Best Same-Sex Divorce Attorneys in Arizona
In Arizona, same-sex divorce is just divorce. The legal processes associated with both marriage and divorce in the state are identical regardless of the sex or gender of the parties involved. The same, unfortunately, is true of the stress, potential conflicts, and emotional impact of a divorce.
At Lincoln & Wenk, we know how tough the process can be, and we offer our clients more than our extensive legal knowledge and experience. We work hard to make divorce as low-stress as possible, and we’re at your side to navigate every issue that arises. To learn more about how we can help you navigate a same-sex divorce in Arizona, call 623-294-2464 right now, or fill out the contact form on this site.
The Arizona Same-Sex Divorce Process
Every divorce, same-sex or opposite-sex, is a bit different. That is because every marriage is different in terms of duration, property, whether one or both spouses have worked during the marriage, whether there are children and how their care has been allocated, and more. Still, the fundamental issues to be decided in an Arizona divorce case are the same:
- Division of community property
- Responsibility for community debts
- Whether one party is entitled to spousal maintenance (alimony)
- If there are children of the marriage, custody and child support
Community Property in a Same-Sex Divorce Case
Unless the spouses have agreed otherwise in a prenuptial agreement or other valid written contract, nearly everything either party receives during the marriage is considered community property. This includes most property purchased during the marriage and income such as paychecks for both spouses.
There are a few exceptions, including:
- Property one spouse receives as a gift or inheritance
- Property purchased with funds that are considered separate property, such as a savings account one spouse had before the marriage or the proceeds of the sale of an item one spouse had before the marriage
Community property is divided “equitably” in Arizona, which typically means more or less evenly. But, it doesn’t mean that every asset is split down the middle.
This process can be complicated, because divorcing spouses often disagree about the value of assets, and because some separate property can be transformed–intentionally or accidentally–into community property or partial community property.
Arizona Spousal Maintenance
Spousal maintenance is not automatic in Arizona, and in most cases is intended to be a temporary measure that will allow a spouse who has been out of the workforce or low-earning time to become self-sufficient. This is often a hotly-contested issue, because few divorcing spouses want to support their ex, even in the short-term. But, spousal maintenance may be necessary to allow a spouse with low earning capacity to live independently while they seek employment, undergo training, or pursue education that will increase their ability to support themselves.
The Arizona Supreme Court is working on guidelines that will provide a standardized approach to spousal maintenance, much like the formula used to determine presumptive child support. Until those guidelines are in place, courts determine spousal support on a case-by-case basis, considering factors such as:
- How long the parties have been married
- The couple’s standard of living during the marriage
- Each spouse’s financial resources and earning capacity
- Whether one spouse contributed to the other’s earning capacity, or diminished their own earning capacity through the role they played in the family
Child Custody in Same-Sex Divorces
Child custody will be determined based on the same factors in same-sex divorce as in a heterosexual divorce case, assuming that both spouses are the legal parents of a child or children.
The core issue in every decision regarding decision-making power for children and parenting time is the best interests of the children. Usually, it’s best for the parents and the children if the parents can come to an agreement that will allow them to cooperate in caring for and making decisions about the children. When that’s not possible, the court will decide after considering factors such as:
- The children’s existing relationships with each parent and other family members
- The likelihood that each parent will help foster a positive relationship between the children and the other parent
- The mental and physical health of everyone involved
- Whether either parent has committed domestic abuse, made false allegations about the other parent, or intentionally misled the court
Children’s preferences may be considered if the child is mature enough to voice a meaningful preference. But, there is no point in Arizona when a child gets to choose which parent to live with. The court always has the final word.
In Arizona, a formula is applied to reach a presumptive amount of child support due. The formula considers each parent’s income, the number of children, the ages of the children, medical insurance and child care costs, and how much time the children spend with each parent. In most cases, the court will order support in the amount yielded by the formula. However, the court may deviate from the child support guidelines calculation in certain circumstances, if it is in the best interest of the children to do so.
Do I Need an Attorney for a Same-Sex Divorce?
There’s no law or court rule that says you must be represented by an attorney in your Arizona divorce case. But, trying to go it alone can be risky, especially if you have significant assets, are unable to agree on child custody and visitation issues, plan to pursue spousal maintenance, or expect your spouse to request maintenance.
A compassionate, knowledgeable divorce attorney can manage the technical requirements associated with a legal proceeding, gather the evidence necessary to present the strongest possible case on your behalf, negotiate with your spouse’s attorney to try to avoid a contentious and potentially expensive court battle, and help you avoid common missteps. Your divorce lawyer can also help you connect with the right experts if they’re required to establish the value of marital property or otherwise support your case.
To learn more about how the attorneys at Lincoln & Wenk can help, call 623-294-2464 right now, or fill out the contact form on this site. It’s easy to make honest mistakes early in the process that can hurt your case, so the sooner you get qualified legal advice, the better.