How a Document Preparation Service can Help with Your Arizona Divorce
If you are preparing for a divorce, or you have just been served with divorce papers, you may be looking to hire an attorney to help you through the process. Did you know that in Arizona, you can hire a licensed document preparation service to assist with your pending divorce? There are a number of processes that do not necessarily require an attorney’s involvement, except for unique situations and specific legal questions you may have.
Legal document preparers must be certified as such by the Arizona Supreme Court. With the certification, the court is confirming that the document preparer has the necessary experience, ethics, and skills required to file legal documents without the need for a supervising attorney. This allows us to operate independently, and allows you the convenience of not hiring an expensive lawyer, whom you will need to pay an hourly fee.
At Arizona Statewide Paralegal, we specialize in helping Arizona clients with all of their document preparation needs, including divorce. Here is a look at some of the ways we can assist you today.
Four-Step Process for an Arizona Uncontested or Default Divorce
With any new client, we start with a 30-minute interview during which we ask a series of questions that will provide us with the necessary information required to start his or her paperwork. Short on time and do not want to come see us in person? We can do the interview over the phone, as well. You will need to come into the office later on to sign all the paperwork, which initially includes:
- A civil cover sheet
- Petition for Dissolution
- Preliminary Injunction
- Confidential information sheet
- Affidavit Regarding Minor Children
- Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance
- Notice to Creditors
- Order to complete parenting class (if applicable)
The original documents will be filed with the court, you will receive one set, and then your soon-to-be ex will receive his or her own copy. Our expertly trained staff does not rely on check-the-boxes type forms, we prepare everything so that it is completely personalized to your unique case.
If you attempted to file for divorce on your own, you would need to prepare and file the documents with the court yourself. Our staff makes regular trips to the various courthouses and will handle the filing of your documents as well as the paying of the required fees. We will obtain your hearing dates and get you set up for parenting class, if so required. You will receive the receipt in the mail with the necessary instructions on how to register for the parenting class.
The second step in an Arizona divorce is to ensure your spouse is served and thereby receives legal notice of the filing. If you are the filing party, your spouse must receive a copy of your petition that shows your legal intent to dissolve the marriage. If you were served with papers and are the responding party, you need to ensure the court and your ex have proof you answered the petition so they do not proceed with a default judgment against you. If you are concerned that your spouse may be unreachable for service, your document preparation company will handle service by publication in the newspaper if it comes to that.
Once all required paperwork has been served, the responding party has 20 days to respond to the initial petition, unless they live out of state, in which case the court allows them 30 days to respond. If he or she does not respond, you can start the application for a default judgment. If it was service by publication, then you must wait 30 days for a response.
The final step involves finalizing the divorce. If your ex is amenable to signing an agreement, you may not even need a court appearance to finalize everything. Under the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, Rule 45, we are allowed to prepare a Consent Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. You and your ex will sign, and then we file with the court for the judge’s signature.
Documents required at this stage include the Default Decree of Dissolution. If you have children, then you will also need:
- Parent’s Worksheet for child support
- Joint parenting plan
- Child support order
- Fact sheet
- Income withholding order
To avoid a court appearance, we would have you and your ex sign a Rule 45 Consent Decree. Otherwise, you can also go to court directly, which is typically the case when you have minor children involved. Some of the questions a judge may ask you include:
- Are you the petitioner in this divorce?
- Do you qualify under the residency rules to file for a divorce in Arizona and in this county? In other words, have you been a resident in this county for more than 90 days before you filed for a Petition of Dissolution?
- Is your marriage irretrievably broken and there is no chance of reconciliation?
- Are you aware that marriage counseling is available through the Conciliation Court?
- In your Decree of Dissolution, is there a fair and equitable division of marital assets and liabilities?
- Applicable for those with children: Is the legal decision-making arrangement regarding custody in the best interest of the minor children involved?
The judge may ask you more questions, as well, depending on your circumstances and individual situation. There is no way to accurately predict what a judge may or may not ask, so it is best to be prepared and have all your documents in order before appearing.
Contested Divorce Procedures
Where a contested divorce differs is in when the answer is filed. If your ex does not sign the consent decree, your case will proceed in a different direction. Once he or she files the answer contesting the divorce, there will be a motion to set the case for trial. Your document preparation service will need to prepare your pre-trial statement that is filed with the court.
From there, you may be set for a settlement conference and/or mediation. The courts use alternative dispute resolution methods to help keep the court system from getting too clogged up. Mediation is an opportunity for you and your ex to sit down with a neutral third party, called the mediator, who will help you try to resolve any outstanding issues in your divorce. Issues usually revolve around custody, asset distribution, child support, and/or spousal support.
In the event you and your ex do not reach an agreement during mediation, the court will proceed to set the case for trial. This means you will go before a judge who hears both sides and will render his or her decision on who gets custody, how the assets are divided, whether or not you are owed alimony, etc.
Some people prefer to let the courts decide, but there are some definite benefits to resolving your issues in mediation. One such benefit is the amount of control you and your spouse have over the outcome of your own divorce. Would you not rather decide on a parenting plan you can both live with than let the court decide who gets to spend what holidays with the kids?
Legal Separation in Arizona
Arizona recognizes legal separation as well as divorce. This may be an alternative for some couples looking to get divorced. It means the “marital community” will be severed. Your rights and obligations will be terminated under Arizona’s community property laws, but it does not give you or your ex the right to remarry again.
Why would someone opt for a legal separation over a divorce? It most cases, people choose a legal separation while they negotiate the specifics around their assets, finances, children, and property. However, in a legal separation, the court can issue orders stipulating a division of the spousal assets and debts, child support, spousal support, and/or parenting time agreements.
Other reasons for choosing a legal separation over a divorce include religious views, continuous healthcare coverage, and/or to take time to decide on whether getting a final divorce is what each spouse wants. Sometimes people want a trial-basis separation to see if they can work through their issues or are truly ready to walk away from each other permanently.
If you have questions about whether legal separation or divorce is better for your particular situation, we can refer you to a skilled Arizona family law attorney who can provide you with expert legal advice on what would be the best route for your particular situation.
You should not undertake a legal separation or divorce if you are unsure or have questions. It is best to seek legal advice before proceeding, otherwise you may discover that you wish you had chosen separation or divorce instead. Once you have made an official decision on what route you wish to take, Arizona Statewide Paralegal can help prepare the documents and finalize the process.
Learn More About Our Services
Arizona Statewide Paralegal offers document preparation services throughout Arizona, and we are proud to share that our staff is certified by the Arizona Supreme Court. We have a workforce of skilled paralegals who have been assisting Arizona clients with legal document preparation services since the 1990s.
While you may need to retain counsel for legal advice regarding specific aspects of your divorce, especially if you have questions about specifics related to your asset portfolio or concerns on finding the value of your business, our proficient team can handle the document preparation and even some of the other complex issues that may arise.
Why spend thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees when you only need assistance drafting standard documents? We offer the same services without the hefty hourly rates. Arizona Statewide Paralegal also offers the convenience of in-person consultations for those clients who feel more comfortable handling these legal matters in person.
As you conduct research online, you will see search results for many different legal businesses in the state that advertise their document preparation services. However, that is where most of their services end. These agencies offer no additional benefits beyond filling out your necessary forms. Once the preparation of your documents is completed, you will be expected to figure out how to handle everything else that needs to be completed. This can include filing the necessary documents with the appropriate court and, in some cases, hiring a process server to serve any necessary parties.
These other document preparation agencies will not assist with any other pending issues, either. This means that if you have any additional questions on a specific process or need to know how to file the documents properly, you will incur additional fees from a completely different legal service.
At Arizona Statewide Paralegal, we take pride in offering exceptional customer service and maintaining a full-service agency. We will not leave you to fend for yourself with a mountain of paperwork that needs filing or make you figure out what court you need to contact, or whatever follow up needs to be done.
It is important to point out that we are not licensed practicing attorneys; therefore, we cannot legally engage in practicing law in Arizona or any other state. Essentially, this means we are barred from giving you any legal advice or telling you how to proceed with your individual case; however, we can legally prepare all your documents while guiding you through the filing process itself. If you have any specific legal questions that relate to divorce, child custody, spousal support, or child support, we are more than happy to refer you to a qualified and licensed practicing divorce and family law attorney near you.
If you need other divorce-related forms, or any other legal documents prepared, contact our skilled team at Arizona Statewide Paralegal to see how we may assist you. We take pride in providing fast and friendly service, while offering convenience, all at a reasonable low price. We have offices conveniently located in Tucson, North Tucson, Phoenix, and Mesa. Contact us today to learn more about Arizona document preparation services for your divorce and other legal document needs. We look forward to helping you.