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Documents & Their Meanings

 

The Individual Documents

Each of these documents has a significant meaning for the courts and for you. Below is a list of the forms and their purpose.

 

Family Court Cover Sheet

This form helps the courts set up your file in their computer system. It should be the top form you present to the clerk when you file these forms. The clerk will want to see that all of this information is filled out, so that their court records are complete. Throughout the divorce process, the court will periodically send out minute entries or court orders to you. It is important that your personal information (especially your address) is updated with the court, so that you will receive all of these necessary documents.

 

Sensitive Data Sheet

The purpose of this sensitive data sheet is to provide the court other relevant information. Please be cautioned that this information may become public record and be available for everyone to see. Do not provide complete account numbers or Social Security numbers, due to the risk of identify fraud.

 

Summons

The summons officially notifies the respondent that a lawsuit (divorce) has been filed against him/her and he/she is a party to the action. The summons also informs the respondent how long he/she has to answer the divorce. This document is signed by the clerk of court who, at the time of filing, will emboss the document with his official seal.

 

Petition for Dissolution With Minor Children

This document is the most important of the nine documents initially filed. This document sets out the necessary facts of your divorce and lets the court know exactly what you are seeking in the divorce. In this petition, you are able to tell the court what kind of custody arrangement you want for the children, how you want your property divided and whether you or your spouse is entitled to child support or spousal maintenance.

This document should help you provide a good picture of what you want at the end of the divorce process. You should ask the court for everything that you want, even if it is not what you would settle for at the end of your dissolution. You want to request that you be awarded certain things, because if the other party does not answer the petition and you get a default (see glossary) against your spouse, your requests in that initial petition are what will be awarded to you.

The following petition is a generic, sample petition for a divorce with children. In drafting your own petition, you should be more specific than the example. Maricopa County also provides a form on their website that allows a party to be more specific. It is helpful at this stage to have consultation with an attorney or allow an attorney to draft your documents for you to ensure that you ?plead? all that you need to in this petition. It is common for judges and opposing sides to refer back to your initial petition. Again, please take your time in filling out this document.

 

Notice of Your Rights About Health Insurance Coverage

This legal notice outlines how your health insurance coverage could be affected after your dissolution is final. It includes information as to whether you are included on your spouse?s insurance policy, what insurance coverage applies to you and how to get it, what coverage applies to your children, preexisting conditions or exclusions from insurance coverage, and limits on rights to insurance coverage for you and your children. This document must be served on the party in a dissolution. It is not usually applicable to legal separations, but you may want to check with your insurance company.

 

Notice Regarding Creditors

This notice is required for all actions of divorce and legal separation. This document explains that you and your spouse are responsible for community debts. It also suggests that you may want to contact your creditors to discuss the debts and the effects of your divorce or legal separation.

 

Preliminary Injunction

The preliminary injunction is a new set of rules that must be followed by you and your spouse after a spouse is served with dissolution or legal separation paperwork. These rules are explained in the Preliminary Injunction document you filed and served upon the other party. These rules are mandated for every couple going through the process of dissolution or legal separation. It is important not to violate any of these rules. See Chapter 9 for a more complete explanation of the preliminary injunction.

 

Parent Information Class

This form gives your spouse notice that he or she must attend a parent information class. This is a mandatory class for both parents to attend. Parents do not attend this class together and each parent is able to choose a convenient location and time to attend. Try to take this class early in your dissolution process. When you have taken the class, the instructor will give you a form to file with the court. It is important that you file it with the court; the court is then on notice that you filed it. Prior to filing, make additional copies of the form for yourself and for your spouse. You cannot get any custody without having filed this certificate.

If you are unable to take this parent information class because you are on military duty, it is possible to ask your judge if you can be exempt from taking it. There is a form, Motion to Request Exemption from Parent Information Class that you can fill out and file with the court. It is within the court?s discretion whether or not to grant your request to be exempted from this requirement.

 

Affidavit Regarding Minor Children

In this affidavit, you are confirming who the minor children are and where they have lived during the past five (5) years. This document also asks whether there are any court cases that you have been a party to or witness to that involved the custody or parenting time of the children. The document requires you to answer whether there are any pending court cases related to the custody of the children and whether you know of any person, other than the petitioner or respondent, who has physical custody or who claims custody or parenting time rights of any of the children named in the affidavit.

Documents Required For Legal Dissolution Of Marriage

 
Documents for Dissolution Without Minor Children
To file for dissolution of marriage without minor children the following documents need to be completed:

  • Family court cover sheet
  • Sensitive data sheet
  • Summons
  • Preliminary Injunction
  • Petition for Dissolution without Minor Children
  • Notice of Your Rights about Health Insurance Coverage
  • Notice Regarding Creditors
  •  

    Documents for Dissolution With Minor Children
    To file for dissolution of marriage with minor children the following documents need to be completed:

  • Family court cover sheet
  • Sensitive data sheet
  • Summons
  • Preliminary Injunction
  • Petition for Dissolution with Minor Children
  • Notice of Your Rights about Health Insurance Coverage
  • Notice Regarding Creditors
  • Parent Information Class
  • Affidavit Regarding Minor Children.
  •  

    Documents for Legal Separation Without Minor Children
    To file for a legal separation without minor children the following documents need to be completed:

  • Family court cover sheet
  • Sensitive data sheet
  • Summons
  • Preliminary Injunction
  • Petition for Legal Separation without Minor Children
  • Notice Regarding Creditors
  •  

    Documents for Legal Separation With Minor Children
    To file for a legal separation with minor children the following documents need to be completed:

  • Family court cover sheet
  • Sensitive data sheet
  • Summons
  • Preliminary Injunction
  • Petition for Dissolution with Minor Children
  • Notice Regarding Creditors
  • Parent Information Class
  • Affidavit Regarding Minor Children
  • Child Support Factors to Establish Child Support

     

    CHILD SUPPORT IS DECIDED UPON THESE BASIC FACTORS, PLUS WHATEVER ELSE EACH PARENT PAYS FOR:

    ? Monthly salary of each parent
    ? Age of children
    ? Parenting time
    ? Day care costs
    ? Medical insurance
    ? Extracurricular expenses
    ? Number of other children not common to the marriage

    Affidavit of Financial Information
    Every case with children must have a document filed called an Affidavit of Financial Information, to be filled out by both parents and notarized. Read all the fine print on this document. It requires you to attach the last three (3) years of taxes and at least six (6) months of pay stubs. (Please remember to edit your Social Security and bank account numbers from these documents. If you file these documents without those numbers being covered, they will become public record and you could be subjecting yourself to possible identify theft).

    In the Affidavit of Financial Information, you will outline your current monthly expenses, debts and income. It is understood that these numbers will change upon dissolution (divorce), but the court?s request is for the amount you are spending right now. The courts will analyze your financial position to determine how much child support you (or your spouse) should pay. We recommend that parents omit the taxes and supply the last three pay stubs; these can be produced without becoming part of your court file. The next page is a draft of an Affidavit of Financial Information that needs to be filled out if there are minor children in the marriage. This is a state-required form. You can find it online. (See Appendix D.)

    FAQs For Document Preparation, Mediation, & Litigation

     

    Can traditional document preparation services help me?
    Document preparation services cannot provide you with legal advice. So, unless you know the law and the procedures, you could make some devastating mistakes by filling out forms without understanding your rights. Best Law Firm?s document preparation is conducted by an experienced attorney.

    How much does document preparation cost?
    You may call our law firm to find out our current specials and prices. If you purchased this book, you are entitled to a 20% discount on a package deal. You are also entitled to a free, 15-minute consultation with an attorney.

    How long does it take for document preparation?
    We can finalize documents within 24 hours.

    How do I get started for a document preparation?
    Just call our office at (480) 219-2433 or go to our website and fill out the Divorce Coach questionnaire, pay online and we will finish your documents, usually within 24 hours, and provide them to you online. Or, you can pick them up here at our office or we can simply mail them to you.

    How do I get a one-hour attorney consultation?
    Just call our office at (480) 219-2433. We will meet with you as soon as possible, usually within 48 hours if you are available. We make ourselves available: we know how much stress and anxiety you are feeling. We can also conduct legal consultations over the phone or by SKYPE, as long as a limited scope fee agreement is signed and an hourly fee is paid.

    Can I call for a telephone consultation?
    We provide free telephone consultations to go over our services and the general legal issues and processes involved in a divorce in Arizona. These phone calls do not give legal advice to you. You can receive legal advice by requesting a ?meeting? (this can be in person, or by SKYPE or telephone) with an attorney, who will provide you with a limited-scope fee agreement for specific legal advice billed at an hourly fee. If you have any questions to begin with, please call our office at (480) 219-2433.

    What is a mediator?
    A mediator is a neutral third party who can help you negotiate and resolve your divorce.

    Can a non-lawyer be a mediator?
    Yes, but they do not always have the legal experience to know what really happens in a courtroom. Sometimes, parties are more eager to cooperate and negotiate when they recognize how nasty and unpredictable it is to litigate.

    Should my mediator be an attorney and practice law?
    We think it helps a great deal when we mediate. We know what can and will happen in court with certain issues and with certain judges, but we also know that sometimes there is no predicting what the court will do with particular facts and issues. Because it can be a crapshoot, an attorney understands the risk/reward of going to trial.

    Can an attorney help me if I get stuck after trying to fill out the online forms?
    Yes, you can make an appointment and meet with an attorney on an hourly basis.

    Are there pitfalls that I need to be aware of?
    Yes, they are numerous. If you have any questions, you should consult an attorney.

    Will the judge help me?
    Judges are very good, but they are not allowed to give you legal advice. They do the best they can within their own limitations imposed by the court.

    Can I have an attorney and a mediator?
    Yes, you can mediate with or without an attorney. You can mediate all your issues and then have the agreement reviewed by an attorney before signing it.

    Can a paralegal draft my documents?
    Yes, but this can be dangerous. There are paralegals who offer this service, but they cannot give you legal advice, nor are they experienced in litigation to prevent certain mistakes and problems.

    How much does a mediator cost?
    Most mediators charge by the hour, anywhere from $200 to $400. Most mediators do not ask for retainers.

    How much does it cost to have someone draft my documents?
    This is a flat fee and you will know and agree to the price before the work is started. At Best Law Firm, our prices vary, depending on the documents. You can find this information on our website, along with a price list and questionnaire.

    Document Preparation

    Forms and Filing for Doing It Yourself

    There are self-help forms at the courthouses and you can find them online at superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/. There are also explanations about these forms; what is missing is the information in this book, such as how the process works and what laws tell you that you might be entitled to. Be warned that information at that website may be out-of-date and confusing.

    While a do-it-yourself divorce may work for some, it can be dangerous and disastrous for others. At a minimum, you should review the forms and the instructions and review this book. If you have some questions after reading this book, you might want to call Best Law Firm for an attorney consultation or to have someone fill out the forms for you for a flat fee.

    Document Preparation by an Attorney

    Another option in preparing for divorce is to have our firm draft your documents for a flat fee. If you are interested in this type of service, we provide potential clients with a Divorce Coach questionnaire and we can complete the necessary documents for filing pertinent to your specific situation, often within 24 hours. Our document preparation is handled by attorneys who understand the legal requirements of your case.

    Also, if you have any questions, you can call our office and speak with an attorney specifically about your case and your needs. A free, 15-minute consultation comes with the flat fee package for your document preparation. Another option is to pay for a one-hour attorney consultation. Note: once you consult with an attorney, that same attorney cannot act as a mediator in your case, because that would be a conflict of interest. Any case can be mediated, even though one or both parties has an attorney.

    Why Come to Us?

    Individuals often come to us after trying to do it alone or after experiencing a court disaster. But some mistakes cannot be undone.

    It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you can handle your situation on your own. Do-It-Yourself forms make legal matters seem very simple. Unfortunately, there are many dangers to using these template legal forms. Because of the potential dangers, there are several reasons why people should come to an attorney to have their legal documents prepared:

  • You are held to the standard of an attorney when you deal with the legal system.
  • You simply do not know what you do not know, and not knowing can lead to costly mistakes that can haunt you for years.
  • You may think that you understand the forms, but you may not understand the legal significance of what you are doing and the long-term effects it can have. A form cannot anticipate future problems and provide protection. A form cannot counsel you about additional legal documents you may need.
  • Non-lawyers who prepare documents cannot give you legal advice, suggest strategies, or advise you about your rights.
  •  

    As experienced attorneys, we are able to provide the guidance you need to avoid problems. Our clients benefit from peace of mind, knowing an experienced attorney is preparing their legal documents and answering their questions, without the high costs associated with a lawyer who does everything.

    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 is mediation like at Best Law Firm?

    Mediation with Best Law Firm is designed to be a win-win solution for the parties involved. Parties do not require a retained attorney to represent their interests, but outside counsel is not discouraged. It is recommended that an attorney review any final legal documents before they are signed or filed with the court. In addition to conducting mediation, Best Law Firm can complete your family law matter by drafting all the necessary documents to be submitted to the court. We can draft a memorandum of understanding to memorialize the parties’ agreements, draft the petition and supporting documents to initiate your case in the court and draft and file the consent decree, parenting plan and property settlement agreement to finalize your case.

    How do you serve the other party with dissolution documents in Arizona?

    “Service” is the technical name for the other party receiving from you the documents that you have filed. Arizona courts require one party to show proof that the other person was served. In today’s legal world, service does not have to be done with a process server. Instead, you can simply mail the documents to the other party, if applicable.

    One option that is cheap is hand-delivery and an Acceptance of Service form. If you and your spouse are amicable, hand-delivery is a good option. This means that you can give the other party all six or eight documents. If you use this method, you do not send the original Summons that you received from the court clerk when you initially filed your documents. At the same time you give the other party the papers, you should also give them an Acceptance of Service form to fill out. This form must be signed by the receiving party either in front of a notary or the court clerk. If the receiving party signs the documents in front of a notary, you should file their acceptance of service with the court after making a copy for your records.

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