Why can’t I handle my family law matter on my own?
In Arizona, you actually can: the law does not require you to have an attorney to represent your interests in a family law matter. In fact, Arizona has allowed special non-lawyer practitioners – called certified document preparers or legal document preparers – who can assist individuals in completing paperwork (including filling out court documents) in family law matters. If you are a small business owner or a corporate employee with substantial assets, however, you should seriously consider hiring an attorney to represent your interests whenever an adversarial or potentially-adversarial family law matter arises, such as a prenuptial agreement, an adoption, a child custody dispute, or a divorce.
How important is a lawyer in the area of family law? The answer to that question depends on how much you value your time and your peace of mind. A family law matter can be difficult and emotional even without the stress of paperwork and strangers (such as courts and opposing attorneys) becoming involved in your personal situation. An experienced lawyer can help reduce the stress of the process, from filing the proper paperwork and fighting for custody to negotiating a property division that protects your interests.
The following are some of the types of family law matters with which IVAN & ASSOCIATES may assist.
Prenuptial AgreementThis is a written agreement entered into prior to marriage between future spouses to govern the assets and debts during the marriage and in the event the marriage ends in divorce. Although most people do not enter into a marriage with the expectation that there will be divorce, a prenuptial agreement does not require a divorce in order to take effect: it actually can govern assets and debts during the marriage itself.
AdoptionA common adoption in Arizona is a step-parent adoption, where a stepparent wishes to adopt their spouse’s minor son or daughter. Sometimes the children’s other parent passed away, or other reasons exist for terminating their parental rights.
Child CustodyChild custody disputes generally involve two separate but related issues for couples going through a divorce or unmarried parents of minor children: (1) parenting time, and (2) legal decision-making. Parenting time, or otherwise generally called “custody,” refers to which parent has a right to physically have custody of the children at different times of the month, quarter, or year. Legal decision-making refers to which parent has a right to make medical, educational, religious, and other decisions for the children. Although generally thought of as being the same thing, custody and legal decision-making are independent, and courts can make different decisions concerning these aspects so as to best meet the interests of the children.
Related to child custody is the issue of child support, which is the financial support to be provided by each parent for the lodging and clothing expenses, nourishment expenses, educational expenses, medical expenses, and other living expenses of the children.
DivorceA divorce is the legal process by which a marriage is dissolved. As compared to a legal separation, which can be temporary, a divorce is a final dissolution of marriage. There are typically five issues that arise during a divorce: (1) child custody and legal decision-making; (2) child support; (3) alimony (also called spousal maintenance); (4) division of assets; and (5) division of debts.
The Maricopa County Superior Court offers self-help forms for people whose family-law matters are simple, such as when a couple doesn't have substantial assets or when child custody is not an adversarial issue. If the marital community has substantial assets or debts, or child custody is disputed, or spousal maintenance is an issue, there is a risk that your soon-to-be-former spouse will try to obtain an unfair advantage. Having a competent attorney representing you will reduce that risk, and will assist you to make informed decisions.
The cost of an attorney is likely going to be substantial, but may end up being less than what you would lose if you don't hire one. And if that is the case, you should seriously consider hiring a competent attorney to represent you.
Even if you decide to negotiate your own settlement, it would be beneficial for you to have a competent attorney review your settlement to make sure you are adequately compensated. Judges in family law cases are likely to sign off on any deal placed in front of them, on the premise that both parties are adequately educated and have come to a reasonable agreement. If your spouse is represented or advised by an attorney, the deal you are being presented with will often not be in your favor. As such, it's a good idea to have your own counsel advise you.
In the end, family law cases are typically already painful enough without having to worry about being taken advantage of by the opposing party – because in cases of divorce you should not assume your soon-to-be ex-spouse has your best interests at heart. Making sure you are represented well will leave you with the peace of mind knowing that you have someone on your side to navigate through a difficult time.