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Tucson Family Law Blog

Finalizing a divorce usually needs more than a court order

Those in Arizona going through a divorce may think the divorce decree is the final step in parting with their spouse. It is in a way because the marriage is dissolved with the decree, but other things must be dealt with after the divorce. Fortunately, many of these items are more of a housekeeping nature and not as emotionally taxing as the divorce process. They still need to be completed to avoid problems in the future, however.

Bank accounts and other financial accounts should be transferred per the divorce decree or settlement agreement. The ex-spouse should be removed from each account. Likewise, beneficiaries on life insurance and retirement benefits should be changed. A certified copy of the divorce decree may be needed as proof. For real estate, deeds should be executed and filed. The ex-spouse should sign the deed.

Awarding joint custody

For the greater part of the 20th century, the family courts in Arizona tended to favor the mothers when awarding child custody. This meant that fathers who wanted shared child custody after their divorce were often disappointed. However, in the last three decades, the manner in which the courts have begun awarding child custody cases has undergone a significant shift, with the mutual agreements that favor shared custody being encouraged.

The family courts have to make decisions regarding two types of custody. Legal custody gives parents complete autonomy over the decisions regarding their children's religion, education, health care and any other part of their wellbeing. Residential or physical custody refers to where the children reside at night.

Divorce considerations for business owners

Arizona spouses who decide to divorce may face an array of emotional, practical and financial complications during the property division process. This can be challenging for almost anyone, especially when sentimental items or high-value assets are involved. However, it can be even more difficult when a family business is part of the divorce.

Before entering into serious negotiations over handling the business in relation to the property division process, it can be important to understand how much the company and its assets are worth. An independent expert can review financial statements and other documents to establish a valuation for the family business. Spouses involved with the company may tend to overestimate or underestimate the market value of the company, but an independent expert can set a baseline for negotiations.

Misconceptions about home ownership during divorce

Disagreements are common in a divorce. While alimony and child custody tend to be the most heated, what to do with a family home can be a major source of stress. Who stays in the home can affect everything from each spouse's cost of living to child custody arrangements. There are three basic arrangements that can be made, when one spouse wants to retain the property, for a family home during a divorce.

In some divorces, only one spouse stays in the family home but both ex-partners remain on the mortgage. This arrangement works in situations where both parties trust each other implicitly. That's because a payment default can be extremely damaging to both parties (it could potentially mean losing a residence). The second option is to refinance the mortgage in one spouse's name only. A third option is for one spouse to assume the loan.

Factors that affect the price of a divorce

Cost is one of the most important factors that couples in Arizona and throughout the country consider when determining whether to file for divorce. Divorce can be expensive: up to $15,000 per person in the United States. There are a number of factors that will determine if the divorce is more or less expensive.

For example, if a divorce is mutually agreed on, there will be fewer unresolved factors. Things like maintenance of property, child care, child custody, assets and pensions, and financial support may have been discussed. The more issues that are resolved on both sides, the less expensive the divorce will be.

Study reveals that marriage and divorce rates are both falling

Divorce rates in Arizona and around the country have fallen of late, but about 1 million couples still choose to end their marriages each year. In 2000, the divorce rate stood at four out of every 100,000, but that figure has since fallen to 2.9 out of every 100,000. However, this fall in divorces is more likely caused by fewer couples choosing to marry to begin with than an increase in marital bliss.

This observation is supported by a national marriage rate that is falling faster than the divorce rate. In 2000, 8.2 out of every 100,000 Americans walked down the aisle, but that figure fell to just 6.9 per 100,000 Americans in 2017. Overall, more than half of American adults are not married and about a third never have been. However, a study based on figures from the Census Bureau reveal that the numbers vary widely from state to state.

Gray divorce presents various challenges

Divorcing later in life is becoming more and more common in Arizona and all over the United States. Often referred to as gray divorce, the phenomenon has created new challenges for people over the age of 50. In the 1990s, 10 percent of people over 50 years of age were divorced. The number has since increased to 25 percent. The experience of gray divorce is financially stressful and can lead to a number of psychological side effects.

Among the most important challenges for people going through gray divorce are splitting retirement and Social Security benefits. When couples divorce after the age of qualification for Social Security, their history will be examined to determine how benefits will be divided. Typically, spouses cannot reach funds earned prior to the marriage.

How spouses may be entitled to part of a business in divorce

Some business owners in Arizona might hesitate to get a prenuptial agreement because they do not want to appear as though they are preparing for divorce. However, a prenup can give a couple the opportunity to decide how they will divide properly fairly in less emotional circumstances and can help protect a business. If the prenup makes the business separate property, the complex process of valuating the business prior to divorce can be avoided.

Prenups can also name what percentage of the business the spouse is entitled to or make plans in case the spouses are co-owners. Some couples may want to share the business even in the event of the divorce.

Negotiating for a more successful divorce

Divorce is often associated with visions of courtroom battles and drawn-out financial disputes. However, Arizona spouses who wish to end their marriages don't have to go that route. It's possible to work collaboratively with lawyers to negotiate a divorce settlement that is acceptable to all parties and allows both spouses to walk away successfully from the marriage. This can be a particularly viable choice for divorcing couples with children as many parents want to protect their kids from the aftereffects of a contentious, high-conflict divorce.

By working together with a family law attorney and the other spouse, one could move from a strictly adversarial view of divorce to a more collaborative approach. Of course, this process can be challenging; divorce is not only a legal and financial decision but also a deeply emotional one. In addition, the decision to end the marriage often followed deeply hurtful events, from severe arguments to infidelity. While people who are divorcing may want to move on from the marriage as quickly as possible, they could benefit from reviewing their history. In particular, the history of the fights and arguments between the couple could be instructive. This may point to particularly sensitive areas of conflict and likely points of discord during the negotiations.

Divorce and paying for college

Arizona parents who are thinking about getting a divorce may be concerned about its negative financial impact, particularly regarding how they will be able to afford to pay for the higher education of their children. However, wise planning can be used to ensure that they are able to address the financial obligations for their children's college education.

According to one certified divorce financial analyst, the best way for being prepared to handle the college expenses for children after a divorce is for parents to start preparing while they are still married. During the divorce process, planning can be substantially more difficult, as there will be less money available.

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Law Office of Michael A. Johnson, P.C.
177 N Church Avenue
Suite 311
Tucson, AZ 85701

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