I have no moral objection to people living together outside of marriage. Heck, I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. We practically invented the concept of “Cohabitation.”  As someone who has practiced Family Law for decades, I can tell you that a piece of paper does not ensure a lifelong commitment. And countless couples have a loving, lifelong bond even though they have chosen never to marry. The problem is that, after all these years, our lawmakers still haven’t gotten the message. And they fail to recognize that people who choose to share their life without a marriage license should still be able to share their property, and divide it fairly in the event of a breakup. This makes for some pretty unfair, and even economically dangerous, scenarios.
Most people think of marriage as having a moral or religious significance. But what many people don’t realize is that whether we like it or not, marriage also has a legalsignificance. And what you don’t know can hurt you. The fact is that the law provides certain protections for a married spouse that do not exist outside of marriage. And the results can be disastrous following the breakup of an unmarried couple.
Over the years, I have seen instances in which a couple breaks up after years of cohabitation, and one of them walks away with essentially all of the money and property while the other partner comes away with nothing. It’s heartbreaking. A legal marriage would have provided the protection that the vulnerable partner needed. But Arizona provides no protection for a cohabiting couple. Some states (like Texas) recognize “common law marriage.” Arizona does not. Other states (like California) provide some protection in the form of “palimony” (similar to alimony).  Arizona has rejected that theory. The problem is that couples who choose to live together outside of marriage are taking a legal risk when it comes to division of property and financial support.
Here are some of the pitfalls of being an unmarried, cohabiting couple:
In Arizona, division of property following a marital breakup is governed by the old Spanish concept of “Community Property” Law. Under this legal concept, there are two kinds of property: Separate Property and Community Property. Following a legal separation or divorce, the husband and wife will each receive his and her separate property, and the community property will be shared equally. But if the parties are not married, there is no “community property.” That means nothing is shared, and the “richer” party – the one who actually purchased the house, the car, the furniture, etc. – may walk away with everything. Here’s why:
Separate Property:  Under Arizona law, separate property is anything a spouse owns before the marriage, and any property that he/she receives during the marriage by specific gift or inheritance. So, for instance, the husband’s old baseball card collection from childhood, or the family heirloom that Wife received as a gift from her grandmother – those things are separate property and will be awarded to the owner in the property division upon dissolution of marriage. If one of the spouses receives an inheritance of money from a grandparent during the marriage, the inheritance is considered separate property so long as it is kept separately or placed in an account in that spouse’s name alone. But if the money is comingled to the point where it can no longer be traced, such as being placed in a joint bank account that is used for salary deposits and payment of bills, it may lose its character as separate property and become “transmuted” (changed) to community property. Separate property also includes any increase that is tied to sale or appreciation of separate property. For example, if a spouse uses her separate funds to buy stock in a company, and the stock increases in value, the increase is considered separate property.

When a marriage is dissolved, the separate property will be identified and awarded to the spouse that it belongs to. All other property belonging to the parties is considered to be community property, and will be divided substantially equally.

However, if the parties are living together but aren’t married, then everything either party earns, buys, or acquires is considered to be the separate property of that person (unless the title is taken in joint tenancy or the acquisition is based on a partnership). There is no community property to be divided.

Community Property: Community property under Arizona law is defined as all property (other than separate property) acquired by either spouse during the marriage.  Under community property theory, each party owns the property equally. This means that whatever a spouse earns from his/her employment is community property, and anything that is purchased with monies earned by either spouse is community property. So, if a spouse cashes a paycheck and uses the money to buy a car, that car is community property and belongs to both spouses equally. If she or he opens a brokerage account using community funds and invests in stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, then that account, and all future growth, is considered to be community property and belongs to both spouses equally. Furniture purchased with community funds is community property. Money contributed to a pension, retirement account, or 401k by one spouse during a marriage is community property and belongs to both spouses 50/50. And if one spouse starts a business during the marriage, that business is also considered to be community property, even if only one spouse runs it.
Over the course of a lengthy marriage, couples can accumulate a large amount of community property. And if the marriage falls apart and the couple divorces, the community property will be divided between the parties essentially equally. This can provide financial security for the spouse who didn’t have the high paying job, or who stayed home and cared for the children while the other spouse acted as the breadwinner.
But here is the potential problem with cohabitation:  If a couple couple lives together but never marries, there will be no “community property” to divide if they later separate — and the law in Arizona does not provide any protection for the “poorer” partner. This can result in a terrible inequity. Imagine a couple who has lived together without marrying for twenty-five years. During that time, one of the partners purchased a business that became a successful and lucrative enterprise. With his earnings, he purchases a massive house in a gated community (which he puts in his own name) and furnishes it beautifully, and he buys expensive automobiles (also in his name alone). He puts money in investment accounts, and retirement accounts (all in his name). He buys life insurance policies, and paintings by famous artists. Finally, he opens a joint account which he places in both partners’ names, but he only deposits a little money each month to cover household expenses.
If the parties were married and filed for divorce under that scenario, then by law everything would be considered community property and would be divided equally. On the other hand, if the parties were not married it becomes an entirely different story. All of the property – the cash in banks, the house, the furniture, the cars, the business, the stocks and investment accounts, the life insurances policies, the valuable works of art – they’re all the separate property of only the one partner. The other partner gets nothing but half of the joint bank account, and there isn’t much money there, since only enough was deposited each month to pay for household expenses. So after all those years of living together as partners in a committed relationship, one party walks away with everything and will live the rest of his or her life in comfort. The other party gets nothing and will suffer financial deprivation.
Spousal Maintenance:
In many committed relationships – whether marital or cohabiting – one of the partners will take on the role of the breadwinner, while the other remains in the home and cares for the children. This allows the partner who is not the caregiver to focus on his/her career; to advance through the ranks of the business world, and increase his/her income and earning power over the years. This type of arrangement can work well, so long as the parents’ relationship lasts.  But what happens if, after 15 or 20 years the relationship deteriorates and parties separate? The working partner might now be earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, with the prospect of further advancement and an even higher income in the future. On the other hand, what becomes of the partner who gave up her/his career for the benefit of the family? That person might now be his/her 50’s, no longer a young up-and-comer. Because she or he jumped off the fast track to care for the kids, the prospect of a lucrative career is now gone, and she/he may be forced to take a job with an entry-level salary. How is that fair?
Arizona law provides protection for a married person under these circumstances. The married spouse who sacrificed for the family will be entitled to financial assistance from the other spouse in the form of Spousal Maintenance. The party with the greater wealth will be ordered to financially support the other party for a sufficient period of time to allow that party to complete an education or begin a career and get on her/his feet. (In rare circumstances, the court can require spousal maintenance be paid for the rest of the former spouse’s life.) In order to determine the amount that the person will receive, and how long the support will continue be paid, the judge will consider a number of factors listed in the statute. The amount of monthly spousal support will be dependent upon the lifestyle the family enjoyed during the marriage, the parties’ comparative incomes, the needs of the party seeking spousal maintenance, and a number of other factors.
But the obligation to pay spousal support only applies when the parties were married. Where parties were unmarried and living together, the richer party has no legal obligation whatsoever to help the poorer party financially after the relationship ends. This lack of legal protection can especially hurt a party who gave up her/his career to stay home and care for the children.
If a married person dies without a Will in Arizona, the surviving spouse will receive the entire estate of the deceased spouse.
On the other hand, if a person who is unmarried and cohabiting dies without a Will in Arizona, the scenario is much different. In that case, the deceased person’s property will be distributed by Arizona’s law of intestate succession – and none of it will go to the surviving partner. If the deceased person has children, then the entire estate will go to the children. If there are no children, then all of the dead person’s property will go to his/her parents; and if the parents are no longer alive, then the property will go to deceased person’s siblings. Unless the surviving partner’s name is on the house, or the car, or the bank accounts, the life insurance policy etc., then she/he will receive nothing at all.
There is a similar scenario for Social Security. If a married person dies, his/her spouse will likely receive a Social Security death benefit. But if the two parties are not married, then the surviving partner will receive nothing (although the children could receive a death benefit).
This may all seem unfair – and I agree that it is. But the bottom line is this: Under the current law there are important protections afforded to married couples that are not provided for unmarried couples who are cohabiting. Our lawmakers have turned a blind eye to the reality of relationships today and, at least in Arizona, it is unlikely that they will act to close the gap any time soon.
Obviously, marrying your partner is one way to protect yourself but, for many different reasons, not everyone wants to take that route in life. The good news is that there are other ways to provide protection. These include setting up joint bank accounts and having both partners deposit their paychecks; opening joint investment accounts; putting together your own IRA or retirement account and having the “richer” partner put an equal amount in yours as he/she puts in his/hers; putting your name on the house title, and the car title, in joint tenancy, so that you are half-owner; etc.
You can also protect yourself by entering into a written Domestic Partnership, or other partnership, agreement that spells out the rights of both parties and describes how property will be divided in the event that the relationship ends and the parties separate.

If you are living with a partner in a committed relationship outside of marriage, you owe it to yourself to consider whether you might be economically harmed if the relationship ends today, or even more importantly, twenty years from now.  It could mean the difference between living a comfortable lifestyle after a separation – or having to struggle financially and worry how you’re going to be able to make ends meet.



At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., both Gary Frank and attorney Hanna Juncaj are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator, which includes having acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court; and serving on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Hanna Juncaj is a highly-skilled attorney and mediator with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. We handle Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate to call our office at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at   We look forward to hearing from you.


Our attorney, Gary Frank, has long been a staunch supporter of civil rights, including marital rights for the LGBT community.  Now that same-sex marriage is finally a reality, it is important for gay and lesbian couples to understand their new rights, and how to protect themselves in the unfortunate event that a divorce or separation occurs.

We can help you preserve your property before a marriage takes place by preparing a Prenuptial Agreement.  And we can protect you throughout the divorceprocess by making sure you receive a fair division of property; and that spousal maintenance is awarded if a party is entitled to it under Arizona law.  If you have children, we will work hard to ensure that you come away with a legal decision-makingand parenting-time plan that is in their best interests and yours, and that child support is included. 

If divorce is inevitable, it is always a good idea to explore peaceful alternatives as a first option, before jumping headlong into an adversarial and often expensive litigation.  Mediation and collaborative divorce are two such options.  Mr. Frank is a compassionate mediator with many years of experience working with families, including LGBT couples. 

When acting as a divorce attorney, Mr. Frank encourages his clients to engage in mediation.  He will help you choose a top-notch mediator and he’ll guide you through the process, giving you the best odds of a favorable outcome.  But while mediation is often successful it does not always result in a settlement, and sometimes divorcing parties have no choice but to turn to the courts to resolve their issues.  In that scenario, Mr. Frank is a strong and experienced Family Law litigator who will fight to protect your interests.   

If you are in need of representation, or even if you’d just like a consultation to learn about your legal rights, please do not hesitate to contact us. You can reach the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C. by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at [email protected].  We’d be happy to help you.


People seem to always pine for the “good old days.”  And, sure, there is plenty to complain about today, but America in 2015 is far more tolerant, compassionate, and evolved than at any time in U.S. History — or maybe even human history.
When I was growing up in the 1960’s . . . 
 Cohabitation was scandalous;

A female who had sex before marriage was a “slut” (but the same was not true for a male – after all, he was just being a guy);
Children born out of wedlock were referred to as “bastards” and were shunned by society through no fault of their own;
Interracial marriage was against the law in most states.  An interracial couple could be arrested, convicted, and sentenced to prison for the mere “crime” of falling in love and getting married;

Bi-racial children were shunned, too;
Interfaith marriage was considered an abomination – couples who married outside of their faith were often excommunicated from their church and disowned by their families;
Gay marriage was not even something people could dream about.  Sodomy laws were in place in every state, making homosexuality illegal.  And those laws were used to prosecute gays.  “Coming out of the closet” meant risking becoming the victim of societal abuse, both legal and physical;
Divorce was not just frowned-upon – the law made it almost impossible to get out of a bad marriage.  It was not enough to show that the parties were no longer in love or that they found it impossible to live together.  To obtain a legal divorce required a husband or wife to prove sufficient “grounds,” such as abandonment, abuse, or infidelity.  Women often came away from divorce impoverished, regardless of the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage.  And to be a divorced person, or a child of divorce, was seen as a public embarrassment;

Mothers were almost always awarded sole custody of the children by the divorce court.  And regardless of how active and involved a father might have been in his children’s lives – he was given only “visitation”;  

Domestic violence was rampant, as it is today.  But, back then, it was considered a parent’s right to keep his or her children in line by the use of corporal punishment, however severe.  And if a man chose to abuse his wife it was viewed as a family matter, and nobody else’s business;
Women had few employment opportunities.  “A Woman’s Place is in the Home” was not just a saying – societal rules were built to make sure that women remained economically helpless and subservient.  Universities had quotas for women and many jobs were off-limits, including executive-level positions in banks and corporations.  Women, no matter how capable and intelligent, were offered employment mainly as factory workers, teachers, administrators, or secretaries.  There was no “glass-ceiling” for women — instead, the ceiling was made of concrete.   So were the walls.  To break through those barriers took a herculean effort;  

For a father to stay at home and take care of the children was unheard of — it was not considered “manly.”  Fathers were locked into the role of “Provider.”  And being the sole source of income for the family was a responsibility that left little time for dads to be loving, nurturing parents to their children. 

Looking back on the “idyllic days “of the past is a fantasy.  The “good old days” weren’t really so good.  In fact, in many ways, life has never been better than it is right now.  

Want to know the truth?   These are the “good old days.”


Gary J. Frank is an attorney and mediator with over thirty years of Family Law experience in dealing in divorcecustody, and parenting issues. For many years he acted as a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, which gave him an insight into the inner workings of the courts that many attorneys lack.  In addition to representing Family Law clients in litigation, we are also willing to help people by working with them on a Limited-Scope or Consultation-Only basis.  Our office is located in the Biltmore area of central Phoenix, with satellite offices in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Arizona.  We can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or by email at [email protected]  You can also reach us through our website at  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, contact us today.  We’d be happy to help.




It’s a groundbreaking decision.  The U.S. District Court, on Friday, ruled that Arizona must recognize the California marriage of Fred McQuire and George Martinez. 
Both McQuire and Martinez were Vietnam veterans who lived in Arizona.  First, McQuire was diagnosed with prostate cancer (caused by exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam); and in June of this year, Martinez was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  He was given only a few months to live.  The two had been partners for over 40 years and had made a lifetime commitment to each other.  With time running out, they traveled to California and were married.  They then filed an emergency motion asking the Court to require Arizona to recognize the marriage so that McQuire could be listed as a spouse on Martinez’s death certificate.  Martinez died on August 28, 2014.  The Court’s landmark ruling makes them the first same-sex couple whose marriage is legal in this state.
The Gay Marriage issue is more than a philosophical argument.  Marriage has important legal consequences.  A married spouse is entitled to protections not granted to someone who is cohabiting.  If you are married and your spouse dies, you could be legally entitled to a portion of your deceased spouse’s estate, and you may be entitled to veteran’s benefits and Social Security survivor’s benefits.  If you are married and file for divorce, you will be legally entitled to half of the community property accumulated during the marriage.  You may also be entitled to spousal support.  On the other hand, if you are cohabiting but are not legally married, you are entitled to none of these things.  If your partner dies you are not entitled to his/her veteran’s or social security benefits, and you have no legal rights to the estate unless specifically provided by a Will.  When a cohabiting couple splits up, there is no community property, and you will not be eligible for spousal support even if your role was to give up your job and stay home to care for the children for the past twenty years.
Among those opposing Gay Marriage is the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the state of Arizona at the hearing.  Attorney James Campbell summed up their position with these words:  “The integrity of the state’s marriage definition, which has existed since the state’s inception is of the utmost importance.  It can’t change it, not even for one person.”  But that kind of twisted logic cannot withstand scrutiny.  Marriages between Blacks and Whites were illegal at the inception of Arizona’s statehood, too — and I’m sure there were those who argued that the prohibition should remain on the books because it had always been there, and that changing it would violate the sanctity of marriage — yet we had the good sense to invalidate such an inhumane law.  The ban on same-sex marriage is equally prejudicial, as well as unconstitutional, and it will be the next to fall.  That was made clear by Federal Court Judge John Sedwick who, in explaining his decision, wrote: 
“The court has not yet decided whether there is a conflict between Arizona law and the Constitution, but the court has decided that it is probable that there is such a conflict and that Arizona will be required to permit same-sex marriages.”
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court heard arguments last week in same-sex marriage cases out of Idaho, Nevada, and Hawaii.  Whatever ruling it makes will apply to Arizona.  Over the past few years, one Federal Court after another has invalidated bans against same-sex marriage.  Soon almost half the states in the U.S. will have legalized Gay Marriage.  The issue may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the writing is already on the wall.

The Gay Marriage debate is about dignity and human rights.  But it is about more than that.  It is also about legal rights and the protection that the law affords couples who are married.

The Law Office of Gary J. Frank has been a fixture in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Gary Frank is a Family Law litigator, a mediator, and a former Judge Pro Tem.  Our firm handles a wide array of cases, such as divorce, domestic partnerships, custody, relocation, paternity, child and spousal support, division of property and businesses, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all matters relating to families and children.  If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate. Contact us today.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at [email protected], or through our website at  We’d be honored to help you.



As Boomers age and a new generation takes over, public perception of Gay Marriage has undergone a massive change.  Today, the gender equality movement is gaining ground and picking up speed.  Same-sex marriage has now been legalized in seventeen states, and that number is growing.  Federal courts have thrown out Gay Marriage bans in California, Virginia, and Kentucky; and, according to the Arizona Republic, “there are (currently) more than two dozen lawsuits challenging restrictions on marriage for same-sex couples across the country.”

This week a lawsuit was filed in Federal Court challenging Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban.  The plaintiffs claim that defining marriage “as between one man and one woman” violates the rights of Gay citizens to equal protection and due process, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.  This same theory has been argued successfully in other recent cases.

What started as a trickle has become a flood.  A tsunami of tolerance.

Gary J. Frank is an Arizona attorney and mediator with over thirty years of Family Law experience. For many years he acted as a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, which gave him an insight into the inner workings of the courts that many attorneys lack.  His office is located in the Biltmore area of central Phoenix, with satellite offices in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Arizona.  He can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or by email at [email protected]  You can also contact him through his website at  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to contact us today.


What do Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Sedona, Jerome, Bisbee, and Tucson have in common?  They have all approved “Civil Unions.”  A wave of tolerance is sweeping over our state – and it will continue spreading until marriage equality becomes a reality, not only in Arizona but throughout our country.

The Law Office of Gary J. Frank has been a fixture in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Gary Frank is a Family Law litigator, a mediator, and a former Judge Pro Tem.  Our firm handles a wide array of cases, such as divorce, custody, relocation, paternity, child and spousal support, division of property and businesses, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all matters relating to families and children.  If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate.  Contact us today.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at [email protected], or through our website at  We’d be honored to help you.

Our Changing World – A Victory for Tolerance

Working mothers.  Stay-at-home dads.  Gay marriage.  Single-parent adoption.  Interracial marriage.  Interfaith marriage.  Blended families . . .

Our world, and the very concept of “Family,” is changing in ways that our grandparents never could have imagined. And it is changing for the better.

It is a victory for freedom.  A victory for tolerance.  We live in the only society in human history where something like this could be possible.

The Law Office of Gary J. Frank has been a fixture in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Gary Frank is a Family Law litigator, a mediator, and a former Judge Pro Tem.  Our firm handles a wide array of cases, such as divorce, custody, relocation, paternity, child and spousal support, division of property and businesses, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all matters relating to families and children.  If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate.  Contact us today.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at [email protected], or through our website at  We’d be honored to help you.


A man and woman file for divorce in Arizona. They have a child, and then two more. Custody of their children becomes a disputed issue. They ask the judge to decide. But the judge refuses. He claims the court does not have jurisdiction. Why? Because Arizona law states that a marriage is only valid if it is between a man and a woman. Same sex marriages are forbidden.
But hold on . . . we’re not talking about a same-sex marriage. The parties obtained an official marriage license based on the fact that one spouse was a man and the other was a woman. And they went on to conceive and give birth to three children.
This is where the story takes an unexpected turn.
The wife, as it turns out, did not give birth to the children. The husband did. Thomas Beatie, the husband, was born a female. Throughout his life, he always felt that he was a man trapped in a female body – even when he entered beauty pageants and worked as a model. In 2002, Mr. Beatie underwent male hormone therapy and had his upper body reconstructed. He married a year later. When his wife was unable to conceive a child, her husband was the logical choice. He still had his female reproductive organs. So, with the help of a fertility doctor, Mr. Beatie became pregnant and gave birth to three children.
Now the couple has filed for divorce. However, a Superior Court judge has concluded that the Arizona court does not have jurisdiction of the matter. He reasons that the father (Mr. Beatie) is the biological mother of the children. Thus, the marriage is not between a man and a woman and it is, therefore, invalid under Arizona law.
We no longer live in the world of our grandparents. This is the 21st century. We have become a more tolerant and enlightened society. Science has made things possible that our ancestors could never have dreamed. And the law has to grow and transform in order to keep pace with advances in technology, medical ethics, and human understanding.
Change is coming, and it is coming fast. We must be prepared to meet the challenges that the future throws at us, in order to make this world a better place.

Gary Frank has practiced Family Law in the prestigious Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years. Mr. Frank has acted as a Superior Court Judge Pro Tem and a Mediator, in addition to representing clients as a courtroom litigator in divorce, custody, paternity, enforcement, modification, move-away, grandparent rights, non-parent rights, division of property, and other Family Law matters. If you are in need of a consultation, please give us a call today at 602-383-3610. You can contact us by email at [email protected], or through our web site at We’d be happy to help you.

Ratings and Reviews