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Your Goals, Our Guidance

 

You?re reading this book to save money; you want what is best for your family, even while recognizing that this divorce is necessary. We are here to help you figure out your rights, your issues, your choices and your solutions. We are experienced family law attorneys who have seen first-hand the devastation and damage caused when people act out their emotional issues in a divorce through the legal system. In this chapter, we explain how to conduct your own divorce and when, if necessary, to seek professional help.

We repeat: ?Always take the high road.? That is not always easy, and it may seem impossible while going through a divorce. But this book was written to help you do exactly that: save time, money, and stress. Of course, it takes two people to make agreements, resolve issues and negotiate conflict. Emotional issues from a divorce are better handled outside the legal system, not through an expensive adversarial process that is ill equipped to handle the delicate details of a family in turmoil. We often ask a judge to listen to an hour or two of evidence and then make lifelong decisions for people that he or she has never met prior to that day in court. That may not seem right but it is the only system we have. So, if you want more control over your destiny, keep reading.

Community Property

 

Once property is considered community property, it must be divided equitably between the spouses. That is why it is important to determine the characterization of the property at the beginning of the divorce. There may be arguments about whether property is community or not, but most property is fairly easy to characterize. Property includes real property, which is land or a house. Property also includes your furniture, bank accounts, savings account, investments and deferred compensation plans, such as 401Ks or IRAs.

Property for division, however, does not include Social Security benefits. Social Security law governs your Social Security account and it cannot be changed in a divorce decree. If you want to know specific information about your Social Security benefits, you might want to contact the Social Security Administration to find out about your specific income. Most property disputes revolve around houses. For some reason, many couples maintain complicated information regarding when and how a house was purchased and whose name is on the deed. It is important that you know if your name is on your house deed. You can check that on the Internet, courtesy of the Maricopa County Recorder?s Office at recorder.maricopa.gov/.

Introduction

 

Divorce is one of the most devastating and life-changing events you will ever experience. You need to know what you are getting into and be involved in the process. There are decisions to make for yourself and your children. We urge you to become educated about this process, so you can make wise decisions. You most likely are reading this in an effort to save money, but even if you choose to retain an attorney, the Divorce Coach will empower you by providing the information necessary to help yourself. You most likely have heard all kinds of wrong information about divorce, custody, child support and alimony. You need to have the playbook, so you know what attorneys and the courts know. The differences between law and equity are both important concepts to understand. It is helpful to understand the decisions that you must make along the way and the possible outcomes. Once you see the full game plan, you might want to avoid this scenario entirely.

Before you decide about the ?big game? (your divorce), you have to ask yourself if you are ready and whether you really want to be in the game. Divorce is a big decision; it should be taken seriously and thought through very carefully. We hope that you think carefully through each step of this process, keeping an open mind as you go. You do not want to end up at halftime or when the final whistle blows wishing you had never driven to the stadium. There is quite a bit of work involved in a divorce, but be aware that even though you may be exploring this option for your life, you can decide to stop at any time. It is not like jumping off a cliff; you can take baby steps until you know it is right for you. The beginning of a divorce is a reversible course. If you discover along the way that you would like to reconcile with your spouse, you should feel free to do so. You can actually quit anytime before the court signs the decree.

By reading this book, you are already way ahead of the game. You want to know the rules, the plays, the strategy and what the outcome of divorce will look like for your family. This book will assist you in figuring out what options you have and what decisions you need to make. Some people start and finish this process without any help from an attorney. That might work fine for some people; for others, not so well. Some people begin and then start feeling overwhelmed. This book will take the mystery out of the process. You want to do this right the first time: there are at least an equal number of post-divorce modifications filed in Arizona as there are first-time divorces. (Modifications are changes that are filed to change the original paperwork; often, these modifications are necessitated by mistakes made in the original divorce).

This introductory chapter outlines various aspects of the divorce process that are dealt with in more detail in succeeding chapters. A glossary of family law terms appears at the back of the book, as well as some useful Arizona statutes (laws) and a resource guide for online assistance in Arizona.

Can the mediation reach a custom tailored agreement for me and my spouse?

The relaxed atmosphere of mediation allows for creative settlements that are tailored to the parties’ individualized circumstances. Mediation permits the parties, rather than the court, to control the outcome of their case. The tailored agreements typically result from both parties’ determination of how they will share their children, how they will make major decisions concerning their children, who will pay child support and how much, and how to equitably divide property and debts.

What are the advantages of mediation for my family?

Mediation is designed to help parents focus on the best interests of the children. The mediation process helps the parties remain aware that despite their differences that brought them to the mediation process, they must continue to communicate for the sake of their child. The mediation process will preserve the parties’ relationship, which will benefit the child in the future years. It is also important to recognize future issues that might arise, and put a mechanism in place that will prevent future litigation.

Once an agreement is reached how can I put it in writing?

Once the parties have reached a verbal agreement, Best Law Firm here in Scottsdale can draft a Memorandum of Understanding to memorialize the parties’ agreements that complies with Family Law Rule 69. We can also draft the petition and supporting documents to initiate your case in the court, as well as draft and file the consent decree, parenting plan and property settlement agreement to finalize your case. We can draft all of your documents, from start to finish.

What happens when the parties reach a verbal agreement?

Two persons cannot divorce or legally separate unless, and until, certain paperwork is filed with the court. In Arizona, Family Law Rule 69 requires parties to have a signed, written agreement for it to be binding in the court. In some cases, the parties may not need or want their agreement to be enforceable. In other situations, it is required that the agreement be filed with the court. Here in Scottsdale, Best Law Firm can assist the parties in completing all the required paperwork. We can also draft the necessary decree for your case or other paperwork, such as child support.

How does mediation help us reach agreements?

There is no coercion, and both parties must be in accord in order for there to be any agreements. Often, more than one conference may be needed to resolve all the issues. Family issues invoke a great deal of emotion, and sometimes people need time to think about the process and the decisions that need to be made. There is no rush about this process.

 

Some parties may be able to reach agreements on all issues in one session, while others may require multiple sessions. Additionally, the parties can meet together or individually with the mediator. For example, some parties may wish to sit together at a table with the mediator, while others may prefer to be in different rooms and have the mediator move between the parties, acting as a liaison between the parties. The latter approach helps minimize the emotion associated with meeting face-to-face and promotes progress on the individual issues. Each case is different, and our goal is to find an approach that will work best for your family.

How does the mediator help resolve issues?

The mediator, in an impartial role, will help the parties define the issues, explain the legal process in the state of Arizona and then assist the parties in finding mutual agreements. The mediator’s job is to keep the parties conversing about the issues and help them move toward agreements. To accomplish this, the mediator engages in conversation with the parties to identify issues and possible solutions. Throughout the conversation, the mediator may propose various settlement options.

How does mediation work?

First, the parties must decide that they are able to discuss and consider their issues with each other through mediation. The parties may decide to initiate a free telephone consultation with one of your attorneys. Then, the parties make an appointment and come to our office here in Scottsdale. Be aware that the proceedings are confidential, and nothing can be used in a court proceeding. The success of mediation depends on the attitudes of the parties. It begins with the understanding that each party wants to mediate and resolve their dispute in a positive and calm manner. If either party has an attitude of wanting to “win” or to “hurt” the other person, mediation most likely will not work.

The process begins with an initial meeting, usually lasting one to two hours. The mediator explains her or his role of assisting the parties in resolving their issues. Even though the mediator is an experienced family law attorney who practices law, she is not in her role as an attorney when she is a mediator. Nonetheless, her legal background helps both procedurally and substantially with the mediation process.

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