ARIZONA’S FAMILY COURTS ARE OPEN, AND OPERATING EFFICIENTLY, DESPITE COVID-19

 

In the midst of the pandemic, you may be wondering how your family law matters will be affected by court closures and the constantly changing regulations caused by COVID-19. The Arizona courts are committed to minimizing spread of the virus and creating the safest environment possible while still serving the needs of the community. While family law matters are normally not an exciting part of life, sometimes they are necessary. If you are facing a family issue, such as a divorce or custody matter, a grandparent visitation dispute,  a relocation (move/away) request, or a modification or enforcement case that may need to be handled by the courts, rest assured that the Court’s COVID procedures and modification of in-person requirements will not prevent the work from getting done to help lead to a solution for you and your family. When we meet with you, we will cover all of the major points to help you understand how COVID-19 is impacting the family courts. If you want to check out the guidelines directly from the Arizona Courts here is a link.

The first thing you should know is that the family department will continue to address “essential services” in person. These include applications for orders of protections, contested hearings on orders of protection, motions for temporary emergency orders, and hearings on temporary emergency motions. In person court appearances do require the use of a mask and social distancing. Other court hearings may be held in person at the discretion of the judge.

Although emergency proceedings will continue in person, other matters are equally important. In this new era of Zoom meetings and video-conferences, the court system has adapted its process to be conducted via GoToMeeting. GoToMeeting is a secure platform that allows the judge to interact with the attorneys and the clients in a similar fashion to how they would in person. If you have an early resolution conference, mediation, open negotiations, decree on demand, parenting conference, or even a contested hearing or trial scheduled you can plan to take your video call from the comfort of your home via GoToMeeting. You’ll need to download the app, and although there is sometimes an occasional wifi related glitch, the court system and your attorney will proceed as usual in order to create a meaningful outcome.

In the early weeks of COVID-19, some cases were faced with delays and rescheduling. By now, the courts have managed to get things back on track and proceed as usual. In many instances, the Coronavirus may catapult the Arizona court system into a more modern era of technology. A video conference means dodging the stress of the courtroom, avoiding downtown traffic and parking, and preventing you from having to take unwanted time off from work for in-person court appearances. In the future, some types of court matters may be conducted by phone or video-conference permanently, even after the COVID-19 pandemic has become a thing of the past.

With the recent increase of COVID cases in Arizona, the courts have not determined when things will return to the way they were before. For now, and into the foreseeable future, the courts will operate telephonically and by video-conference as much as possible. But, in the meantime, your family law matter will continue to be a productive and meaningful process until a solution is reached.

 

At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., both Gary Frank and attorney Hanna Amar are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator. He has also acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and served on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Hanna Amar is a highly-skilled attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna is the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association.  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 actions, enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

 

DIVORCE vs. LEGAL SEPARATION – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Many clients will ask me “What is the difference between filing for divorce and filing for legal separation?” or “Will filing for legal separation put a stop to our community assets accumulating?” The general answer I give is that filing for divorce and filing for legal separation are fairly similar. However, there are a few distinct, and important, differences that clients need to know before making the decision on which route to take.

Similarities
Whether you file for divorce or for legal separation in Arizona, the marital “community” is terminated and your assets and debts will be divided. In other words, you and your spouse will no longer accumulate community property, regardless of whether you file for divorce or legal separation. Other key similarities between the two paths are that an order for child support and child custody may be entered into, and in some cases, an order for spousal maintenance as well.
If you want to legally separate, you initiate the process by filing a “Petition for Legal Separation” with the court. If you later want to divorce, or if you decide from the beginning that divorce is more appropriate than legal separation, you file a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” Other than the title of the document, the procedure in Arizona for filing a legal separation is identical to filing for divorce.

Differences
One of the following differences between filing for divorce versus filing for legal separation may be the determining factor as to why you would choose one route over the other. Here are some key differences between divorce and legal separation: (1) After you are divorced, your legal status is changed to single, as opposed to legal separation where you remain legally married; (2) You cannot re-marry if you are only legally separated; and (3) Some health insurance plans allow your coverage to continue if you are legally separated but not if you are divorced.
If one party files for legal separation, and the other party files for divorce, the court will combine and convert the legal separation case with the divorce case – basically, if one party wants a divorce, that decision overrides the other party wanting a legal separation.

Lastly, if the parties file for Legal Separation and later decide that they want to divorce, the matter can be converted to a divorce proceeding.

The decision whether to divorce or file for legal separation should be determined not only by your personal goals but also by what you want to accomplish legally.  For instance, if you’d like to stay married but want to divide your property or protect yourself from your spouse’s irresponsible spending; or if you want to separate but find it necessary to remain on your spouse’s health insurance; or if you’re not sure that you want to permanently end your relationship — then a Legal Separation may be the best route.  On the other hand, if your marriage is over and you just want to sever all ties, then a divorce is the way to go.

Hanna Amar is an attorney whose practice is focused exclusively on Family Law.  She is a graduate of Arizona State University and Summit Law School, where she was named the Vice Managing Editor of the prestigious Law Review.  Hanna is dedicated to helping families and children.  She is an attorney who deeply cares about the clients she represents. Check out our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  If you are in need of a consultation, you can always contact us by email or call our office at 602-383-3610.

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