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image of divorced couple splitting property

How Does Community Property Get Split Up During a Divorce?

An Introduction to Community Property Division

Divorce can prove a remarkably traumatic and messy experience even when everything goes about as smoothly as you might realistically hope. The division of property that you and your spouse have shared for years, however, can seem especially tricky, often introducing fresh grievances or re-igniting old ones in the process. You may have additional problems dealing with Arizona’s adherence to the principle of community property division. Let’s examine this method of divvying up assets between divorcing spouses so you can gain a better understanding of how it works, what problems it might entail, and how to ensure the most satisfactory possible outcome.

Community Property vs. Equitable Distribution

Most U.S. states use a method known as equitable distribution to determine who gets what in a divorce case. In equitable distribution, the court has full power to distribute assets based on its interpretation of what’s fair to each party. Depending on such variables as which spouse earns the lion’s share of the household income, spends more time looking after the children, or both spouses’ potential earning power, the court may then award a spouse anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of the overall marital assets.

Nine states, including Arizona, currently break this trend by dividing marital assets according to community property rules. (In Alaska, however, community property is treated as an option, not a requirement.) This means that the marital assets are divided 50/50 regardless of the roles played by each spouse in the marriage. The court has far less power over the awarding of assets, although it does retain some say over what constitutes an equal split. Your share of the community property may include assets that you don’t especially want while depriving you of others that you genuinely prize.

Separate Property vs. Community Property: What Counts as Which?

Community property doesn’t place everything you and your spouse own into a single lump — instead, it applies specifically to items that you purchased during your marriage. Exceptions to this rule include property acquired separately as a gift or inheritance, as well as any property acquired following a petition for divorce that results in an actual divorce decree.

Certain assets are considered separate property, placing them outside the bounds of the divorce settlement. These include any real estate or other property you acquired before getting married, as well as any rent or other additional value generated by that property.

The First Step: Complete Disclosure and Initial Assessment

You and your spouse (with the aid of your respective attorneys) can iron out much of the confusion over your community property division before the matter ever goes before the court. First and foremost, both of you must disclose everything you own, from pets and jewelry to cash, cars, and homes. Attempting to shield any of your assets by excluding them from the community property inventory will only introduce costly, upsetting complications to your divorce. Once you and your spouse have listed every asset you can think of, you’ll need to figure an estimate of value to help the court decide what makes for an equitable division.

Business, Home, and Debt Division 

If you started your own business or purchased a business before your marriage, that business remains wholly yours as separate property. However, the court may decide to award your spouse a percentage of the business’s appreciation in value, or even an outright percentage of the business itself, if your spouse contributed to the business’s success either financially or through hard work.

A home purchased before marriage, with the deed in your name alone, remains your separate property, giving you the right to ask your spouse to vacate it. However, if you both hold joint title to the home and your spouse serves as your children’s primary caregiver, your spouse may actually be the one who continues to live on the property.

Community property includes debts as well as assets. Debts are typically considered the problem of both spouses equally, regardless of who incurred the debt or whether the debt was incurred before the marriage.

Don’t go it alone when pursuing a community property divorce. Contact our firm to speak to a skilled Arizona divorce attorney.

 

6 Things You Didn’t Know About Alimony

Alimony is often misunderstood. Here are some things you might not know about it.

  1. In Arizona, alimony is called spousal support. The term is used to more accurately reflect the purpose of these payments. Alimony is a word that has developed a negative connotation so the choice of words affects how the parties react to the payments.
  2. Spousal support is not meant to punish one of the spouses. There are some states in which it can be used in this way, but in Arizona, spousal support is not used to punish a spouse for bad behavior, such as infidelity.
  3. The purpose of spousal support is to help the spouse with fewer assets become self-sufficient. The payments are to be made while the non-moneyed spouse obtains the education, training, or experience necessary to become self-supporting.
  4. Spousal support is usually set up to last for a specific period of time. The court evaluates how long it will take the non-moneyed spouse to become self-sufficient and establishes payments for that time period. In very rare cases when a spouse is disabled or is very elderly spousal support may be set to last for that person’s lifetime.
  5. Spousal support has tax implications. The spouse who receives support payments must report it as income. The spouse who pays it can take it as a deduction on taxes.
  6. Spousal support can be set up as regular payments for a period of time, or it can be paid in a one-time lump sum. Lump sum payments must be characterized specifically as spousal support if they are to be considered alimony for tax purposes.

The Sampair Group represents men and women in divorce and family law cases in Maricopa County. Call our office to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled attorneys today.

How to Write a Parenting Plan

Creating a parenting plan may feel like a daunting task, particularly if you and your ex don’t agree. The parenting plan is absolutely essential as it lays out your rights and responsibilities as you move forward and sets up a framework that allows your child to have a relationship and time with both of you.

Keep in mind that your parenting plan should detail all of your agreements about how you will share time with your child, so make sure everything is in writing.

When you first begin to consider how to organize your time, take a look at your schedules, where you live, where your child goes to school, and the activities your child has. It often makes sense to write out everyone’s schedule on a calendar so you can really see how it looks. You can maximize your respective time with your child by scheduling parenting time at times when you are each the most available. Having time while your child is at school or you are at work benefits neither you nor your child.

Try to minimize transfers if possible. Transporting your child back and forth becomes tiring for everyone, so longer times with each parent can help decrease that craziness. Make your lives easier by specifying exact transfer times and exactly how much leeway is going to be allowed. Set up a system for making changes to the plan and specify how changes must be requested and how far in advance.

Your parenting plan will affect your life and that of your child for many years to come, so it’s important to get it done right. The Sampair Group offers experienced help in creating parenting plans in the Glendale, Mesa, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and Phoenix areas of Arizona. Call us now to make an appointment with one of our skilled attorneys.

Additional Expenses and Child Support

Child support in Arizona is calculated using a formula that takes income and the number of children into consideration. There are additional adjustments that can be made to this amount before it is finalized.

The order must take into account how the parents share time with their child and reduce the amount of child support by the total number of days the non-custodial parent has the child within one year. This recognizes that when the child is with the non-custodial parent, that parent is meeting the child’s needs.

The order must include coverage for the child’s medical, dental, and vision coverage, which can be prorated based on the number of family members on the plan.

There are a number of additional expenses that child support orders may include and these include:

  • Childcare costs. The court will consider the federal child care tax for which the custodial parent is eligible. Childcare expenses must be reasonable in light of the parents’ financial situations (so, for example, a full-time nanny for parents who earn minimum wage would not be appropriate).
  • Education expenses. The court may include the reasonable and necessary costs of sending the child to public or private school, if the parents agree about the decision.
  • Extraordinary child costs. Children who are gifted or disabled often require additional services, and the court can add these costs to the order.
  • Older children. Arizona recognizes that older children usually require more expenditures as they become involved in extra-curricular activities, sports teams, and music education. Child support for children age 12 or older can be increased by 10% in response to these costs.
  • Travel expenses. If you and your ex live more than 100 miles apart, the cost of traveling to and from visitation or transfers can be added to child support.

The Sampair Group represents men and women in child support in Maricopa County. We understand how important having child support set correctly is for you and are committed to making the best case possible. Make an appointment with us today.

Can I Appeal My Divorce?

When faced with a divorce decree that they are unhappy with, some people wonder if it is possible to appeal it and get a different, more favorable ruling. Everyone is entitled to appeal any decision but there are some things that are important to understand about appeals.

In Arizona, your attorney can ask the judge to reconsider a ruling in your case. This is a request that the court revisit its decision and consider some overlooked evidence or correct an error. Your attorney can also ask that the court overturn its own decision if you failed to respond in time and a ruling was made without your input.

It is also possible for your attorney to file for a modification of your court order after it has been entered. If circumstances change after the divorce, custody case, or child support case was decided, it may be appropriate for the court to revisit the case and make a new decision based on the changes that have happened.

An appeal is when your attorney asks a higher court, called an appellate court, to review the legal decisions the court made in creating your decree. This is not an opportunity to introduce new evidence or have the case reheard, but is simply a request for the appellate court to decide if the judge applied the law correctly in your case.

Because there is a very short window of time in which an appeal can be filed, it is very important that you talk about an appeal with your attorney as soon as possible. Because appeals are very technical legal procedures, it is absolutely essential that you use an attorney for your appeal.

If you have a divorce or family case in the Phoenix, Mesa, and Glendale areas of Arizona, the Sampair Group is ready to represent you. Contact our office now for an appointment.

Name Change After Divorce

If you changed your name when you got married, you may wish to change it back if you get divorced. There is only one way to change your name in a divorce case. You must ask the divorce court for to change your name in the final Divorce Decree. Permission will be granted in your Decree and this is all you need to be able to change your name. If the name change is not included in the Divorce Decree you will have to undergo a separate name change court case, which will lead to additional expense and time.

Once you have permission to change your name to your pre-marital name, you will want to start with the Social Security Administration and the Department of Motor Vehicles. These two agencies have specific requirements as to what forms you need to complete and the proof you need to offer, which will include your court order. Once you have changed your name with these two entities, other name changes will be less complex. Be sure to notify the following:

  • Landlord
  • Bank
  • Retirement accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Professional licensing
  • Medical professionals that treat you and your children
  • Utilities
  • Employer
  • Health and dental insurance
  • Homeowner’s, renter’s, life, and auto insurance
  • Your child’s school, if you have children
  • Passport

You will also want to talk with your attorney about changing your name in your will, which is often done as a complete update to your will after your divorce.

The Sampair Group represents clients in divorce and family law in Maricopa County. Our lawyers are ready to meet with you to discuss your case. Call us today.

The Impact of Divorce on Women

There’s no question that divorce is a financial hurdle for everyone, but a recent study shows that women usually take a greater financial hit. The results of the study showed that on average men’s household incomes drop about 20% after divorce, but women’s household incomes dramatically fall by 41%. This is a significant financial reduction and highlights how divorce can create long-term financial deficits for women.

If you are a woman dealing with divorce, it is important that you work with an attorney committed to your case who can get you the best settlement possible. There are also some things you can do on your own to protect your financial future.

  • Start managing your money. If you were not the spouse in charge of household finances, you need to learn how to do so. Organize the information about all of your bank accounts, investments, bills, and financial responsibilities. Create a budget that you can live with. Become a savvy money manager.
  • Ask for alimony. Talk with your attorney about the spousal maintenance (alimony) you may be entitled to. Some women are eligible for alimony yet are hesitant to request it. Remember that spousal maintenance is meant to ensure that everyone walks away from the marriage in a financially stable situation, so be certain to consider it.
  • Track payments. If your ex is ordered to pay child support or spousal maintenance, keep careful records of what you receive. If he doesn’t pay, get in touch with your attorney.  If your ex is required to pay for educational, medical, or other expenses for your child, keep all receipts and track all payments. These expenses add up and can be a significant drain on your household finances if they are not reimbursed.
  • Plan for your retirement now. Now that you will be single, you need to rethink your retirement plan. Discuss the division of marital retirement assets with your attorney and get the facts about Social Security retirement. A financial planner can help you save what you need to retire.

The Sampair Group represents men and women in divorce cases in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and Glendale. Make an appointment today to discuss how we can help you.

4 Ways Divorce Affects Your Children

The media coverage about divorce frequently emphasizes the negative aspect of the impact of divorce on children.  Everything you read seems intent on making you feel like a bad parent because you are getting a divorce. It is important to know that although divorce can be hard for children, it does have benefits as well.

  1. Happy homes.  There are lots of studies about the way divorce affects children but very little about the effect of raising a child in a home full of conflict where parents fight all the time, but don’t get a divorce. Being raised in the middle of strife is damaging to children. Living in constant anxiety with two people who are unhappy takes a huge toll on a child. When you divorce, your child is removed from constant conflict and spends time with two parents who are happier and able to focus on the positives.
  2. Choices matter. Parents who divorce show their children that taking control of your life and empowering yourself to be happy is important. When you take steps to create positive changes in your life, you’re teaching your children that they can and should do the same thing in their own lives.
  3. Compromise works. Parents who are able to settle their divorces demonstrate that most conflicts can be resolved in a non-violent and reasonable way. Compromise is an essential tool your child needs in his or her life.
  4. Strength. Divorce is challenging for parents and children, but when you and children get through it, your child learns that he or she can overcome adversity and move through hard times. Getting through a divorce can bring you and your child closer as well.

 

The Sampair Group handles divorce and family law cases with sensitivity and attention to detail. Call us today in Maricopa County, Arizona to schedule a consultation about your case.

Child Custody Evaluations

When parents cannot reach an agreement about legal decision making or parenting time in Arizona, the judge in the case can order a professional child custody evaluation as per Rule 68 of the Rules of Family Procedure. Either parent can request that the other be evaluated, or the court can order an evaluation without any request.

These evaluations can be very valuable to the court because they are completed by licensed mental health professionals with experience in the parenting field. It is very difficult for a judge to evaluate a parent’s abilities, methods, attachment, and skills simply by the way they behave in a courtroom or through testimony in the case.

The custody evaluator meets with the parents and child or children individually and also in parent-child groups. He or she may also interview other family members, teachers or health care providers; review documents (such as school or medical records); or visit the parents’ homes. The evaluator may perform psychological testing on any of the parties in the case.

The evaluator does not act as a therapist for you or your child. Parents are usually ordered to pay for the cost of the evaluation. The evaluator usually provides a report and may testify in your trial.  The court does not have to follow the evaluator’s recommendations, but generally they are given great weight. The evaluator may offer information about:

  • A parenting plan that would be in the best interest of the child
  • The parents’ skills
  • Recommended therapy or parenting classes for parties
  • The relationships between each parent and the child
  • The psychological health of both parents and child
  • Substance abuse by parents

If an evaluation is ordered in your case, do your best to be friendly and cooperative with the evaluator. Do not tell your child what to say to the evaluator or offer bribes or rewards to the child in relation to this.

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 Conciliation Proceedings

mediationAlthough many couples agree that they both want a divorce, there are situations in which one spouse does not agree to the divorce. Although one spouse can contest the divorce, he or she cannot stop it.

Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, which means that only one spouse need state that the marriage is irretrievably broken for a divorce to be granted. If a spouse disagrees with the divorce, he or she can request a conciliation meeting with the court, by filing a petition for conciliation within 60 days of the date that spouse is served with the divorce papers. This petition then puts the divorce on hold for 60 days so that the couple has a chance to try to repair the marriage through conciliation counseling.

Both spouses are required to attend court ordered counseling sessions with a professional counselor. The spouses are required to attend at least one counseling session. The meetings are private and confidential and are free of charge. At the conclusion of the 60 days, the parties may be referred to a private counseling service. Once the 60 day waiting period has ended, the divorce can move forward if one or both spouses wants a divorce. During the 60 day waiting period, all temporary orders issued by the court remain in effect.

It is possible to file a conciliation petition even if you do not have a divorce case pending. If one of you does this, a divorce or separation cannot be filed within 60 days of the petition for conciliation. After the 60 days is up, a petition for divorce can be filed.

 

When you need a law firm that is ready to represent you with integrity and compassion, turn to the Sampair Group in Glendale, Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona. Contact our office today.