The A-B-C’s of Divorce

Divorce can be stressful and confusing. It’s always good to have a plan. So to assure that your divorce goes smoothly, follow these steps – from A to Z. 

A – Ask questions – If you have a question for your attorney, ask it! Asking questions can help you to stay informed and ease any anxiety you may have.

B – Be smart – Think about everything you do and say before you do it, or say it. You should always assume your ex (or soon-to-be-ex) is recording your phone conversations and taking screen shots of your texts, emails, and posts on social media, and that the judge will eventually see them.

C – Create a checklist of things you need to do – After you make the decision to get a divorce, start keeping a list of things you need to do (get any documents together, speak with an attorney, etc.) It will keep you well-organized and prevent you from forgetting something important.

D – Don’t get caught up in your feelings – Try not to make decisions based on your emotions throughout this process. Wait until the storm has passed and you can think more clearly. That’s not to say you can’t have feelings and emotions—you can, and you should. Allow yourself to feel however you are feeling, but don’t act in the heat of the moment; you’ll certainly regret it later.

E – Every case is different – You may have one friend who is telling you how quick and easy her divorce was, while your other friend went through a divorce that took years and was extremely high conflict. Don’t compare yourself to others. Every case is truly so different!

F – Focus on the moment – Take things one step at a time. Thinking about the past and dwelling on things you both could have done differently will not help, nor will thinking about the future and worrying about how things will change. Live in the moment and take it day by day.

G – Get your documents organized – Organize everything! Get copies of any tax and income documents, bank and credit card statements, signed contracts, real estate documents, insurance policies, documents related to investments or retirement accounts, estate planning documents, etc. Getting things together now will save you lots of time, energy, and money in the future!

H – Have reasonable expectations – Try and remember that sometimes things are not as quick and easy as you’d like. Be patient and understand that the divorce process can be long and often exhausting. Try to manage your expectations and be as realistic as possible. If you’re not sure what to expect, talk to your attorney.

I – Identify what makes you happy – Focus on what makes you happy during this difficult time of your life. Find a new hobby, spend time with friends, practice self-care, etc. Do whatever you have to do to feel good!

J – Journal – Keeping a journal is probably one of the best decisions you could make throughout this process. In this journal, jot down all events involving custody and visitation, any conversations you might have had with your soon to be ex, etc. You don’t have to include too many details—just keep it accurate and to the point. That journal could later refresh your memory when the trial rolls around, and you might be able to use it in court to prove that something happened on a certain date.

K – Keep the other parent informed – If you have children, make sure you are keeping the other parent in the loop. Let them know if the child is sick and you made a doctor’s appointment; or of any upcoming school events, conferences, breaks, etc. Send them copies of any report cards, doctor’s notes, and anything else you think they might want to see. Having a good co-parenting relationship with your ex will help your children tremendously in the future.

L – List out your property – On top of compiling lots of documents, it will be super helpful for you to make a list of all your property, such as furniture, vehicles, and other personal items. Be sure to differentiate between property you came into the marriage with, property you got during the marriage, and property you received by gift or inheritance.

M – Manage your stress and anxiety – Try and deal with any stress or anxiety you may have in a positive way. Don’t look to drugs or alcohol, that will certainly not help you in the long term. Getting outside, exercising, eating right, meditating, and practicing self-care are all really great ways to manage your stress and anxiety. It’s also never a bad idea to speak with a licensed therapist; they can teach you techniques to manage your stress and help you talk through your feelings in a really positive way.

N – Never share with others what you have discussed with your attorney – Conversations you have with your attorney and their staff are protected by attorney-client privilege. Once you share what was discussed in your conversation with others, that conversation is no longer privileged and confidential, and you or your attorney could be forced to disclose it in court.

O – Oaths are taken seriously by the court – When you sign court documents, speak in a deposition, or speak in court, you are doing so under oath. Any discrepancies in your stories will lead to a loss of trust by the judge and ultimately can subject you to perjury. Just tell the truth and you will not have to worry!

P – Pace yourself – Divorces can take quite a while to be finalized. Be patient and don’t rush it!

Q – Qualifications are important, but so is how an attorney makes you feel – When you are looking for an attorney, don’t just look at their credentials. While credentials and experience are extremely important, so is how you “click” with your attorney. An attorney should make you feel comfortable and heard.

R – Refrain from speaking negatively in public about your ex – This is truly one of the most important pieces of advice I could give to someone go through divorce. Do not speak negatively about your ex to others, do not speak negatively about them to their friends or family, and most certainly do not post about them on social media!!! This is especially true if you have children. It will not do you any good to badmouth your ex, and it could hurt your court case.

S – Substantiate your claims – Document everything! Organize documents you already have and keep any documents you get throughout this entire process. On top of important documents like tax returns and bank statements, keep other documents like photos, copies of emails, and copies of text messages. These may all be helpful throughout your case.

T – Talk about alternatives to litigation – We believe it is never a bad idea to look to alternatives to litigation, such as mediation, whenever possible. Mediation can be a really peaceful, cost-effective option for both parties. It allows you to be in charge of negotiating the terms of your own divorce and property division, rather than leaving those important decisions to a stranger (the judge).

U – Understand the law and your rights – While it is important to trust that your attorney has a good understanding of the law and your rights, it’s also very important for you to have a basic understanding of those things, too. Having a genuine understanding of the law will help you to make the best decisions possible for you and your family. Take the time to do some research, read some books, and most importantly, ask lots of questions of your attorney.

V – Value the advice you are given – Those who truly value and consider the advice they are given by their attorney are those that are most successful. With that being said, ultimately only you know what’s best for you! Don’t be afraid to talk to your attorney if you are uncomfortable about the case plan.

W – Work hard to keep the peace – It can absolutely be difficult at times to deal with an ex without losing your cool. However, the more you keep the peace, the easier and quicker the process will be! (P.S. – Compromise is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean giving-in to unreasonable demands.)

X – Xpect some stress – Okay, I know this doesn’t actually start with an “x” but it’s close enough! Throughout the process, you can expect that there will be some stress. You will likely feel overwhelmed at times. If you don’t feel like you can deal with the stress on your own, look to a licensed counselor to help you get through it, and lean on family and friends as a source of support.

Y – You do have some control over the outcome – While ultimately there are some parts of divorce that you do not have control over, there are some parts that you do. Make wise decisions, and when in doubt, ask your attorney for advice before you act.

Z – ZZZ (Get some rest!) – Ok, “z” is a hard letter to come up with something for! But really, get those “ZZZs” and make sure you sleep well. Being well rested will help you mentally, physically, and emotionally.

By Logan Matura

 

At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., our Arizona Family Law Attorneys Gary Frank, Hanna Amar, and Logan Matura are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Phoenix 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. Law firm Partner, Hanna Amar is a highly-skilled Arizona Family Law Attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna has also acted as the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association. Associate Attorney Logan Matura is an Arizona Family Law Attorney who received her Juris Doctor degree from New York Law School in Manhattan, NY. While in law school, she served as an intern for a Family Court judge in the Bronx, NY, and was a member of the Family Attorneys Mobilizing club. Our firm handles 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 step-parent and non-parent rights, as well as 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.

 

It Does Not Take Two To Tango — Dealing Personality Disorders

Most people think that a “high-conflict divorce” necessarily involves two people who are angry and unreasonable. But that’s not always the case. When one party to a divorce suffers from a borderline, narcissistic, or other type of personality disorder, he or she can pull the entire family into a “knock-down/drag-out” litigation.  A person with a personality disorder often lacks basic compassion and/or the willingness to compromise for the benefit of the children.  He or she may be driven by revenge or the desire to inflict emotional pain and suffering — and appealing to this person’s sense of reason and logic is of no avail.  This may make it difficult or impossible to negotiate a fair settlement, leaving no alternative but to go to trial.  Our firm brings many different strategies to the table when dealing with an opposing party with a personality disorder. For instance, sending out subpoenas for medical or counseling records will allow us to obtain important information on the person’s physical and psychological background; Drug testing may be warranted if there is a history of drug or alcohol abuse; A deposition can give us great insight into the mind of the person being deposed — it can enable us to obtain admissions of guilt, and it will also give us clues which may lead to other critical information that can be successfully utilized at trial; And the appointment of court experts to conduct interviews, mental health evaluations, or family assessments can prove to be of great value in diagnosing a personality disorder that may not have previously been formally discovered. These are a few of the many strategies we typically employ in high-conflict Family Court litigation involving people who may have personality disorders. If you find yourself in this situation, then you’ll need a strong advocate — an attorney who will fight hard to protect your interests. If you are in need of a consultation, Contact us today.

 

The Law Office of Gary J. Frank has been a fixture in the prestigious Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Gary Frank and Hanna Amar are strong Family Law litigators and mediators with a wealth of experience both in the courtroom and in settlement negotiations.  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, same sex divorce and custody, and all matters relating to families and children.  If you are in need of a legal consultation, please do not hesitate to Contact us today.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at [email protected] and [email protected], or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’d be honored to help you.

DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS IN ARIZONA

I have recently been asked, by a number of people, whether Arizona recognizes Domestic Partnerships, and how it compares to marital rights.   Domestic partnerships are recognized in Arizona, but only for limited purposes, such as where a patient in a hospital is unable to make or communicate healthcare treatment decisions.  Arizona Revised Statutes §36-3231 provides that, in cases where the patient is unmarried, a domestic partner may be allowed to act as a surrogate.  Certain cities in Arizona recognize domestic partnerships and have registries where partners can file a declaration of domestic partnership or a civil union, but their rights are generally restricted to visiting the other partner in a hospital or health care facility.  Some insurance companies provide options for domestic partners, and others don’t.  You would have to contact your insurance company to determine what, if any, benefits are provided.
It is important to note that there is no law in Arizona giving domestic partners the same or similar rights as a couple who is married.  By law, married couples in Arizona have inheritance rights; the right to be covered on health insurance policies; the right to make healthcare decisions for a spouse under certain circumstances; and, in the event of a divorce, the right to a fair division of community property, the right to receive spousal maintenance (if they qualify under the statute), and parental rights.  For domestic partners, however, none of those things are automatic, and some of them (such as a community propertydivision, and receiving spousal maintenance) are precluded under Arizona law.

Now that both heterosexual and same-sex couples have the right to marry in Arizona and all other states, domestic partnerships and civil unions are not as favored, and the development of laws around these forms of partnership has slowed.  A marriage provides far more legal protection than a domestic partnership, a civil union, or cohabitation.

If you have questions about domestic partnership law and your legal rights, I suggest that you make an appointment for a consultation with a Family Law attorney.

Gary Frank & Jacinda Chen

 

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 www.garyfranklaw.com.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, contact us today.  We’d be happy to help.

SAME-SEX FAMILY LAW — WE CAN PROTECT YOUR INTERESTS

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.

DIVIDING PROPERTY IN A DIVORCE – HOW THE ARIZONA FAMILY COURT DOES IT

One of the first and most vital steps in a divorce is figuring out the division of property.  Naturally, people want to know how Arizona courts will divide their property.  Below are some of the most commonly asked questions that I hear from clients:
How does Arizona divide property in a divorce?
All states are either community property states or equitable division states.  Arizona is one of nine community property states.  Community Property is based on the theory that a married couple is a team, and the role that each spouse plays benefits the team.  One may be the breadwinner, the other might care for the children; or they may both work and share the childcare responsibilities – but it’s a team effort.  Therefore, the law provides that income earned by either party, and anything purchased or accumulated with that income during the marriage, is considered to be community property, belonging to both parties 50/50.  If the parties later divorce, then the community property will be divided substantially equally.
How does the court determine what is Community Property versus Separate Property?
In a divorce, the court must determine what constitutes “Separate Property,”  and what constitutes “Community Property.”
Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-211 defines Community Property as all property acquired during marriage except for property acquired by gift, devise, or descent (inheritance).  This means that salary, bonuses, and commissions earned by each spouse through employment are community property.  Employment income placed in a bank account (regardless of the name on the account) is generally considered to be community property.  Stocks, bonds, and brokerage accounts accumulated during the marriage are community property. Houses and cars purchased with marital funds constitute community property (unless the other spouse signs a deed disclaiming his or her community property interest).  Furniture and personal items purchased with community monies will be considered community property, unless there is evidence that it was a gift. And monies contributed to pensions, 401k,’s IRA’s, and other retirement accounts during the marriage are considered to be community property.

Arizona Revised Statutes, § 25-213 defines Separate Property as anything acquired by a spouse before the date of marriage or after service of petition for divorce (if the divorce actually goes through).  Gifts and/or money received by way of inheritance during the marriage are also separate property.  All of the rents, profits, earnings, dividends, and interest on separate property remain separate property.

In other words, your old baseball card collection is separate property.   The Barbie dolls your mother saved from when you were a kid – separate property.  That family heirloom your Aunt Gladys gave you last Christmas – separate property.  The money your grandfather left you when he died – separate property.  The 60” TV and surround sound system you bought with that inheritance – separate property.  The stock you purchased with grandpa’s money (which went up 10% last year) – also separate property.  If you owned a house prior to your marriage, then rented it out after you got married — the rental income is your separate property.  If you later sold that house and used the money to buy another house in your own name – well, that new house is your separate property, too (even if you and your new spouse are living in it).

BUT WARNING:  If you’re not careful, what starts out as separate property can be magically changed into community property during the marriage – as will be explained below.

The “marital community” terminates when a spouse files and serves a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, or an Annulment.  Thereafter, income earned by either party (which was considered to be community property) is now the separate property of the person who earns it.

What does the statute mean when it says the court divides community property “equitably”?
Equitable division does not always mean an equal division.  What it really means is a “fair” division.  The court is not required to divide community property exactly equally; but it cannot, without reason, create a gross disparity or make its award arbitrarily.  In the absence of sound reasons which justify contrary results, apportionment of the community estate upon dissolution of marriage must be “substantially equal.”
In making an equitable division, the court may consider the length of marriage as part of any unequal division. The court can also divide property unequally if it determines that one of the spouses wasted community assets (for example, if one of the spouses gambled away thousands of dollars, or spent community funds on drugs, etc.)
What happens if separate property is commingled with community property?
When community property is mixed with separate property, the potential issue of “commingling” arises.  Commingling happens when, for instance, a spouse puts the funds from her grandmother’s inheritance into a joint account that belongs to both spouses; or when a spouse’s salary from work (community property) is deposited into the checking account that he set up prior to the marriage in his own name (separate property).
Mixing separate and community funds makes for a confusing situation, and it can lead to the loss of your separate monies.  Funds that are mixed can retain their character as separate property, but only if you can still figure out what funds come from where.  You must be able to trace the separate assets.  However, when separate and community monies are mixed there is a legal presumption that the new “pot” of commingled funds is entirely community property.  The burden is upon the one claiming that the proceeds are separate property to prove, by clear and satisfactory evidence,” that the separate property portion can be traced. And this is no easy task.
Can property lose its character as separate property and become “transmuted” into community property?
Absolutely!  Here’s an example:  If you are depositing your separate funds into a community property account and, over time, you are writing checks, making deposits and withdrawals, etc. — eventually the separate and community monies will become mixed to such an extent that you can’t trace it or figure out what belongs to who.  At that point, it has undergone “transmutation.”  Your separate money has lost its character separate property.  It is now community property and will be divided essentially equally in a divorce.
Can a person unintentionally make a “gift” of separate property to the marital community?
Yes.  A common scenario is where a party contributes separate funds to pay a down-payment on a marital home that is taken in joint tenancy.  Years later, one of the parties files for divorce and, when the house is sold, the party who contributed the separate funds for the down-payment wants his/her money back, claiming that it was intended as a loan, and not a gift.
The necessary elements to find that a gift was made include: (1) donative intent, meaning that you intended to make a gift, (2) delivery, meaning that the gift was actually delivered to the other person’s possession, and (3) a vesting of irrevocable title upon such delivery, meaning that you delivered the gift with no intention of retaining any sort of interest in the piece of property any longer.
Under Arizona law, there is a presumption that contribution of separate assets to community property equals a gift.  The presumption can be rebutted through clear and convincing evidence showing that there was no intent to make the alleged gift.  But this is a steep hill to climb.  In the scenario above, rebutting the presumption of a gift will be extremely difficult without a written memo or other persuasive evidence of intent.
How can I protect my separate property?
Here are some ways that you can protect your separate property:
·      (1)  Keep your pre-marital monies in a separate bank account in your own name;
·      (2)  Avoid commingling;
·      (3)  If you are buying a house together and you are contributing your separate monies to the down payment, be sure to draft a written memo confirming your intention that the use of separate funds to pay the down payment (or any other payment) is a loan from the marital community and is to be paid back upon sale of the property – and make sure your spouse signs the memo;
·      (4)  Place your separate property in a living revocable trust;
·      (5)  Obtain “innocent spouse” status (the IRS provides this status to spouses to relieve them of the responsibility for paying taxes that the other spouse owes);

·      (6)  If you receive an inheritance, place the money in a bank account in your name alone, and do not mix it with community funds (for instance, make sure not to deposit your employment income into that account).

If you have substantial separate-property assets and/or if you do not want your employment income to be considered community property, then you would be well-advised to have an attorney prepare a valid Prenuptial Agreement (or a Postnuptial agreement, if you are already married).  The agreement will need to conform to the law and be signed by both spouses.

 

Our Family Law Firm is here to help you work through even the most difficult and complicated property division matters. Gary J. Frank is an Arizona attorney and former Judge Pro Tem with over thirty years of experience in dealing with custody and parenting time issues in Family Court.  Hanna Juncaj is a highly skilled litigator, a compassionate counselor, and a strong advocate for every one of her Family Law clients. To schedule a personal consultation with our attorneys, you may contact us by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.

The issues in this blog are provided general informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice in your particular case, nor should it be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship.  Every Family Court case is unique.  If you have a matter that appears similar to any of the scenarios that you read in this blog, you should be aware that: (1) even a slight difference in a factual situation can lead to a vastly different result; and (2) the laws are constantly changing and new laws are continually being enacted.  Legal advice cannot be given without a full consideration of all relevant information relating to your individual situation.  Therefore, if you have an important legal issue, you should obtain a consultation with a qualified attorney.  


ASK THE LAWYER – Helpful Hints on Divorce & Custody Issues from a Phoenix Family Law Attorney

My purpose in writing this blog is to give you, the reader, some useful information on topics related to Family Law.   Contemplating divorce, or running into problems involving custody or parenting time after the marriage has been dissolved, can be stressful and even frightening.  It is often hard to know where to turn for information – and without good, solid information, it is hard to make an intelligent decision.  Hopefully, this blog will provide some of the important information you need and point you in the right direction.

On my web site, I have a section entitled “Ask the Lawyer.”  In that section, you will find questions that clients and others have asked me concerning a wide range of Family Law problems, along with my answers.  The topics include everything from custody and parenting time, to relocation, child support, spousal maintenance, property division, and many other issues that arise when a marriage comes apart.  Some of those issues may apply to your own situation. 

If you are interested in looking at my answers to Family Law questions, check out our website at / and click the “Ask the Lawyer” link.

Spousal Maintence vs. Property Equalization Payment – Which is Best?

When negotiating a settlement agreement in which a monthly payment is to be made following a divorce, parties are sometimes faced with a decision:  Should we designate the payment as spousal maintenance — or should it be considered a property equalization payment?  There are pros and cons to both options. 



The purpose of Spousal Maintenance is to provide financial support for a former spouse who qualifies under A.R.S. §25-319.  Under Arizona law, spousal maintenance payments are taxable to the spouse who receives the payment and deductable to the payor.  Since the person on the receiving end will have to pay income tax on the payment, she or he will wind up with something less than the full amount.  On the other hand, there is a measure of security since it is very difficult to avoid one’s obligation to pay spousal maintenance – especially if it is designated as “non-modifiable.”  Under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(5) the Bankruptcy Court has no power to discharge a debt for payment of spousal support.  Knowing that the spousal maintenance award cannot be discharged in bankruptcy provides a level of safety that may be important.


A “property equalization payment” is intended to equalize the final division of property between parties to a divorce.  It can be paid in a lump sum or by installment payments.  Unlike spousal maintenance, a property equalization payment does not result in a taxable obligation.  Thus, the receiving party “pockets” the entire amount.  However, if the person obligated to pay a property equalization payment files for bankruptcy, the entire unpaid balance could be discharged under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(15), and the party on the receiving end could wind up with nothing.


In our struggling-economy, I’ve handled a growing number of cases in which a former spouse threatens to cut off his or her spousal support obligation by filing for bankruptcy.  Current bankruptcy law makes that an idle threat.  However, if the payment is determined not to be spousal support but, rather, a property equalization payment, then there is a danger that the debt could be discharged in bankruptcy.

The decision whether to structure a payment as spousal maintenance or an equalization payment should be made only after a careful and thorough examination of all relevant factors.  Once that decision is made, the provision must be worded precisely in order to assure that there will be no confusion about the parties’ intent.  Gary J. Frank has over 25 years of experience in handling complex divorce and property division matters.  If you have questions or concerns about your own situation, please do not hesitate to call for a consultation.  Our phone number is 602-383-3610.  For more information, contact us be email or check out our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.

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