Divorce Costs in Arizona

Divorce is never an easy situation, especially when children are involved. It’s important to never make this decision lightly or too quickly, but sometimes it’s inevitable. If you’re facing a divorce, there’s a lot to considering, including who will provide care for the children and how custody and assets will be divided. However, this isn’t the only concern. You also need to think about how much the divorce will cost you. Many people are unaware of just how much a divorce costs and what factors play a role in those costs. Every divorce case is different, which means the costs will vary, but Arizona has a set of general guidelines to help individuals and couples get an idea of how much they will pay.

High Net Worth Contested Divorces

It’s not uncommon to disagree when it comes to divorce. However, if you are in a highly contested divorce with a high net worth, these costs will be higher than other divorces. Attorneys for these cases must use an extensive discovery process to make sure all assets and incomes are disclosed properly and there is often a prolonged period of litigation that takes place. In these situations, legal fees can easily reach between $50,000 and $100,000. Because there is a lot of money involved, one or both parties may be more aggressive in their efforts to protect their rights and fight for what they feel is rightfully theirs. Fortunately, high net worth cases are few and far between. Most cases involve a much lower level of assets and some of the other factors that can lead to an expensive divorce process. In addition, if both parties are able to agree, even in these situations, the costs can often be far less than $50,000.

Significant Assets, Income and Children

Divorces that don’t involve children and have only modest assets are often far less expensive than divorces where there are children or greater assets. Most cases involve a modest retirement fund, a house and a couple of cars. In these situations, individuals may only pay between $7,500 and $20,000 each to complete the case. Keep in mind, even if children are involved, the costs can fall within this range in the right circumstances.

The type of divorce you must file often relies on the amount of money each spouse earns, as well as projected earnings in the future. These amounts are often used to determine how much spousal support will be paid, if any, and how marital assets should be divided. For most couples, assets are divided evenly, but each situation varies and some assets may be split in other ways. In some situations, the marital home is ordered sold or other holdings must be liquidated. It’s important for both parties to secure their own lawyer to ensure their best interests are considered and their rights are protected.

Divorces that cost the least amount of money are those that are uncontested and involve minimal assets. These are easier to resolve. Uncontested divorces usually mean both parties want it over with quickly and easily, especially when there are few assets. When there are few children, it’s easier for attorneys to work out an agreeable custody arrangement between the two parties that offers as much equality as possible.

The Best Scenario

When you consider the best possible scenario for your divorce, the legal fees and other associated costs can fall between $3,500 and $7,500. However, if one or both spouses chooses to fight for a higher percentage of assets or anything else outside the standard, these costs are more likely to rise. On the other hand, if no one is contesting the divorce or any aspect of it, the cost can sometimes be less than $3,500 for each party.

In order to minimize conflicts and ensure your rights are protected in a divorce, it’s important to hire an attorney. Even if the divorce is uncontested and there are minimal assets to split, having an attorney look over the paperwork and give you advice can be well worth the cost, giving you peace of mind you are getting what you deserve. Contact us today for your consultation to get your case started.

Drug Testing in a Child Custody Case

When parents go their separate ways, things can often get ugly when it comes to sharing custody of the children. In these situations, it’s not uncommon for one parent to begin accusing the other parent of unsavory behavior in an attempt to gain full custody of the child. In some situations, these accusations are unwarranted, while others turn out to be necessary to help protect the child in question. Regardless of whether the accusation is true, however, the parent who faces allegations of drug abuse may have to undergo drug testing as part of the custody case process. The following information will help guide you through this process.

Greater Authority

In a criminal law court, the judge must find probably cause to order the individual in question to submit to a drug test. This is to protect the rights of the accused and to prevent individuals from making these false allegations. However, in the family court, these restrictions aren’t in place. The judge in these situations can order a drug test based on the simple word of one party, primarily because this situation can impact the health and well-being of an innocent child. They are free to make this decision based on what’s in the best interest of the child in the custody case. However, this doesn’t mean the other parent can be forced to submit to the drug test. Unfortunately, failure to submit to the drug test can have dire consequences, which is why it’s important to think it through and talk to your attorney before denying the test. This is because a judge in the family court can make an inference from your refusal to submit to the test, treating you as if you had tested positive for illegal substances. Therefore, if you are clean, it’s best to undergo the drug testing to clear up any misconceptions the other parent may be trying to pass as truth.

What Happens After a Positive Test

Upon completion of the drug testing, the judge will make decisions based on the results received. If you fail the drug test, it’s likely the judge won’t give you the same rights as a parent who tested negative for any of these substances. This often includes severely limiting the amount of time you have with your child, often requiring supervision of some form in order to protect the child. You aren’t likely to be allowed to keep your child overnight until you have proven you are able to go without drugs. The court will put into place a number of safeguards to ensure the child is safe from exposure. For instance, in addition to supervision, you may have to undergo random drug tests to monitor for usage. In some situations, you may also be denied any visitation time you are awarded if you happen to test positive immediately before the visit is set to take place. Once these random drug tests have shown you are clean and the likelihood of staying clean is high, the judge may re-evaluate the case and grant you more parenting time. This may take place on a progressive scale, gradually increasing the amount of time you can spend with your child, ultimately ending with a similar parenting plan as individuals who never tested positive for drugs in the first place. However, the burden of proving you are clean and intend to stay that way lies with you.

Just as with any other type of situation, however, the type of drugs you test positive for can have a dramatic impact on how your custody case is treated going forward. Some types of drugs are widely associated with angry and irrational behavior. Because of the increased dangers a child faces when in the presence of someone who uses these kinds of drugs, the judge is more likely to award strict supervised visits for short periods of time to protect the child. Harder drugs will also require a much lengthier process in order to prove you are getting clean and intend to stay that way. In some cases, you may be ordered to successfully complete an accredited rehab program to prove you are working hard to be the best parent you can be for your child.

One exception to this issue is the introduction of medical marijuana in Arizona. Although there are recreational users who have been able to get access to medical marijuana, the courts are giving these individuals the benefit of the doubt in many custody cases. However, it’s always important to discuss your drug use with your attorney to prevent any surprises in court.

Dividing the Home in a Divorce

Your home may be the largest asset in your divorce. It also is usually one of the most emotionally important assets because you have a history there and may still have children in the home. The home is symbolic of your marriage and your security and as such it can be hard to make decisions about it.

Because Arizona is a community property state, the assets of your marriage divided equally. Your marital home is a community property asset if it was bought during the marriage. It may also be community property if it was bought prior to the marriage and both spouses contributed to its upkeep and payments during the marriage.

Who gets the house is often a hot point and the decision may come down to who can afford to keep the home. If one spouse can refinance the mortgage, it may make sense for her to keep the home. Of course, the other spouse is still entitled to half its value, which is distributed through other assets.

If you can’t afford to keep the home, you may be able to do so if you receive spousal support from your ex after the divorce, or if you receive enough other property in the divorce to enable you to afford the mortgage payments.

If neither one of you is able to take on sole responsibility for the home, it’s possible to co-own it. This could be a temporary situation until it increases in value enough to be sold, or you might decide to co-own it until the children move out as adults.

If you can’t agree about what to do with the home, the court will consider custody of the children, which one of you is presently in the home, how other property is being divided, and what your financial resources will be after the divorce.

The Sampair Group is your firm for divorce or family law matters. Make an appointment with one of our knowledgeable attorneys in Maricopa County today.

These Three Things Are Common Benefits Of Co-Parenting

Divorcing couples with children have to take extra care during their case to make sure the decisions made are in the best interests of their kids. It is beneficial for children to have both of their parents present on a regular basis, and at significant life events. Divorced parents who are unable to get along or agree on important aspects of raising their kids can wind up creating uncomfortable emotional situations for their children which result in social and behavioral problems.  But, when both parents are willing to work for what is best for their children, the results can be very rewarding.

Three common benefits that result when parents continue to work together even after getting divorced include:

  • Children are able to realize their full potential through seeing their parents work together, because emotions like fear and frustration are addressed openly and honestly. This can lead to an increase in self-esteem, which gives children the confidence and security they need as they face their changing family dynamic.
  • When kids see their parents working together even though they are no longer married, for their benefit, fewer conflicts tend to arise because the kids are less likely to “act out” at school or in other social situations.
  • Having both parents take a role in the day to day lives of their kids ensures each parent is an active participant in the things that matter most to their children. There is little that compares to the feeling a child gets when both parents are present for important awards at school, or after school events.

Continuing to parent as a unit also shows the children that there are expectations from each parent that must be met. Maintaining a routine and consistency helps children to thrive when with each parent and helps the parents know what to plan for visits and extended stays. Keeping your emotions in check and avoiding arguing with your ex about adult issues in front of the kids shows your kids that conflict can be resolved without escalation. This gives children a healthy example for conflict resolution and sets a good example for behavioral expectations.  For questions about how to develop a co-parenting plan that makes sense for you, call our office.

For more information about divorce, contact us for an appointment today. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call The Sampair Group in Phoenix and the West Valley today to schedule your initial visit.

Marital Assets You Don’t Know You Have

When you get a divorce, you know that you will need to divide your marital assets. In Arizona, anything acquired during the marriage is considered community property and needs to be divided during the marriage. The things that probably immediately come to your mind are the house, cars, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and household belongings. That’s certainly a lot to divide and getting through those items takes careful work and solid legal advice.

What you might not be aware of is that there are a whole host of other assets that need to be divided that you probably are not even thinking about. Most of these are intangible assets. They aren’t things you can hold in your hand, so they are easy to forget about. Here are some of these intangible assets that may have value and may need to be part of your property division:

  • Copyrights, trademarks, or patents owned by either one of you. If either one of you has written a book, blog posts, or anything published, copyright is owned even if you don’t file for one.
  • Gym memberships.
  • Frequent flyer miles.
  • Reward points on credit cards, frequent shopper cards, and more.
  • Leases on real property.
  • Web sites and blogs. The actual writing on the site is covered under copyright, but the actual site itself and domain name (URL) may also have value, as well as the design.
  • Degrees earned during marriage.
  • Professional licenses earned during marriage.
  • Digital photographs.
  • Digital files.
  • Digital movies, music, and books.
  • Seasons tickets for sports, theater, music and more.
  • Memberships or donations that give some kind of benefit or privilege (such as free admission to a museum you have donated to).

The Sampair Group provides divorce representation in Maricopa County, Arizona. We are here to answer your questions. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

Divorce and Life Insurance

Life insurance is one item that is often scrutinized after a divorce as a way to save money. Many people took out life insurance policies in order to provide for their spouse, should something happen to them. No spouse, no need for life insurance, right? Not necessarily.

First you need to talk with your attorney to determine if life insurance is or will be a requirement of our divorce decree. Sometimes life insurance is required as part of child support or spousal maintenance, to provide further support and protection. If you have a current policy you may be able to adjust the beneficiary to fulfill this need. You will need to know the face value of the policy and consider how much your premiums are per year.

Many life insurance policies are more than just insurance. It is common for policies to also function as an investment vehicle, growing in value. Talk with a local agent to get details on how your policy functions and whether it has this feature. It may make sense to continue the policy as part of your investment plan.

Many life insurance policies also have a cash value. Before you cash it in though, consider the face value of the policy, which is likely much greater than the cash value. The policy could be used to benefit your child, a future new spouse, or other family members.

Don’t forget that the original purpose of life insurance policies was to cover funeral and burial costs. This may be something you want to have a policy in place for so that family members are not burdened should something happen to you. If you do choose to keep a policy in place, be sure to change the beneficiary to the person of your choice so it is current.

When you have questions about life insurance and other assets in your divorce, the Sampair Group offers experienced advice in the Glendale, Mesa, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale and Phoenix areas of Arizona. Call us now to make an appointment.

How Divorce Impacts Immigration

The United States is full of residents that are allowed to live here because they are married to a U.S. citizen. With the national spotlight on issues of immigration, and our State’s close proximity to the border, it is important to understand how immigration status might be impacted by divorce. Specifically, what happens to the immigrant when he or she is divorced from a citizen? Will the non-citizen have to leave the Country, and if so what happens to the kids? The concern is real, and the following summarizes some of the common issues that arise in cases where one party is not a U.S. citizen.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) monitors residents that are not also citizens. Some of the concerns about marriage between a citizen and non-citizen are:

  • Was the marriage solely so the non-citizen could remain in the Country?
  • Is the couple living together?
  • Were any children born of the marriage?

Once married, a non-citizen can begin the process of petitioning for citizenship. When divorce is imminent though, this may all change. The authorities may review the legitimacy of the marriage and thus the ability of the non-citizen to gain citizenship. If there are children involved your entire strategy may need an overhaul. For competent representation in this type of special case, contact a qualified family law attorney.

For more information about divorce and immigration, consult a qualified legal professional. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call The Sampair Group in Phoenix and the West Valley today to schedule your appointment.

Five Questions To Ask Yourself Before Filing For Divorce

The decision to end your marriage does not come easy, and if you expect satisfactory results a lot of careful thought must be made before filing papers to dissolve your marriage. While discussing what leads to divorce might make for interesting conversation, it really only matters when it is relevant to your circumstances. Every couple that divorces would probably tell you a different story as to why their marriage did not last, but there is some common ground as far as preparing for the case.

Five questions to ask yourself before filing for divorce, which will help ensure you are ready to take this life altering step, include:

  • Are you emotionally ready for active participation in your divorce case? If the answer is no, you may want to wait. Sometimes taking steps to rehabilitate your relationship reveal a desire to stay with your spouse, and sometimes it helps to take a moment to re-evaluate your marriage because it confirms your decision to divorce.
  • What type of shape are your finances in, and can you support yourself post-divorce or will you require assistance? Division of assets and liabilities, including finances is one of the most hotly contested portions of a divorce proceeding. Taking stock of your financial picture before seeking a divorce will help to prepare you for what lies ahead.
  • Have you considered which issues will need to be resolved, and thought about what type of legal strategy will be necessary? Talking with a knowledgeable family law attorney about these things will give you an idea of what to expect during your case.
  • Are you ready to present a united front for your children on important issues such as discipline, education, and parental expectations? It is critical that parents continue to raise their children with common ideals, even after a divorce, because consistency in behavioral expectations will yield desired results. Kids also crave consistency as a way to adjust to their new family structure.
  • Have you made a list of questions about what concerns you most? Being prepared when you consult with a family law attorney will help to calm your nerves, and ensure the things that are on your mind are addressed.

Creating a new life for yourself after getting divorced starts early. Asking yourself these five things will lead to other important areas of concern, and with the help of a qualified family law attorney you will be in a good position to overcome the hurdles that can come with divorce.

For more information about marriage and divorce, call us today. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call The Sampair Group in Phoenix and the West Valley today to schedule your appointment.

 

 

Child Support Modification for Children Who Are Graduating

Most child support orders are designed to help support a child and pay for their needs up until the point of their high school graduation. Beyond this point, parental support is typically voluntary, leaving many divorced and separated couples facing child support modification to change the amount they pay or stop payments altogether once a child reaches this point in their lives. Because this process can take a little time, it’s often best to start it before the graduation date to ensure it goes into effect at the proper time, rather than being delayed further. However, it all depends on the specific situation whether you will need to take action with the courts.

Automatic Termination

If the current support order covers only one child or the youngest child is graduating, the termination of child support is automatic under Arizona state law. This automatic termination takes place as soon as all conditions of the court order are met. This is typically once the child reaches the age of 18 and graduates from high school. If the child turns 18 prior to graduation or turns 18 after graduation, termination takes place at the time the second requirement is met. No specific action to end the child support is needed and there is no need to hire an attorney to file for this. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t have to take some actions related to the child support. In fact, if child support is currently garnished from your wages, you may need to file to stop the garnishment.

Changes to Child Support

In contrast, if you must still pay child support for younger siblings, there are no automatic changes that will be made to the child support amount simply based on one child turning 18 and graduating from high school. This means you will need to file a modification through the courts in order to adjust the amount appropriately. Under Arizona law, any requests to make changes to the existing child support order cannot be set retroactively. This means if you don’t file for the adjustment in a timely manner, you will likely end up paying the additional child support for a period beyond when you should. That’s why it’s best to talk to an attorney as soon as possible to determine the most appropriate time to file to ensure the changes go into effect at the right time. Changes can go back to the time the other party is served with the request.

Once you file for a modification of the existing child support order, the court will determine how much you should be paying for the number of children who still fall under the support order. The court will look at the number of children, the amount of money the parties in question make and other factors in accordance with the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Contrary to what some people believe, the amount doesn’t simply go down by what would have been paid for that individual child. Because circumstances have likely changed since the order was set or even last reviewed, the court will look at all factors to make a determination. While child support may go down in many cases, this isn’t necessarily true. For instance, if you have gotten several raises and are making significantly more than you were when the order was set, there is a possibility you will be ordered to pay just as much as you were previously or perhaps even more. Be sure to talk to your lawyer about any potential factors that could change how much you owe so you are prepared for the outcome you’re most likely to receive.

Contact a Lawyer

Many people feel a child support modification is an easy process and won’t require the assistance of a qualified family law attorney. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Even if you don’t end up using a lawyer to handle your case and end up filing on your own in the end, consulting with one can help you evaluate if it’s worth pursuing the modification or if it is best left alone. While it’s important to fulfill your financial obligations to your children, it may be best to leave the amount as it is, rather than pursuing a modification that could result in owing more.

Contact the professionals at the Sampair Group to discuss Arizona child support guidelines and how they apply to your case.

What Is A Covenant Marriage?

If you are newly engaged and concerned about the possibility of divorce, there are steps you can take to help safeguard your marriage from dissolution. One popular method for couples entering marriage to fend off divorce is to participate in premarital counseling. In fact, some churches and other organizations will require sessions prior to allowing a wedding to take place. Another option at your disposal is to apply for and enter into a covenant marriage. This type of marriage is different from a traditional marriage, and should therefore only be entered into after careful consideration and thought.

Arizona statutes help explain the concept of a covenant marriage. It works like this:

  • You must declare your intent to enter a covenant marriage and engage in counseling sessions prior to the marriage.
  • If the marriage does experience difficulty that leads to divorce, a no fault divorce proceeding is not an option.
  • Specific grounds for divorce must be cited in order to obtain a divorce from a covenant marriage. These grounds include abuse, infidelity, felony, abandonment, or an extended period of time spent separated.

The purpose of this law is to prevent parties from getting married without giving the marriage serious thought. The idea of a covenant marriage is also meant to reduce the rate of divorce, and provide the couple with a deeper understanding of the consequences of ending their marriage. Whether these goals are actually obtained is debatable, but one thing is for certain: if you have entered a covenant marriage and want to get divorced, you can do so. However, the divorce process for this type of marriage is more complex than with a non-covenant marriage, and requires artful legal argument. Contact our office for more information, and to learn what you will face when seeking a divorce from a covenant marriage.

For answers to your questions about covenant marriages, consult our office. Put our valuable experience to work for you. Call The Sampair Group in Phoenix and the West Valley today to schedule your appointment.