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3 First Steps to Filing Divorce

So, you want a divorce. With one divorce occurring every 13 seconds in the U.S., it is not uncommon for a marriage to result in divorce. Often, the decision to end your marriage can be one made out of frustration without realization of proper divorce proce...

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Demystifying Spousal Maintenance

If you are going through a divorce or planning to go through with a divorce you have probably faced the issue of spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance, also called spousal support or alimony in other jurisdictions, may require the higher earning spouse to pay a certain amount of money to the spou...

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No Fault Divorce

No Fault Divorce – Phoenix Divorce Attorneys of Reppucci & Roeder, PLLC

A divorce, or dissolution of marriage, is a court procedure that comes with its fair share of stress and paperwork. If you are contemplating a divorce, you probably wonder whether or not you need to give the court some reasons behind your decision. However, in Arizona you do not have to justify your decision beyond giving proof that your marriage is irretrievably broken.1

What is no-fault divorce?

If you are domiciled in Arizona or another state that follows the uncontested or “no-fault divorce” proceedings, this means that you do not have to prove fault to show an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage.2 Conversely, some states follow the fault divorce system that may allow divorce based on fault.3 Some examples of reasons for divorce in a fault system could be domestic violence or alcohol abuse.

However, today the majority of states follow a no-fault divorce system. Basically, no-fault systems give the couple more discretion in divorce and change the focus from punishing guilt to focusing on what the spouses feel has happened to the marriage.4

What constitutes an irretrievable breakdown in marriage?

The “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage standard is the only standard that needs to be shown in Arizona’s no-fault based divorce. A.R.S. § 25-314. Likewise, the only defense to a petition for the dissolution of the marriage is that the marriage is not irretrievably broken. A.R.S. § 25-314(C). There should also be no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.5

To best assess whether or not there has been an irretrievable breakdown in your marriage, it is best to consult an attorney about your specific situation. The standard is incredibly fact-specific and thus it is best to get a Phoenix attorney’s help on the matter.

What is a covenant marriage?

A covenant marriage is a stricter form of marriage that is only available in a few states, including Arizona. Specifically, it offers other options for couples who want to marry.6 Such other options make it more difficult to enter a marriage and leave a marriage – for example, the couple should find premarital counseling and then sign a special statement or declaration on the application for marriage.7 Applying for a marriage license is also more strict, as certain information must be included in the application for a covenant marriage.8 It should come as no surprise that filing for a divorce is more difficult in a covenant marriage as well. In this case, you may need to prove grounds other than “irretrievable breakdown” to seek a dissolution of your marriage. A.R.S. § 25-903.

Reasons for dissolution of a covenant marriage can include abandonment, adultery, confinement of the defendant in prison for three or more consecutive years after marriage, bigamy, insanity, habitual drunkenness, and cruel or inhuman treatment.9 A.R.S. § 25-903. You should also show that both spouses agree to the divorce.10

[1] Understanding Divorce, azbar.org, http://www.azbar.org/workingwithlawyers/topics/understandingdivorce (last visited Sep. 22, 2014).

2 Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce, nationalparalegal.edu, http://nationalparalegal.edu/public_documents/courseware_asp_files/domesticRelations/Divorce/FaultVsNoFaultDivorce.asp (last visited Sep. 22, 2014).

3 Id.

43 Ariz. Prac., Marriage Dissolution Prac. § 112

5Id. at§ 125

6 Covenant Marriage in Arizona, azcourts.gov (2006), available at http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/31/Other%20DR/covenant.pdf.

7 Id.

8 Id.

9 Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce, supra note 2.

10 Covenant Marriage in Arizona, supra note 6at 6.

 

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Visitation Rights

A divorce in and of itself is a stressful ordeal. If you have children and are going through a divorce, thing become even more complicated. Under Arizona law, regardless of the type of custody arrangement you have with your children, you still have visitation rights or “parenting time.”1 When a child is involved in a divorce proceeding or dissolution of the marriage, the courts will typically approach each issue by balancing many factors. The purpose of parenting time or visitation rights is to ensure the child has healthy contact with both parents.2

For example, in determining visitation rights the court will look at the child’s age, the parents’ willingness to visit the child, and in some cases whether the parent who does not have custody (non-custodial parent) needs the supervision of another person during visitation.3

How is visitation determined when both parents have custody?

Visitation rights can be decided between parents. However, when parents cannot work out visitation then the Arizona Superior Court will become involved and make decisions for the parents.4 Parents should try to work out a “reasonable parenting time” when coming up with a parenting time plan. Factors to consider include school breaks, holidays, and birthdays.5

Is it possible to deny a non-custodial parent visitation rights?

The court will not typically totally deny visitation rights to a non-custodial parent unless extreme circumstances demand it.6 Some examples of extreme situations include abuse of the custodial parent, abuse of the child, or if visitation poses some danger to the child.

What if visitation rights are violated?

In order for the court to become involved with a visitation violation, the non-violating parent must alert the court of noncompliance. A parent can also contact a Phoenix attorney to guide them through this process.
According to Arizona law, if a parent violates visitation rights without showing up he or she will be given a reasonable opportunity to explain the violation. A.R.S. § 25-414. If the court determines that the parent did not have good cause for violating the visitation rights, the court may order parental education or family counseling at the violating parent’s expense or even request that both parents attend mediation. A.R.S. § 25-414(A). The court can also make any other decision as long as it is in the best interest of the child. A.R.S. § 25-414(A)(7). This may include a fine or holding the other parent in contempt of court. A.R.S. § 25-414(A).

Parental Visitation Rights in Arizona, CRFAMILYLAW.COM, http://crfamilylaw.com/parental-visitation-rights-in-arizona/ (last visited Sep. 29, 2014).
2 Visitation Article, AZLAWHELP.ORG, http://www.azlawhelp.org/articles_info.cfm?sc=11&mc=1&articleid=68 (last visited Sep. 29, 2014).
3 Arizona Child Custody and Visitation Questions and Answers, DIVORCESOURCE.COM, http://www.divorcesource.com/ds/arizona/arizona-child-custody-and-visitation-questions-and-answers-2708.shtml (last visited Sep. 29, 2014).
4 Visitation Article, supra note 2.
5 Id.
6 Arizona Child Custody and Visitation Questions and Answers, supra note 3.

 

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Separation versus Divorce

Separation versus Divorce – by the Phoenix Divorce Lawyers or Reppucci & Roeder, PLLC

A lot of legal terms get thrown at you when you are in the middle of the legal process of marital dissolution. If you are contemplating divorce, you should know the basics of what constitutes a divorce and what a legal separation is.

Legal Separation

Legal separation is like divorce, except the partners may not marry each other again.1 This is because the partners are separated but not yet divorced. For example, the partners may be living separately but are still technically married. To be legally separated in Arizona, both parties should agree to the legal separation and desire to live apart.2 However, if only one party wants to live apart and the other disagrees, the result is a dissolution of marriage.3

In order to apply for a legal separation, couples should file a “Petition for Legal Separation With Children” or “Petition for Legal Separation Without Children” document with the Arizona Superior Court.4 If you have minor children and want to start a legal separation, the Arizona courts will allow it if several factors are in place:

  1. You have not agreed to a covenant marriage.5 A covenant marriage is a voluntarily more strict form of marriage where couples strengthen their vows and pay a fee to convert from a regular marriage to this more strict form.6
  2. You and your spouse live in Arizona or are a member of the armed forces in Arizona
  3. One party wants a legal separation or the marriage is over
  4. You or your spouse have minor children, which includes pregnancies by the husband
  5. The child has resided in Arizona for at least six (6) months before you file the petition and a lawyer has advised you to file in Arizona7

Dissolution of Marriage

Arizona is a “no fault” divorce state, so either spouse can move for a divorce or dissolution of the marriage. The party petitioning for divorce must show that there is an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage.8

How Do I Know Which Is Best?

Each situation is unique, and therefore there is no formulaic method to determine whether legal separation or divorce is best for you. You have to consider your multiple life factors to determine whether or not you think you could agree to simply live apart. For example, if the issue is a financial one and you want to live apart to wait it out, legal separation may be a better choice. However, if the issue is so deep that the marriage is irretrievably broken, then divorce is a better option. You should contact a Phoenix attorney to help you determine which path is better for you.

[1] Divorce and Legal Separation, Davidwhitefamilylaw.com, http://davidwhitefamilylaw.com/arizona-divorce.htm (last visited Oct. 6, 2014).

2 Legal Separation vs. Divorce, Goodalelaw.com, http://www.goodalelaw.com/articles/legal-separation-vs-divorce.htm (last visited Oct. 6, 2014).

3 Id.

4 Sherrie Scott, Legal Separation Versus Divorce in Arizona, eHow.com, http://www.ehow.com/about_6605217_legal-separation-vs_-divorce-arizona.html (last visited Oct. 6, 2014).

5 To Start the Legal Separation Process When Minor Children Are Involved, superiorcourt.maricopa.gov, http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/SuperiorCourt/Self-ServiceCenter/Forms/FamilyCourt/fc_drlsc1.asp (last visited Oct. 6, 2014).

6 Covenant Marriage, azpolicypages.com, http://azpolicypages.com/marriage-family/covenant-marriage/ (last visited Oct. 6, 2014).

7 The above list comes from the Maricopa county superior court website, supra note 5.

8 Divorce and Legal Separation, supra note 1.

 

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Uncontested versus Contested Divorce

Phoenix Divorce Attorneys of Reppucci & Roeder, PLLC

It is not typical for a divorce to be truly “uncontested,” where there are not any problems in the marital dissolution. However, uncontested typically means the spouses agreed on the terms of the divorce so there is no need to go to trial.1 If you can work out the details of your separation with your spouse amicably, or through mediation and/or arbitration, you will save a lot of money and time taken up by the litigation process.

Uncontested Divorce

This is the more common way to dissolve a marriage. Uncontested divorces are great because they are cost-efficient and are usually amicable compared to contested divorces. The issues you will typically have to agree on can include division of property, division of debt, amount and duration of spousal or child support, and how you will share parenting time if there is a child involved.2 In Arizona, you need to agree: (1) that your marriage is dissolved because of an “irretrievable breakdown,” (2) on the division of your property and debts, and (3) whether one of you should pay alimony or spousal support and the amount.3 If children are involved, you will also have to decide on child support, visitation, and both legal and physical custody.4 If you can resolve these issues between yourselves during a divorce you can save a lot of money by leaving most court costs out.

However, uncontested divorces are not a good idea if complicating factors such as domestic violence are a part of your marital dissolution.5 Further, if you cannot agree on things or you cannot discuss divorce amicably, the divorce is technically contested. Most divorce cases are complicated and involve some contested issues, so uncontested divorces can be realistic. Further, Even in an uncontested divorce, a lawyer cannot represent both spouses ethically.6

Contested Divorce

Contested divorce is just what it sounds like – one party either contests the divorce or some part of the divorce like asset splits or spousal support. Because the divorce is contested, the court will need to be involved.  It is advisable that you seek the advice of counsel in a contested divorce and do not try to represent yourself because of the complex procedures involved.

Settlement

Settlement occurs when spouses begin a contested divorce that turns into a conversation where both can agree on the terms.7 This is typically an end to the litigation process started by the contested divorce because neither party will appeal the settlement.8 This means that the case will not be tried by a judge and ends amicably.

[1] Divorce, legalzoom.com, http://www.legalzoom.com/divorce-guide/uncontested-contested-divorce.html (last visited Oct. 6, 2014).

2 Susan Bishop, What Is An Uncontested Divorce?, divorcenet.com, http://www.divorcenet.com/resources/divorce/basics-uncontested-divorce.htm (last visited Oct. 6, 2014).

3 Beth A.T. Krause, Uncontested Divorce in Arizona, divorcenet.com, http://www.divorcenet.com/resources/uncontested-divorce-arizona.html (last visited Oct. 6, 2014).

4 Id.

5 Uncontested Divorce, divorceinfo.com, http://www.divorceinfo.com/uncontesteddivorce.htm (last visited Oct. 6, 2014).

6 Id.

7 Divorce Support Staff, Contested v. Uncontested Divorce Procedures, divorcesupport.com, http://www.divorcesupport.com/divorce/Contested-vs-Uncontested-Divorce-Procedures-166.html (last visited Oct. 6, 2014).

8 Id.

 

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Do I Need a Protective or Restraining Order?

Are you in need of a protective or restraining order in Arizona?  Have you consulted a Phoenix divorce lawyer about your situation?

There is no question that marital dissolution, or divorce, is a stressful situation. In the world of divorce, things become even more complicated when terms like “domestic violence” and “protective order” become part of the equation. Protective orders and other types of injunctions against bad behavior can be requested usually by filing a petition. Below are some types of orders you can request if they fit your situation.

Protective  Orders

A protective order is a civil court order that can be used to prevent the person abusing you from coming in contact with you in any way.1 This means that person cannot come near your home, work, school, or other locations that are listed in the order.2  These orders are effective for one year from the date they are served by either a police officer or process server.3 Further, these petitions can be filed with any municipal justice or superior court judicial officer.4

An order of protection can be used to prevent any further acts of family violence that harms a member of the family or abuses a child.5 This type of order is limited to specific parties with specific relationships between them. A.R.S. § 13-3602.

Emergency orders of protection can be used when the Court is closed for business if there is imminent domestic violence.6 If you are in immediate danger you should call 911. Otherwise an officer will be dispatched and will assess your situation to determine whether to contact the court about your protective order request.7 When a person’s life or health is in danger, this type of order may be requested by a peace officer. A.R.S. § 13-3624(C).

An injunction against harassment can be filed by petition if there is evidence of harassment during the past year or if there will be irreparable harm to you if it is not issued. A.R.S. §12-1809. Harassment is defined as “a series of acts over any period of time that is directed at a specific person and that would cause a reasonable person to be seriously alarmed, annoyed, harassed, and the conduct in fact seriously alarms, annoys, and harasses the person and serves no legitimate purpose.”8 Unlike other types of orders, there is no relationship requirement to file one of these.

Automatic Temporary Restraining Order (ATRO)

Unlike most protective orders, ATROs are mutually agreed upon and served with a divorce.9 The ATRO does not have to do with domestic violence per se,  but is just a legal way to freeze a couple’s financial status quo and prevent either party from making changes after the divorce has been filed.10 Basically, the ATRO is a legal document and court order that protects spouses from changes made to their finances without their knowledge.11 These safeguards in an ATRO protect both parties from changing bank accounts, adjusting retirement assets, hiding or destroying assets, and more.12

That being said, both parties should follow the ATRO closely. Violations can result in severe fines or financial restitution.13

Protective orders and ATROs can be tailored more specifically to your situation and involve many rules and procedures. It is best to contact  an Arizona attorney about your situation.

 

[1] Restraining Order, loveisrespect.org, http://www.loveisrespect.org/get-help/legal-help/restraining-orders (last visited Oct. 6, 2014).

2 The Judicial Branch of Arizona, superiorcourt.maricopa.gov, http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/superiorcourt/protectiveordercenter/index.asp (last visited Oct. 7, 2014).

3 Id.

4 Arizona Rules of Protective Order Procedure, law.arizona.edu (Sep. 26, 2008), available at http://www.law.arizona.edu/clinics/child_and_family_law_clinic/Materials/ARPOP.pdf.

5 The Judicial Branch of Arizona, supra note 2.

6 Id.

7 Id.

8 Protective Orders, mesaaz.gov, http://www.mesaaz.gov/court/protectionorders.aspx#Injunction_Against_Harassment (last visited Oct. 7, 2014).

9 Jeff Landers, Divorcing Women: Here’s What You Need To Know About ATROs, forbes.com (June 11, 2012 10:11 AM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/jefflanders/2012/07/11/divorcing-women-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-atros/.

10 Jeffrey A. Landers, What Divorcing Women Need to Know About Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders, more.com, http://www.more.com/relationships/marriage-divorce/what-divorcing-women-need-know-about-automatic-temporary-restraining-?page=2 (last visited Oct. 7, 2014).

11 Id.

12 Divorce and Finances: When to Get A Restraining Order, lasiterlaw.com (Sep. 6, 2012), http://www.lasiterlaw.com/blog/2012/09/divorce-and-finances-when-to-get-a-restraining-order.shtml.

13 Jeffrey A. Landers, supra note 10.

 

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Child Custody Introduction

A dissolution of marriage, or divorce, can be amicable or complicated. One of the many complicating factors in a divorce is the topic of children. The courts will consider a multitude of factors to determine what is in the best interest of the child when it comes to child custody. Once a dissolution of marriage is filed, a temporary order will be filed to determine child custody, such as where the child will live.1 Custody issues often exist after the marriage dissolves. Moreover, child custody determinations are made at a separate hearing.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is exactly what it sounds like – having actual physical possession of the child. This is where the child resides and how much time the child spends with each parent.2  In Arizona, parents who do not have sole physical custody of the child will be given visitation rights or continuing contact with the child unless the situation requires limitations.3 This is referred to as “parenting time,” and it gives the child or children to spent time with the non-custodial parent.4

Legal Custody

This type of custody determines who has the responsibility to make legal decisions, such as what religion the child should practice or the age the child has to reach before he or she has a vehicle and driving privileges.5 If joint legal custody is awarded, then both parents can make decisions about the child’s welfare.6 The court may order joint legal custody without joint physical custody.7

Sole Custody

This type of custody is not as common as joint custody.8 As mentioned previously, sole custody comes with parenting time for the non-custodial parent. The distinction between  sole and joint custody have lessened and mainly refer to making decisions about major issues in the child’s life that would be in the child’s best interest.9

Joint Custody

While joint custody is more common, it is unlikely that physical custody will be split in a neat 50%/50% pattern.10 Further, Arizona requires that both parents sign a parenting plan which will be reviewed by the court.11 The parenting plan should include each parents’ rights and responsibilities for the personal care of the child and decisions in areas such as education.12

Other Issues

Sometimes the court will award custody to a non-biological parent, or someone who stands in loco parentis.13 This is unlikely to happen unless it is in the best interests of the child.14

If there is a paternity determination pending, then a temporary order can determine child custody.15

Further, there are jurisdiction issues that determine which state laws will govern the child custody issue. For example, if Arizona is the home state of the child or was so six months before the proceeding, then Arizona would have jurisdiction over the issue.16 Of course, other factors such as emergencies could change the rule.

[1] Child Custody Attorney: Divorce in Arizona with Children, cantorlawgroup.com, http://cantorlawgroup.com/arizona-family-and-divorce-law/divorce-with-children-child-custody (last visited Oct. 19, 2014).

24 Ariz. Legal Forms, Domestic Rel. § 6:1 (3d ed.).

3 Arizona Child Custody: Overview, statelaws.findlaw.com, http://statelaws.findlaw.com/arizona-law/arizona-child-custody-overview.html (last visited Oct. 19, 2014).

4 Child Custody Article, azlawhelp.org, http://www.azlawhelp.org/articles_info.cfm?mc=1&sc=1&articleid=68 (last visited Oct. 20, 2014).

5 Arizona Child Custody: Overview, supra note 3.

6 Child Custody Article, supra note 4.

7 Id.

8 Arizona Child Custody: Overview, supra note 3.

94 Ariz. Legal Forms, Domestic Rel. § 6:1 (3d ed.).

10 Arizona Child Custody: Overview, supra note 3.

11 Id.

12 Randall H. Warner, Parenting from the Bench, Ariz. Att’y, July/August 2010, at 24, 28.

134 Ariz. Legal Forms, Domestic Rel. § 6:1 (3d ed.).

14Id.

153 Ariz. Prac., Marriage Dissolution Prac. § 284.

164 Ariz. Legal Forms, Domestic Rel. § 6:1 (3d ed.)

 

 

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Community Property

A divorce comes with more than just a split in a relationship. You also have to deal with the complexity of dividing property and assets once you dissolve your marriage. Property is generally divided, equally in Arizona during a divorce.1 There are, of course, exceptions for when a spouse has wasted a large part of the assets through gambling, drug abuse, or other such abuse of finances.2

When a couple files for a dissolution of marriage, property has to be split. There are two methods for splitting property, depending on the state in which you or your spouse resides: (1) separate property and (2) community property.

What is community property?

Arizona is a community property state. A.R.S. § 25-211. Community property belongs to each spouse equally and retains that characterization upon divorce. Specifically, community property is any property acquired during the marriage, except for property you get as a gift, or property you inherited by devise or descent.3 Upon divorce, community property is split equally among the spouses, whereas in separate property states each spouse keeps separate property without splitting it.4 Debts are also considered community property.5

You can try to characterize community property as separate property, such as opening a separate bank account with only your name on it. You can also change separate property into community property by co-mingling funds or property.6

What happens if I move from a separate property state to a community property state or vice versa?

Any property you have in a separate property state will continue to be separate property unless the state follows a quasi-community property rule.7 A quasi-community property rule applies in a common law state where the property would have been shared if the couple was living in a community property state.8 In this case, the separate property that would have been community property will be characterized as community property.

Likewise, property that is characterized as community property typically does not convert to separate property when moving to a common law state.9 In Arizona, with certain qualifications, property acquired in a separate property state can be considered community property.10 Things can become increasingly complicated if you involve real property purchased with the funds earned in a separate property state.11

How does community property distribution work at death?

The characterization of property affects where it goes upon your death or a spouse’s death. If property is separate, then it will go to the estate of the spouse who died and passes by intestate succession (without a will) or to whoever is named in a will.12

In order to see how divorce will affect the split in your property, it is best to consult an experienced divorce attorney.

[1] Susan Bishop, Arizona Divorce: Dividing Property, divorcenet.com, http://www.divorcenet.com/resources/divorce/marital-property-division/arizona-divorce-dividing-prope (last visited Oct. 28, 2014).

2 Id.

3 Arizona’s community property laws and distribution of property at death, lawofarizona.com, http://www.lawofarizona.com/articles/community-property-wills.html (last visited Oct. 27, 2014) (hereinafter Arizona Community Property).

4 Matthew Izzi, Community Property Issues When Moving To a Different State, legalmatch.com, http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/community-property-issues-when-moving-to-a-different-state.html (last modified Aug. 14, 2014 3:06 PM).

5 Tiffany Knight, The Ins and Outs of Community Property Law, legalzoom.com (June 2009), https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/the-ins-and-outs-of-community-property-law.

6 Susan Bishop, supra note 1.

7 Matthew Izzi, supra note 4.

8 Id.

9 Id.

10 Arizona Property Division, divorcesource.com, http://www.divorcesource.com/ds/arizona/arizona-property-division-4720.shtml (last visited Oct. 28, 2014).

11 Karen E. Boxx, Community Property Across State Lines, americanbar.org (Jan/Feb 2005), http://www.americanbar.org/publications/probate_property_magazine_home/rppt_publications_magazine_2005_jf_communityProperty.html.

12 Arizona’s Community Property, supra note 3.

 

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Does Your Diploma Factor Into Divorce?

A divorce comes with a lot of new territory, including a split in your marital property. What constitutes your marital property depends largely on whether or not you are in a community property or separate property state. Another issue is what constitutes property in general, whether it is marital or not. What if you earn a degree during marriage in a community property state like Arizona – do you need to split this property with your spouse in a divorce? Further, everyone knows that education costs. Does your student debt get factored into the divorce as well?

Degrees or Licenses

A professional degree or license is a major investment. If the degree or license unlocks a higher earning potential then it has major value. Whether or not this matters in divorce comes down to whether your spouse supported you in making this degree or license a possibility.1 Some courts have held that a professional degree or license is actually a divisible marital asset when determining alimony or other spousal support awards.2 In these cases the degree or license is marital property if it was a joint effort and main focus of the parties’ activities.3 Enhanced earning capacity brought by a higher education could also show an ability to pay higher support payments to the spouse. In other cases a spouse may be compensated for helping put his or her partner through school by restitution.

In one Arizona case, the court awarded a restitution award to a wife for her husband’s law degree because he received the degree at her expense.4  In this case, the husband and wife both had bachelor’s degrees when they were married and agreed the wife would put the husband through law school so he would not have to work so long as he put her through school once he graduated.5 The husband decided he wanted to dissolve the marriage after he obtained his degree.6 In this situation the wife was entitled to a monetary award not because she helped her husband through law school but because of the husband and wife’s unique situation; the wife expected payment or compensation and it would be unjust to deny such.7 Further, in this situation the husband’s only asset was his education.8

In contrast, in another Arizona case the court did not characterize the husband’s medical degree and board certificate as divisible marital property since it is considered intangible.9 Further, the wife married the husband towards the end of his education and shared in the benefits of his degree.10

Of course, each case is fact sensitive. The court will take into account multiple factors, such as the amount of sacrifice made by the spouse not pursuing the education, how many assets the couple has, and when the marriage took place in terms of the education.11

Debt

The price tag of a professional degree or license may be shared by both spouses. If a degree is not considered marital property, then the loan debt that is used to obtain that degree is considered separate debt.12 In a community property state, student loan debt incurred during the marriage is community debt.13 Arizona courts have held that one spouse should pay one half of the other spouse’s student loan debt as a community property obligation that occurred during marriage.14 Courts in Arizona will consider factors such as the timing of the divorce, whether a  contract or agreement existed between the spouses, increase in income because of the education, and whether the marriage benefited from the education.15

[1] Property Division In Divorce: Degrees and Licenses, family-law.lawyers.com, http://family-law.lawyers.com/divorce/property-division-in-divorce-degrees-and-licenses.html (last visited Nov. 3, 2014).

2 William M. Howard, Spouse’s Professional Degree or License as Marital Property for Purposes of Alimony, Support, or Property Settlement, 3 A.L.R.6th 447 (Originally published in 2005).

3 Id.

4Pyeatte v. Pyeatte, 135 Ariz. 346, 348, 661 P.2d 196, 198 (Ct. App. 1982).

5 Id. at 207.

6 Id.

7 Id.

8 Id.

9 Wisner v. Wisner, 129 Ariz. 333, 631 P.2d 115 (Ct. App. Div. 1 1981).

10 Id.

11 See Pyeatte, supra note 4 at 205.

12 Division of Student Loans In Divorce Cases, divorcesource.com (2001), http://www.divorcesource.com/research/dl/debts/01mar52.shtml.

13 Scott Rowley, Are Student Loans Community Property? Dividing Debt in Divorce, azlegal.com (Sep. 24, 2012), http://www.azlegal.com/blog/2012/09/are-student-loans-community-property-dividing-debt-in-divorce/.

14Marriage of Jacobsen v. Jacobsen, No. 1 CA-CV 08-0744, 2009 WL 5062291, at 1 (Ariz. Ct. App. Dec. 24, 2009).

15 Scott Rowley, supra note 13.

 

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