Legal Separation and Divorce Explained
Getting divorced or legally separated is never easy for either spouse. More than legal fees, the actual cost of a divorce or legal separation is seen in what parties are going through emotionally. Getting a divorce or filing for legal separation is difficult for couples with no children, even more so for those who have.
Parents hire a lawyer for the protection not only of their legal rights but that of their children as well. Here, the legal separation agreement or divorce proceedings must consider the best interest of the children involved.
Couples who file for divorce or legal separation go through a lot, which is why prompt legal aid is necessary. If you plan to get a divorce or get legally separated, a competent and compassionate Arizona family law attorney can provide the legal services you need. Given its possible consequences, it is essential to decide on the best path to take.
This article will focus on divorce and legal separation in Arizona. Specifically, it will briefly discuss these six topics:
- Basics of Family Law in Arizona
- What is a Legal Separation?
- Filing for Legal Separation in Arizona
- What is Divorce?
- Divorce Filings in Arizona
- Getting Legally Separated vs. Getting Divorced
Basics of Family Law in Arizona
For some people, the idea of a dissolution of marriage is limited to the messy process of filing for a divorce with the children involved. However, there is a lot more to family law practice than filing divorce cases. Since every marriage is unique, the legal process of going through a divorce does not apply to everyone. The best way for the family court system to protect their legal rights is to file for legal separation for some married couples.
If you are considering divorce or legal separation, it is essential to get legal advice from a local attorney who can explain the pros and cons of each. Our divorce and family law attorneys can help you understand the difference between a separation agreement and a marital settlement agreement, residency requirements for divorce filings, and make a better-informed decision, taking into account pertinent state law and guidelines for both.
What is a Legal Separation?
Very broadly, the term legal separation refers to a legal action filed by a married person who wishes to stay married despite specific legal issues. The same is generally applicable to a domestic partnership as well. Essentially, filers live separately from one another but do not change their marital status. This legal proceeding is comparable to but in many ways distinct from a divorce petition.
There are many reasons why a married couple in Arizona would opt to separate and not file a divorce legally. One typical example would be medical insurance benefits. Unlike in divorce proceedings, lawfully remaining married can ensure continued health insurance coverage for the non-employee spouse.
Aside from the complexities of the required court forms and paperwork, it is essential to keep in mind that relevant statutes on spousal support and division of marital property, child custody laws, and child support guidelines vary from state to state. A diligent Arizona family lawyer can provide the legal representation and advice that you need to evaluate your situation and carefully explore all available options.
Filing for Legal Separation in Arizona
A legal separation can be described as a court order that mandates the rights and duties of couples who are living apart but still legally married. Couples who are not ready to terminate their marriage but want to be considered separated for tax liability purposes, immigration matters, or religious reasons can file for legal separation.
In some instances, couples use it to divide property and debts, so both parties involved are no longer legally responsible for each other. Suppose you have been a resident of Arizona for a minimum of 90 days. In that case, you can file a request for legal separation in the county where you reside.
Before the family court can grant a petition for legal separation, the filer must provide a reason, such as an irretrievably broken marriage or the preference of at least one spouse to live separately. It is important to note, however, that the other party must not be against the separation.
If you are currently considering a legal separation or are still unsure whether you should file for legal separation or divorce, consult with a trusted Arizona legal separation lawyer. While a legal separation does not end a marriage, you may eventually convert it into a divorce petition.
What is Divorce?
Arizona has strict divorce laws, covering even where you live. Both individuals filing the divorce petition have to reside in the state for at least 90 days. This residency requirement generally cannot be waived. Additionally, children have to have lived in Arizona at least six months before parenting time, visitation, and child support are decided.
Under divorce and family law, divorce cases can be uncontested or contested. Couples who decide to agree on how the dissolution of marriage takes place to file an uncontested divorce. Otherwise, the legal process is called a contested divorce. In the latter, custody is often decided upon through court hearings.
If couples cannot agree on how to divide parental rights and responsibilities, courts use a set of factors to evaluate the parents’ ability to provide for the child. Essentially, the court will not handle child custody differently in legal separation and divorce proceedings. The child’s best interest remains at the forefront, regardless of the type of marital intervention being requested.
Divorce Filings in Arizona
There are various grounds for divorce, and couples end their marriage for different reasons. Think it through before proceeding. Once you finalize your decision to file divorce papers, the first step in the process is to get a good divorce lawyer in Arizona. They will help not only with divorce documents but with all aspects of divorce law as well.
Before filing for divorce, gather documentation or records that could be useful when you lobby for child support or spousal support. You may also use financial accounts, emails, or phone records in your divorce case.
If you are planning on filing a divorce, you need someone to help you file and fill out paperwork that you will submit to the divorce court. Seek legal help from someone experienced with marital separation, spousal maintenance, or family law cases in general. They can also comprehensively discuss mediation, alimony, physical custody, child visitation, and how all these can factor into your divorce filing.
Getting Legally Separated vs. Getting Divorced
In almost all cases, it is in your best interest to seek advice early on from a legal professional who can explain Arizona’s requirements for divorce and legal separation. Legal matters, particularly those that involve emotional issues like ending a marriage, can be highly complex and intense.
Legal separation is, in general, ideal for couples who think that reconciliation is possible. As mentioned, it does not necessarily lead to divorce since spouses are still legally married. On the other hand, a legal separation judgment does not prevent a future judgment for dissolution, particularly if either party subsequently chooses to get divorced. Suppose either of the spouses would later want to remarry after a legal separation is ordered. In that case, that spouse might need to work through a conversion divorce. Here, filers generally ask the judge to include all the separation agreement terms into the divorce filing.
Under relevant family law in Arizona, whether couples decide to legally separate or get a divorce, legal decision-making rights are initially awarded to both parents. However, the mental health, history of substance abuse, or any criminal record involving domestic violence or child abuse and neglect will influence the actual setup.
Additionally, whether a divorce or legal separation is filed, the parents or the family court will design a parenting plan with several factors in mind. This could include daily parenting time, custody exchange, vacations and holidays, and parental communication.
If you have any clarifications on these things, seek legal assistance from a law firm specializing in divorce matters and legal separation actions filed. Contact our Arizona family law firm for reliable legal assistance. Call us at Snader Law and consult with an experienced divorce and family law attorney.