements to file for divorce in Arizona?

A – Yes. In order to be able to file for an Arizona divorce, at least one partner in the marriage has to have lived in Arizona for at least the past 90 days. When this requirement has been met, couples can file for divorce in Arizona on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences,” as Arizona is a no-fault divorce state.

For “covenant marriages,” however, grounds for divorce in Arizona can include (but are by no means limited to) infidelity, addiction/alcohol abuse, and abandonment.


Q – Can I file for divorce in another state?

A – Yes, as long as you meet the other state’s residency requirements and have an acceptable grounds for divorce in that state2, you are free to file for divorce in that state (as opposed to in Arizona). Deciding when and where to file for divorce can be an important part of the divorce planning process, especially considering that:

  • Some states may have divorce laws that are more (or less) beneficial to you.
  • Some states have very minimal (if any) residency requirements for divorce.

If you are considering filing for divorce in a state other than Arizona, states that do not have any residency requirements for divorce include:

  • Alaska
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • South Dakota
  • Washington

Other states with minimal divorce residency requirements include (but may not be exclusive to):

  • Idaho, Nevada – 6 weeks
  • Arkansas, Kansas, Wyoming – 60 days
  • Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Montana – 90 days

If filing for divorce in these or any other state is appealing to you, be sure to check the grounds for divorce in that state. Similarly, you need to be aware that, if you choose to file for divorce in a state where you do not currently reside, you may need to relocate to that state for the duration of your divorce case. Given that the divorce process can take months (or longer), this is an important divorce planning factor to consider, as it may critically impact your choice in where to file.

What is best for you in this situation will depend on the specifics of your circumstances, as well as your goals. An experienced divorce lawyer can assess your situation and advise you on your best options for proceeding.


Q – What if my  partner is in the military?

A – For military members and/or their spouses who want to pursue a divorce in Arizona3, the basic residency requirements will still have to be satisfied, and the grounds for divorce will remain the same as for civilian couples (i.e., irreconcilable differences).

If, however, the spouse who is a member of armed forces is currently deployed, things can change a bit.

Specifically, if the military member is deployed and the other partner wants (or moves forward) to file for divorce in Arizona (or any other state), federal law dictates that the divorce case will be on hold for the full term of the deployment – and potentially for as long as 60 days following the return to the U.S.


Q – Is it really  necessary to contact a divorce attorney for help?

A – Absolutely. If you want to make sure that you are positioning yourself for a favorable resolution to your divorce, it’s crucial to consult an experienced divorce lawyer as soon as you can in order to get more information about your options, where and when to file and what else you may need to do now/ahead of time to protect your interests in the future.


A Final Word about  Divorce Planning

While divorce planning can be extremely helpful, it may not always be possible – especially for those who are involved in abusive relationships and/or who may be blindsided by a partner’s wishes to divorce.

When there is no time to think about or execute your divorce plans, the single best thing you can do to protect your rights and interests as you move forward is to retain an experienced divorce lawyer.


Full Disclosure

The information in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.

If you are in Arizona and you need professional advice regarding divorce or any other family legal issue, you are encouraged to contact the Law Office of Karen A. Schoenau for more information about your rights and best options for proceeding.


References

1: Superior Court of Arizona, EZ Form Center (with downloadable forms) to Initiate a Family Law Action or Case - https://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/ezcourtforms/

2: American Bar Association (ABA) Family Law Guide, featuring an overview of divorce laws & requirements in every U.S. state http://www.americanbar.org/groups/family_law/resources/family_law_in_the_50_states.html

3: ABA’s Guide to Practice Aspects of Military Divorce - http://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/law_trends_news_practice_area_e_newsletter_home/07_latefall_family_browning_baker.html

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