When preparing for a divorce, there is a lot to learn. This starts with learning the terminology you will encounter along the way. By familiarizing yourself with the terms you will encounter during the divorce process, you can help yourself feel more comfortable and more confident, and you can ensure that you are prepared to make informed decisions about all of the key aspects of your divorce.
20 Key Terms You’ll Need to Know During the Divorce Process in Arizona
What are the terms you need to know? Here are 20 key terms you will encounter during the divorce process in Arizona:
Affidavit of Financial Information
At the start of the divorce process, each spouse will need to complete an Affidavit of Financial Information. This is a document that discloses each spouse’s assets and income—and that must be signed under oath.
Alimony (also referred to as spousal support) is money that one former spouse must pay to the other after their divorce is final. Depending on a couple’s circumstances, the obligation to pay alimony can either be temporary or permanent.
Best Interests of the Child
Under Arizona law, all child custody determinations must be made based on the best interests of the child. Arizona law establishes a list of “best interests” factors that divorcing parents must consider when deciding how to divide their post-divorce parenting time and decision-making authority.
A child custody arrangement establishes each parent’s right to spend time with (and make decisions for) their children after their divorce. There are several types of child custody arrangements, from traditional custody-and-visitation arrangements to co-parenting and bird’s nest custody. In limited circumstances, sole custody is an option as well.
Under Arizona law, both of a child’s parents have a duty to financially support the child until he or she turns 18 (in most cases). In the event of a divorce, the parent who does not have primary custody will generally have to pay child support to the parent who has primary custody.
Child Support Guidelines
In Arizona, divorcing parents must generally calculate child support in accordance with the state’s Child Support Guidelines. These Guidelines take into account each parent’s income, their child-related expenses, and various other factors to determine each parent’s financial responsibility.
Collaborative Law Divorce
In a collaborative law divorce, the spouses work with their respective attorneys and other professionals to reach an agreement without going to court. These other professionals may include financial advisors, child psychologists, and social workers, among others. If the spouses are able to reach an agreement through the collaborative law process, then they will enter into a binding settlement agreement that they submit to the court for approval.
Whether spouses agree on the terms of their divorce or they need to pursue divorce litigation, the process will end with the court issuing a divorce decree. Once the court issues a divorce decree, the spouses’ marriage is officially over, and they can move on with their post-divorce lives.
Arizona law requires divorcing spouses to divide their marital assets “equitably.” This equitable distribution will result in a 50-50 split in most (but not all) cases. What is equitable depends on the circumstances involved, including the spouses’ respective financial contributions, their current financial means, and various other relevant factors.
Legal Child Custody
Legal child custody refers to a parent’s right to make important decisions about their children’s lives post-divorce. This includes decisions about things like education, health care, and religion. Typically, parents will share legal child custody (in one form or another) after getting divorced.
Litigation is the term used to describe the formal legal process that ends with going to trial. While litigation will be necessary in some cases, most divorcing couples will be able to resolve their differences without going to court.
Marital property (as contrasted with separate property) is subject to equitable distribution during the divorce process. The general rule is that any assets acquired during the marriage qualify as marital property—although there are several important exceptions.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that divorcing spouses can use when they are unable to reach an agreement on their own. In mediation, the spouses work with a neutral third-party mediator who helps them explore options for amicably coming to terms.
Physical Child Custody
Physical child custody refers to a parent’s right to spend time with his or her children after a divorce. As noted above, physical custody arrangements can take a variety of different forms, and in all cases must reflect the best interests of the children involved.
Under Arizona law, property division is a necessary component of the divorce process. Unless spouses have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that says otherwise, they must divide their property according to the principles of equitable distribution.
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
Oftentimes, dividing a couple’s marital property will involve dividing one or more retirement accounts. A qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) allows for dividing a retirement account without triggering the 10% early withdrawal tax penalty.
Any assets that do not qualify as marital property will qualify as one spouse’s separate property. Separate property is not subject to division during the divorce process in Arizona.
Most divorces in Arizona end with a settlement (followed by the issuance of a divorce decree). If the spouses are able to agree on all of the terms of their divorce, they will enter into a settlement agreement that they submit to the court for final approval.
In an uncontested divorce, the spouses reach an agreement on all of the issues (i.e., alimony, child custody, child support, and property division) without going to court. Uncontested divorces result in settlements and avoid the need for divorce litigation.
When one parent has primary custody after a divorce, the other parent will have visitation rights. Depending on the child’s best interests, visitation schedules may involve visits during the week, every other weekend, or on a different schedule that works for all parties involved.
Request a Free Initial Divorce Consultation at Weingart Family Law
Are you contemplating a divorce in Arizona? If so, we invite you to contact us to learn more. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a divorce lawyer at Weingart Family Law, please call 480-385-7610 or get in touch online today.