Ask the Divorce Coach: Husband Threatens to Take Spouse to ?Cleaners?

October 5, 2011 Cindy Best

By Cindy Best, Best Law Firm

Did you know there is usually a spike in divorce filings in late August and September, after school starts? Filing for divorce or separation in Arizona can be an intimidating and often complicated process. Having a knowledgeable professional on your side to help answer your questions can make the experience less stressful and easier to understand. Here are some recently asked questions submitted to us at Best Law Firm.

My husband says that if I ever leave him, he will take me to the cleaners and get spousal maintenance from me. Is this true in Arizona? ? Stacey in Mesa

When people are angry and feel threatened, they often say mean and hurtful things. First, no one takes anyone to the cleaners?whatever that means. Arizona is a community property state, and everything acquired during the marriage is presumed ?community? and split 50-50, including debts and pensions and 401Ks. Divorce cases are tried in front of a single judge in a court of equity, meaning the court will do what is ?fair,? but the judge must also follow the statutes. One of the specific statutes is about spousal maintenance, and parties are not entitled to it without showing they can?t support themselves.

My wife wants a divorce, and she says I won?t be allowed to have the children live with me. They are 4, 6 and 10. I love my kids. Now what? ? Sam in Scottsdale

I have good news for you. There is no presumption of the mother over the father in Arizona. Child custody in Arizona refers to legal custody (which parent makes decisions about school, health and religion) and physical custody (where the kids live). You and the mother should both decide what is in the children?s ?best interests? because if you cannot decide, a judge will do it for you. Since they are your kids, why would you want a stranger to your family to dictate your life? I understand that your wife needs to be a willing participant, but keeping children away from one parent with no reason may be grounds to lose custody. If both parents are loving, kind, capable and live near each other, most judges award joint legal and physical custody?provided there is no drugs, criminal behavior, alcoholism, mental illness or domestic violence involvement by a parent.

My 25-year-old son and his girlfriend have a baby. Does my son have any rights to my grandchild? What about me? ? Nancy in Phoenix

No, unfortunately, your son doesn?t have any legal rights unless and until he goes to court and asks for the establishment of paternity (which can simply be admitted by the parties), custody and parenting time. A single mother has sole legal custody until a declaration by the court or agreement by the parties. The parents can enter into their own written, binding agreement, called a Rule 69 agreement, which can either be filed away by the parents or converted into a court order by filing it with the court. And in certain circumstances, grandparents do have rights in Arizona.

Cindy Best, co-author of The Divorce Coach, owns Best Law Firm ( in the Scottsdale Airpark, 14300 N. Northsight Blvd. During her 20 years of legal experience, she has conducted more than 90 trials and handled over a thousand mediations and settlements. Do you have a question for The Divorce Coach? Call 480-219-2433 or email

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