Filed under: Arizona Family Law, Divorce Laws, General Family Law, House Bill Divorce Waiting Period, Opinion
The Arizona House of Representatives has introduced a proposed bill; HB 2650 which if adopted will have heavy consequences on the current Arizona status quo as related to dissolution proceedings.
In particular, HB 2650 if adopted, would change the current sixty (60) day waiting period under A.R.S. § 25-329. The proposed new language of the statute would read as follows:
The court shall not consider a submission of a motion supported by affidavit or hold a trial or hearing on an application for a decree of dissolution of marriage or legal separation until ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY days after the date of service of process or the date of acceptance of process.
Thus, this proposed legislation would increase the current status quo waiting period by four (4) months. In support of HB 2650, Lobbyist Deborah Sheasby said the state has a legitimate interest in preserving marriage. Ms. Sheasby added that “[b]eyond just the social costs and community instability of families falling apart, there’s even financial costs for the state, increased costs for social programs, increased law enforcement costs, increased education costs,” she told members of the House Health and Human Services Committee.
From a practical standpoint, HB 2650 may make sense. Inevitably more marriages may be saved. Matters that may have previously been on a crash course for a highly contested and drawn out litigation now have higher incentives to seek settlements. However, this proposed legislation seems to lose sight of and fails to address how it may benefit those parties that actually do agree on everything early on. In particular isn’t it safe to assume that if parties who believe they can agree on everything are given an extra four (4) months to think about things, they may find and/or desire to dispute something?
In addition to extending the waiting period, HB 2650 would increase the minimum standards for required educational programs. Currently the presiding judge of the superior court in each county shall submit an educational program plan to the Supreme Court for approval. However, under HB 2650, a presiding superior court judge’s recommended educational program plan to be compliant would at a minimum have to include instructions related to:
1. The emotional, psychological, financial, physical and other short-term and long-term effects of divorce on adults and children;
2. Options available as alternatives to divorce;
3. Resources available to improve or strengthen marriage;
4. The legal process of divorce and options available for mediation; and
5. Resources available after divorce.
Filed under: Arizona Family Law, Consent Decree, Family Law Attorney, General Family Law
A Consent Decree cannot be submitted to the court until at least 60 days have passed since the date the Respondent was served with or signed an “Acceptance of Service” for the divorce or legal separation papers. The Judge cannot sign your decree until 60 days after service. (A.R.S. § 25-329).
Thus, one must remember that when they think they have all their issues in order the other party still has a two month window to change his or her mind. Likewise it may be a smart idea to seek counsel even if you and your spouse appear to agree on everything because within this two month “wait and see” period an attorney can advise you about whether you are in essence making a “good” deal. Remember that there are a lot of issues to resolve in a divorce. When children are involved these issues can become even more complex and additional documents must be submitted with the consent decree accordingly in these situations.
Filed under: Arizona Family Law, Default Rules, General Family Law, Opinion
In Wigand v. Wigand, Wife filed for divorce in February 2008, and requested spousal maintenance, an equitable division of the community property and debts, and attorneys’ fees. Her petition also alleged that Husband wasted community assets during the marriage. Husband, who was living and working in New Mexico, accepted and waived service of process.
Wife appealed from an order vacating a default decree of dissolution. Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 1 agreed and set the Arizona divorce decree aside.
Husband claimed that while the parties were discussing a divorce settlement, Wife filed an application and affidavit for default, and the court subsequently entered a default decree. In said decree, Wife was awarded $2895 per month in spousal maintenance for twelve years, the community residence (which had approximately $155,000 in equity), all personal property and the vehicle in her possession, the retirement account in her name, any debts that were incurred by her or in her name, and her attorneys’ fees.
The Court of Appeals opined that the general test of what is excusable is whether the neglect or inadvertence is such as might be the act of a reasonably prudent person under the same circumstances.
Regardless of whether Husband’s failure to respond to the petition was reasonable, once Wife notified him that there was an upcoming court hearing, he was required to act. At the very least, he should have opened the court notices he acknowledged receiving. Similarly, Husband’s failure to open and read his mail was not reasonable, particularly after being told of an upcoming hearing.
The Court further opined that a reasonable person willing to risk entry of a default divorce decree would not have reason to expect such an unconscionably unfair division of community assets and debts.
Arizona law requires the courts to divide community property equitably. See A.R.S. § 25-318(A) (2007). The decree did not divide the community assets and debts equitably. Even if the family court had accepted Wife’s allegation that waste created the credit card debt, the division of the community assets was grossly inequitable.
Thus, the Appellate court affirmed that the family court did not abuse its discretion in setting aside the default decree.
Filed under: Arizona Family Law, Court's Clerk Office, ECourt, Family Law Documents, General Family Law, Maricopa County
Recent Changes to the Maricopa County Superior Court’s Family Court self service center make it easier to prepare court documents. The following documents can now be easily prepared and printed by visiting the “ECourt” section of the Maricopa County Superior Court Website:
1. Legal Separation
2. Dissolution of Marriage
4. Applications for Default
5. Schedule Decree on Demand Hearing
6. Respond to a Petition
7. Child Support Calculator and worksheet
8. Parenting Plan
9. Consent or Default Decree
10. Request to have your court fees deferred or waived
11. Notify someone of legal action (prepare service paperwork)
12. Modify an existing decree
The interview process provided by the Court in filling out the above forms is offered as a public service. However, it must be understood and noted that the interview process and provided forms are not intended to give legal advice. Thus, if a person seeks legal advice or clarification of information requested on the “ECourt” website they should contact an attorney qualified to answer their questions of concern.
Filed under: Arizona Family Law, Court's Clerk Office, Family Law Documents, General Family Law, Sensitive Data Sheet
Starting March 1, 2010, Administrative Order 2010-014, makes a new requirement in family court cases, now merging the “sensitive data sheet” with the family court cover sheet. This Superior Court Administrative order further explains the existing requirements of A.R.F.L.P. Rule 43(G) regarding protecting sensitive dates / data and appropriate access to that confidential document once filed with the Clerk’s Office.