Filing for Divorce in Arizona (Do’s and Don’ts)
The decision to file for divorce in Arizona requires a significant amount of thought. Often, people think about it for months before they act. If you believe that your marriage is at an end and that you truly want a divorce, it is important for you to understand what you should and should not do. By handling the process correctly, you can enjoy an easier divorce that may cost less money and involve reduced conflict. If you follow these tips below, your divorce may be easier on you, your spouse, and everyone else who might be involved.
Divorce is a legal process through which you can end your marriage. When people file for divorce, it is common for people to engage in emotional conflicts that make the process more difficult. The attorneys at the Cantor Law Group are available to represent you throughout your divorce and may be able to negotiate a settlement that protects your rights and financial interests. Some divorce cases are able to be handled outside of the litigation process through alternative dispute resolution processes such as collaborative divorce or mediation.
In some divorce cases, however, alternative dispute resolution is not appropriate. These cases might involve domestic violence, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, or spouses who hide assets. If your divorce involves these types of issues, litigation will likely be necessary and you will need the strong trial experience of the divorce attorneys at the Cantor Law Group.
Handling your divorce case correctly should start before you tell your spouse of your intentions or file your petition for divorce. At the Cantor Law Group, we understand the things that people should do and the things that they should avoid when they want to get divorced. If you follow these tips, your divorce may be easier on you, your spouse, and everyone else who might be involved.
What to do Before You File for Divorce
Before you tell your spouse that you want a divorce or file a dissolution petition with the Superior Court, there are several things that you should do to protect yourself. Here are some steps that you should take to prepare for a divorce before you file.
Gather All of your Financial Documents
Before you file for divorce or tell your spouse that you want to end your marriage, you need to take steps to protect your property and financial interests. Start by gathering all of your important financial documents. The documents that you will need include the following:
- Tax returns for the last three years
- Bank account statements for the past 12 months
- The most recent bill statements from each of your creditors
- Photocopies of deeds and titles of property owned by you, your spouse, or both
- Photocopies of the most recent pension statements, 401(k)s, or IRAs for both you and your spouse
- The most recent statements for any taxable brokerage account owned by you or your spouse
- Business tax returns for any business that is owned
- Insurance policies
- An inventory of art, collectibles, and other valuable owned by you or your spouse
- Credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies
It is important to gather these documents before you tell your spouse that you want a divorce because it can be difficult for you to get this information from your spouse after you file. When you do file for divorce, you will need to make financial disclosures. Your attorney will need these and any other important financial documents to help you to prepare your paperwork. If you wait to ask for them, it can make the divorce process longer.
Meet with a Financial Advisor
Many people are unprepared for how their finances will be impacted when they divorce. It is a good idea for you to take your financial documents with you to a financial advisor. A financial advisor can help you to understand how your divorce may impact your finances and assist you with creating a realistic budget and savings plan so that your divorce will not have as large of an impact on your credit and your lifestyle.
When you choose a financial advisor, avoid going to see the same advisor that you share with your spouse. Choose a new one so that the fact that you visited the advisor doesn’t accidentally make its way back to your spouse. When you hire a lawyer, you can tell your attorney that you are also working with a financial advisor. They can work together to help you to understand the potential tax consequences and other financial impacts that might occur.
Review All of your Social Media Accounts
Social media is widely used, and it has made its way into the courtroom. In Arizona divorces, it is common for people to introduce posts and photos from social media to bolster their claims. For example, if your divorce will involve child custody and support, it is probably a good idea to take down pictures and posts about the wild party that you attended last week.
After you scrub your social media pages, you should also set your privacy settings to where other people can’t automatically post on your wall or tag you in their own photos and posts. You should avoid talking about your divorce or about any new relationships while your case is pending. Be aware that anything that you say on social media may follow you into the courtroom. If there is something that would embarrass you if it was to be presented in open court, take it down. While it may be difficult, it is best if you try to avoid social media completely while your divorce case is pending.
Consult with an Experienced Divorce and Custody Lawyer
If you are considering getting a divorce, it is a good idea for you to consult with the experienced divorce lawyers at the Cantor Law Group before you tell your spouse. The attorneys can offer guidance and help you to avoid making damaging mistakes. At your consultation appointment, bring the financial documents that you have gathered. Give your lawyer the name and contact information of your financial advisor. Your lawyer will also need your spouse’s contact information and the Social Security numbers of you, your spouse, and your children for the paperwork.
Open your Own Bank Account and Credit Card Account
One of the hardest things that you will have to deal with during your divorce is disentangling your finances from your spouse’s finances. You can save yourself from some potential problems by starting to disentangle your finances as a proactive measure. Open your own bank account. If you have a credit card that you are on with your spouse, try to pay it off with your spouse or get it into one of your names alone. If your spouse is an authorized user of your credit card, remove his or her authorization with your credit card company.
What to do After You File for Divorce
When you file for divorce and while the case is pending, there are several things that you should do to make the process easier. Here are some things that you should do after you file for divorce.
Retain an Attorney Experienced with Divorce
While it is possible to file a divorce on a pro se basis, it is not advisable unless you have few assets, no children, and have an amicable relationship with your spouse. If you have accumulated assets during your marriage or have children, it is a good idea for you to get help from an attorney. When a divorce involves children, the courts goal is to provide an outcome that is in the child’s best interest. If there is a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, or child abuse, it is imperative to get help from a lawyer.
If you think that your spouse may be trying to hide assets or to give them away to family members, getting a lawyer’s help from the Cantor Law Group is also important. Our attorneys also can help you to prepare all of the documents correctly and can represent your interests in court or in alternative dispute resolution settings.
File a Request for Temporary Orders
You may need to file a request for temporary orders at the same time that you file your petition for dissolution of your marriage. Upon your request, the court can issue orders for parenting time, legal decision-making, child support, and spousal maintenance on a temporary basis while your case is pending. When your case reaches its conclusion, the court will then enter the permanent orders that it determines to be appropriate. Temporary orders can also help by dividing assets and debts while your case is pending.
Consider Placing a Freeze on your Credit
Depending on your spouse, placing a freeze on your credit may help you to avoid many problems during your divorce. When you place a freeze on your credit, no one else, including your spouse, will be able to open new credit accounts in your name. In some divorce cases, vindictive spouses will run up debts or open new credit accounts out of spite. You can prevent these problems by freezing your credit. You can freeze your credit by contacting each of the three major credit reporting agencies, including Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. If you need to access your own credit while your divorce is pending, you can have the freeze lifted by contacting the credit reporting agencies again.
Put All of your Agreements in your Settlement Agreement
If you are able to reach a settlement with your spouse, it is important that you put everything that you agree to in writing in the document. Do not agree to make side agreements. If you do, they are not enforceable by the court.
Things You Should Not Do Before, During, and After Your Divorce
There are several things that you should try to avoid at all costs before, during, and after your divorce. These things can prolong your divorce and cost you more money.
Do Not Engage in Emotional Conflict
Try to avoid engaging in emotional conflict with your estranged spouse both before, during, and after your divorce. This can be difficult since divorces often are fraught with emotional conflict, but it is possible. Do not call your spouse names or talk negatively about him or her in front of your children. If your spouse tries to get you to fight with him or her, don’t respond. Instead of focusing on the emotionality of the situation, focus on protecting your interests and those of your children at all times.
Do Not Tell Your Spouse that You Intend to Get a Divorce in the Future
If you lose your cool and tell your spouse that you intend to file for divorce in the near future, you will be setting yourself up for problems. Your spouse may run up debts on your credit accounts, drain your bank account, or move with your children out of state. Instead, follow the tips that we previously described to prepare to file.
Do Not Wait to Request Temporary Orders for Yourself and Your Children
If you fail to ask the court for temporary orders for parenting time, decision-making, and child support, you run the risk that your estranged spouse may withhold your children from you while your divorce is pending. If your spouse makes substantially more than you do, you should also request a temporary spousal maintenance order so that you can make ends meet during your divorce.
Getting a divorce is not an easy process for most people. However, you can make the process smoother by following these tips.
To learn more about getting divorced and how you can prepare, contact the Cantor Law Group today at 602.254.8880 to schedule a consultation.