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Family Law

At Waterfall Economidis we understand how overwhelming divorce and custody disputes can be and we are dedicated to supporting and guiding our clients through some of the most difficult and emotional times of their lives. We have a dedicated family law practice group with decades of combined experience. Whether we are dealing with a complex business valuation problem, an intricate marital or separate property allocation, a division of substantial assets or a high conflict child custody issue, our primary goal is to reach a negotiated settlement that is beneficial to our client and serves the best interests of any children involved. When negotiation or mediation is not successful, however, we take cases to trial. At Waterfall Economidis we believe in using a team approach with our cases. With support and input from lawyers in other practice areas at Waterfall Economidis, including tax and financial matters, business, bankruptcy and estate planning, we assist clients in all aspects of their business and personal lives.

Waterfall Economidis is located in Tucson, Arizona and serves clients in Southern Arizona throughout the Tucson area and in Pima County.

Our services in Divorce, Child Custody and Family Law include:

Adult Adoption
Annulment
Child Custody (Legal Decision-Making) and Parenting Time (Visitation) and Parenting or Child Care Plans
Child Support
Cohabitation Agreements
Collaborative Divorce
Community and Separate Property Rights and Division
Complex Valuation and Division of Business Interests
Division and Valuation of Pensions and Retirement Plans
Divorce (Dissolution of Marriage)
Grandparent Rights and In Loco Parentis (non-parent custody and visitation)
Guardianship
Interstate Child Custody and Support
Legal Separation
Mediation
Orders of Protection
Paternity and Maternity
Post-Decree Modifications and Enforcements including modifications of parenting orders and child support
Premarital and Postnuptial Agreements
Relocation (Move Away Cases)
Separation Agreements (Property Settlement Agreements)
Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
Temporary Orders
Uncontested (Default) Divorces

FAQ’s

This information is provided as general information only, and should not be construed as legal advice. You should discuss the specific facts and issues of your case with an attorney to determine the best course of action for your unique situation.

 Who can file for divorce in Arizona?

Any person who has lived in Arizona for 90 days may file for divorce in Arizona. In order for the Court to have the power (jurisdiction) to enter orders regarding the custody of the children, then the children need to have resided in Arizona for at least the six months prior to filing the Petition for Dissolution. There are some exceptions to this six month rule, so please consult with an attorney to discuss your specific situation.

How do you start a divorce in Arizona?

You must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Superior Court (along with several other mandatory forms). Dissolution of Marriage is the term used by the Arizona court system instead of divorce—you are asking the court to dissolve your marriage. There is a filing fee that must be paid to the Court at the time of filing. After a Petition for Dissolution is filed, then the filing spouse has 120 days to have their spouse legally served with the Petition and other mandatory forms. The other spouse then has twenty days to file a Response if they are in Arizona and thirty days if they are outside of Arizona.

What do the terms “Petitioner” and “Respondent” mean?

The Petitioner is the person that files the initial divorce or paternity paperwork. The Respondent is the person that gets served with the paperwork, and “responds” to the Petitioner’s claims.

Does it matter who files for divorce first?

Unless your case proceeds to trial, it generally does not matter who is the Petitioner and who is the Respondent. The Petitioner does get to decide when the case starts and starts the clock running on the waiting period and the time to respond to the Petition for Dissolution. If your case goes to trial, the Petitioner presents their case first.

How is a divorce finalized?

A divorce is completed once a judicial officer signs a final Decree of Dissolution. The Decree is the official document that dissolves the marriage, awards property, and contains orders regarding custody and support.

How long does it take to get divorced in Arizona?

Arizona has a mandatory 60 day waiting period before a divorce can be granted. The 60 day waiting period starts the first day after you (or your spouse) are legally served with a divorce petition and ends 60 calendar days later. The divorce can be granted at any time after the 60 day waiting period.

However, most divorces are not completed within 60 days because the parties are not in agreement over the terms of the divorce. A Decree of Dissolution can only be entered if the parties have reached an agreement in all areas or after the issues are litigated in a trial and the judge issues a ruling on the issues in dispute. In general, most contested divorces can be completed within six months to a year.

What is a Legal Separation? 

A legal separation is not a divorce (dissolution of marriage). The process, however, is very similar. There will be a division of property and debt, and if appropriate to the facts, a determination of legal decision-making, parenting time and child support, and spousal maintenance; however, the spouses remain married. Neither can re-marry without obtaining a dissolution of the marriage and the couple no longer accumulates community property.

The experienced attorneys at Waterfall Economidis can explain the differences between a dissolution and legal separation and which one will be best for your unique situation.

What do legal decision-making, parenting time and custody mean? 

Divorce and custody disputes can be particularly hard on children. At Waterfall Economidis, our attorneys have extensive experience handling high-conflict custody (legal decision-making) and parenting time tissues with a goal to minimize distress and anxiety for the children and reaching a resolution outside of court. Our attorneys work with you to prepare detailed child care plans unique to your family and situation to help you better co-parent your children after the separation. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding the care of the children, our attorneys are prepared to ably represent you and your interests in court.

Legal Decision-Making, which used to be known as legal custody, is exactly what it sounds like – which parent makes the decisions about the children. Legal decision-Making usually involves four broad categories of decisions in the areas of education, healthcare, religion, and personal hygiene. Parents may have joint or sole Legal Decision-Making. With Joint Legal Decision-Making, both parents equally share responsibility for making decisions about the children and both parents must agree on all major decisions. If the parents are unable to reach a decision together then the Court will make the decision for the parents. With sole Legal Decision-Making, one parent has the authority to make decisions about the parenting of the children but must still inform the other parent of any decision. Even if a parent has sole legal decision-making authority, they cannot make changes to the parenting plan (physical custody) without a court order or the other parent’s agreement.

Parenting Time, which used to be known as physical custody, is the specific parenting plan or the actual living arrangements for the children. If the parents are in agreement, they can prepare a parenting plan which will include arrangements for regular parenting time, holiday time and vacation time and submit it to the court for approval. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will determine the parenting time.

The court is required to make decisions regarding Legal Decision-Making and Parenting time that are in the best interests of the children.

For a clip of a documentary film showing children’s perspective of divorce watch this video.

Split Divorce Through Kids’ Eyes

The experienced attorneys at Waterfall Economidis will help you navigate your child related matters and help you reach a resolution that is in the best interests of your children. Please contact us to discuss your unique situation to determine the best course of action for you.

What is Community and Separate Property? 

Arizona is a community property state. Community property is property that is acquired by either spouse during the marriage, except for property acquired by gift, inheritance, or as income from property owned prior to the marriage, or property acquired after the community is terminated. In a divorce, the community and jointly owned property is divided equitably. Any property owned by either spouse prior to marriage, or acquired by gift or inheritance, or after the community is terminated, is generally considered to be that spouse’s separate property, and with a few exceptions, will not be divided by the court in the divorce.

Debts incurred during the marriage are also generally (with a few exceptions) considered to be community debts that both parties are responsible for, even if only one spouse incurred the debt. The parties may agree on an allocation of community debts, or the judge will decide; however, both spouses may still be liable to the creditor for that debt since the creditors are not parties to the divorce action.

Issues regarding community and separate property are complicated and can cost you money if evaluated improperly. Contact our experienced attorneys at Waterfall Economidis to discuss your specific case.

What is Spousal Support (Alimony)? 

Spousal Support (also known as alimony in other states) may be ordered for either spouse if that party meets certain requirements under Arizona Revised States §25-319, which are when a spouse:

  1. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs.
  2. Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient.
  3. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse.
  4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.

If the court determines that a party is entitled to spousal maintenance, the amount and duration of spousal maintenance, is determined, without regard to marital misconduct, and by looking at the following factors under A.R.S. § 25-319(B):

  1. The standard of living established during the marriage.
  2. The duration of the marriage.
  3. The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
  4. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
  5. The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
  6. The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
  7. The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
  8. The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
  9. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently.
  10. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available.
  11. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
  12. The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved.
  13. All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim.

In determining the appropriate amount of spousal maintenance, the court does not consider why the marriage ended, or who was at fault.

The experienced attorneys at Waterfall Economidis will help guide you through the process of requesting spousal maintenance or defending against an unreasonable request.

How is child support determined?

Both parents share in the responsibility of providing financial support for the children. In Arizona, child support is determined statute and by application of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines take into consideration the following information:

  • Gross income of the parties
  • Medical insurance premiums
  • Child Care costs
  • The number of parenting days per year the parent paying support will have with the children
  • Extraordinary costs (special needs children or extra educational expenses)
  • The number of children each parent has

The court will also allocate the dependency tax exemptions and each parent’s share of health, dental and vision expenses not paid by insurance.

A child support order can be modified if there has been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances since the issuance of the existing child support order. This can include a significant increase or decrease of income by either parent, increases or decreases in parenting time, and increased or decreased expenses for child care or health insurance premiums.

The experienced attorneys at Waterfall Economidis can help you navigate child support to ensure that it is properly calculated and takes all relevant factors into consideration.

What happens if one parent needs to relocate or move away from Tucson or Arizona?

After a divorce a family may go through many changes one of which may be a long distance move by one or both parents. There are many reasons for a relocation including a job transfer, new employment, military deployment or transfer, education, or a new spouse. When one parent relocates outside of Tucson many things must be considered including whether the children will be relocating and what the new parenting plan will be.

Relocations can be very a very difficult and complicated process. There are special procedures and requirements that must be followed to request or object to a relocation, including providing proper notice. A moving parent must provide written notice at least forty five days in advance of an intended move and the non-moving party then has thirty days to file an objection. If you or your former spouse is considering relocation outside of Tucson or Pima County, our experienced attorneys can help you navigate the process for requesting or objecting to a relocation.

What is Collaborative Divorce? 

Collaborative Law is a relatively new process of resolving divorce and other family law related legal disputes without litigation or a court trial and using cooperation and collaboration rather than adversarial techniques. The collaborative process starts with an agreement not to litigate and requires the parties to make a full and open disclosure of all information relevant to reaching a comprehensive resolution. In the Collaborative Law process, the parties are directly represented by attorneys who give advice and counsel to the parties during the negotiations, and are committed to assisting the parties reach their own agreement. In addition, the Collaborative Law process often involves other professional collaborative team members, such as party coaches, financial experts and child specialists who provide advice and consultation to the parties. Collaborative Divorce puts children first by focusing on their needs, creating workable parenting plans and helping diminish the often difficult side effects of divorce on children.

The process of collaboration allows the parties to reach creative resolutions and allows divorcing couples the privacy, safety and freedom to speak their mind, have their voice heard and reach the best resolution for their unique situation. Trained attorneys, while present and involved in every aspect of the process to provide assistance and advice to their clients, empower their clients to reach their own unique resolution, using a team of other trained professionals in financial or child related matters specific to your situation.

The Collaborative Law process is designed to reach an agreement without the need for court; however, there are instances where the parties are unable to reach an agreement using this process. Prior to starting the Collaborative Law process the parties and the attorneys sign an agreement that the attorneys who represent the parties in the Collaborative Law process will not represent the parties in litigation or at trial. Thus, if an agreement is not reached in this process, the parties must hire other attorneys to represent them in litigation and trial. This agreement regarding a withdrawal of representation in the event of an inability to reach a resolution provides strong motivation for all parties to commit to collaboration and resolution and to not give up on the process.

At Waterfall Economidis, Lisa Schriner Lewis has undergone training as a Collaborative Attorney and is a member of the Collaborative Law Group of Southern Arizona. If you are interested in learning more about the Collaborative Law services available at Waterfall Economidis please contact us to set up a consultation. If you are interested in learning more about Collaborative Law in general please check out the Collaborative Law Group of Southern Arizona’s website at www.divorcewisely.com.

What are Premarital Agreements and Post Nuptial Agreements? 

A premarital agreement (also called prenuptial agreement or antenuptial agreement), is a contract entered into by a man and a woman before they marry. This agreement will usually identify each party’s rights upon a dissolution (divorce) of their marriage and includes what property each party will receive, the terms, if any, for spousal support (alimony) and may include other provisions.

Arizona follows the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) which allows for a married couple to abrogate or “opt out” of the community property laws of Arizona. It also allows the parties to agree on spousal maintenance provisions (subject to a statutory exception). The agreement must be in writing, and signed by both parties and there must have been a full disclosure of all assets and liabilities.

A Post Nuptial Agreement is a contract entered into between a husband and wife after they are married. This agreement will also usually identify each spouse’s rights and obligations in the event of a divorce, including what property each will receive and what the spousal support provisions will be.

The experienced attorneys at Waterfall Economidis can help you determine whether one of these agreements will work for your specific situation and will discuss the benefits and negatives of each type of agreement.

What is an Adult Adoption?

An adult adoption is a procedure through the probate court where an adult may adopt another adult between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one who is a stepchild, niece, nephew, cousin or grandchild of the adopting person. It may also be used when a foster parent has maintained a continuous familial relationship with a foster child for five or more years.

 


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