Divorce D-I-Y

Access Legal: Divorce D-I-Y

What’s the new Access Legal Membership I have been hearing about?

There are more than 100,000 people in Maricopa county alone representing themselves every single year. We want to help them all, and we need your feedback to build a better resource for self-representing litigants.

  • SO…what’s the membership option?
    • Unlimited documents
    • Unlimited support from a certified paralegal
    • One low fee of $199 per month.

This is a trial, so you cannot find this option via the website. Contact us directly for the opportunity to try the membership.

Access Legal is a company that grew out of Modern Law specifically to help those people who couldn’t afford an attorney or who were representing themselves in court. This is a “do it yourself” resource, but you can do everything by yourself that you normally would have an attorney to do. Access Legal is a legal doc prep company that comes with resources, documents, support and step by step instructions.

What can I accomplish with Access Legal?

You can do everything you want to do without hiring an attorney to negotiate for you and appear for you in court. You can use Access Legal to negotiate and litigate property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support. You can use it to have your divorce granted by the court. You have the legal right to do all of this yourself without hiring an attorney.

How much does Access Legal cost?

There are a couple of options: the option available to the public right now, allows you to pay for the documents that you need. Most documents are around $100. However, we are running a membership experiment that I can offer you.

If you would like to be a member, the cost is $199/ month and it includes unlimited documents and unlimited support from a certified legal document preparer. I can send you a list of available documents atmhttps://accesslegaldocs.com/documents-and-pricing/

 Access Legal can create documents statewide.

Many resources are free. Documents are all around $100 and come with a free review and consultation with a certified legal document preparer. This is a local paralegal who knows the law and the procedures associated with Maricopa and Pinal county family law cases.

Instead of paying expensive lawyers to plug your financial information into forms, you do it yourself. Instead of paying legal staff to run documents to the courthouse or to your spouse, you do it. We provide the education, forms, and advice and you do the rest. You draft and edit your own documents, negotiate your own deal, and feel the pride and control of knowing you didn’t turn it over to someone who leaves you out of the decision-­‐making process. When it’s over, you can be satisfied and proud that you achieved your divorce resolution at a fraction of the price.

What’s the difference between Modern Law and Access Legal?

A CDLP can give you legal information but not advice. A CDLP cannot represent you in court, negotiate on your behalf or prepare or give “legal opinions.” They can tell you about procedures, what the law says, their personal experience or the experiences of others. They can also advise you when they believe you need the advice of an attorney.

What do I get when I use Access Legal?

  • Divorce and family law documents.
  • Webinars and E-books on representing yourself.
  • You tube instructional videos
  • Articles

Can I really get a divorce without a lawyer?

Many people do. 80% of all divorces are completed without a lawyer. We don’t make any promises other than to answer all your questions, give you the documents you need, and educate you to the best of our ability.

Is Access Legal the right approach for me? Maybe, maybe not, it all depends on you.

  • Are you willing to consider an alternative to the traditional lawyer/client relationship?
  • Are you willing to take on more of the work yourself?
  • Do you have what it takes to manage decisions about your property, children and finances?
  • Can you rise above emotions, make good decisions, and guide yourself to a positive outcome?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, and if you’re willing to do the leg work, edit some basic documents, and negotiate with your spouse, then, yes, the Access Legal system will work for you.

Access Legal is not the solution for everyone. You may need someone to guide you, step-­‐by-­‐step, through the divorce process. Your situation may be complex. Your spouse may be abusive or uncooperative. In those cases, you’re better off having an attorney take control of your case and drive it to conclusion.

 

Can You Get a Divorce Without a Lawyer

Can You Get a Divorce Without a Lawyer

How to Represent Yourself in Maricopa Family Court

Part 2: Default Through Discovery

You can get a divorce without a lawyer, and we will tell you how! In Part One, we discussed what to do prior to filing your family court action, determining your objectives and strategy, how to draft your initial pleadings, how to respond, and whether to request a motion for temporary orders. In Part two, we will discuss how to represent yourself in Default Proceedings and through Discovery.

Default

In the event you have served a petition on the opposing party and they do not respond, you have the opportunity to file for a default judgment. If the opposing party lives within the state of Arizona, they have 20 days to respond before you can initiate the default proceedings. If they are out of state, they have 30 days to respond. Another wrinkle to consider is that there is a 60-day waiting period before a judge may issue a divorce decree after you file. So, while the default rules allow you to ask for a default after 20 or 30 days, the Judge will not sign a decree of dissolution prior to 60 days after the service of the petition.

In the event that the proper amount of time has passed, you can prepare an Application and Affidavit of Default. We can help you create this document. Simply create an account to access all of our professional legal documents. Make sure that you bring two copies with you when you go to file the documents. You will need to immediately mail, hand deliver or serve a copy of the documents to the opposing party. They then have an additional 10-day grace period to respond to your initial petition. After the 10 days has passed, you can call the court to schedule a default hearing. In the event that you do not have children, you can submit your documents via mail to the court and await the Judge’s signature without scheduling a hearing.

To get a default judgment, you will need to submit a/an:

  • Completed Decree of Dissolution
  • Legal Separation or Order of Annulment and two copies
  • Parent Information Program Certificate (if it has not already been filed)
  • Signed Parenting Plan and two copies
  • Completed Child Support Worksheet and two copies
  • Order of Assignment and two copies
  • Completed Judgment Data Sheet
  • Wage information/pay stubs for both parties
  • Other financial information such as childcare costs, medical insurance premiums etc.
  • 9X12 envelope addressed to the other party with 3 standard current postage stamps and
  • Copy of any prior Child Support Orders/Birth certificate for children

A default hearing is very informal. The Judge will ask you questions about what you have included in your decree. The Judge may make changes to what you have included in your decree. Also, you cannot put anything in your decree that you did not include in your petition. The other party is entitled to notice of everything that may end up included in the final paperwork. Alternatively, if you do not have children, you can submit the paper documents to the court for the judge’s signature. If you elect to go this route, make sure you deliver a copy of your documents to the judge’s chambers.

Helpful hint: Consider getting the phone number for the judicial assistant so that you can make follow up calls regarding the status of your documents.

Discovery/ Mandatory Disclosures

In Arizona, evidence that is not properly disclosed cannot be used in trial. On top of that, Rule 49 of the Arizona Family Law Rules of Procedure lays out what you are required to disclose even without the other party asking for the documents. In reality, self represented litigants rarely follow all of the rules and rarely disclose everything that they need to under rule 49. But this list will help you determine what you may want to request and what you are required to disclose.

The most important and non-negotiable mandatory disclosure is the Affidavit of Financial Information (AFI). If your case involves child support, spousal maintenance or attorneys fees, you and your ex will need to submit a completed and accurate AFI. This is one of the only disclosure documents that must be filed with the court. Most disclosure documents are handled between the parties.

Rules of Evidence

In family court, the rules of evidence are relaxed unless one party files a “notice of strict compliance.” Under the relaxed rules, all relevant evidence is generally admissible unless it is repetitive or abusive. Generally, if it is relevant to the issues, a Judge will allow you to use the evidence. If a notice of strict compliance is filed, all of the rules of evidence including hearsay and authentication rules apply. If you are going up against an attorney and they have filed the notice, we suggest you seek advice from an attorney. He or she can help you properly prepare your evidence for submission to the court.

Interrogatories 

A frequently used and very useful discovery tool is interrogatories. You can send both uniform and non-uniform interrogatories to the opposing party. Interrogatories are questions that must be responded to in writing by the opposing party within 40 days of receipt. This locks in the answer of the opposing party and provides valuable information you can use in making your case. As an example, the uniform interrogatories ask for the party to list all bank accounts, assets, insurance policies, pending litigation claims, etc. If your case has hotly contested issues, consider using the uniform interrogatories as a fantastic discovery tool for your case.

Request for Production of Documents

Like the interrogatories, a Request for Production of Documents asks that the other party deliver to you the documents you are requesting within 40 days of receipt. You can ask for any and all relevant documents including Quickbooks files, criminal convictions, drugs tests, even medical records. This is a fantastic tool to accompany interrogatories.

Request for Admissions

Requests for admissions are used less frequently than the two tools above, but can provide valuable information and insight for less money than the cost of a deposition. In a request for admissions, the opposing party is asked admit/deny questions and must either admit or deny the questions that you ask.

Depositions

Arguably, depositions are the most powerful discovery tool available to you as a litigant. A deposition allows you to ask any question that you would like of the opposing party (with few exceptions) under oath and on the record. This gives you the ability to test out questions and determine the opposing party’s demeanor and ability to answer difficult questions. It also locks down their story. You can depose both parties and witnesses by serving a “Notice of Deposition” upon the party or witness(es) you intend to call. Then, you will want to schedule a court reporter to take the deposition. Give yourself enough time to get the written transcript well before trial.

Subpoena

A subpoena allows you to get documents from third parties such as banks, or command a witness to attend a hearing. A subpoena must be issued by the clerk of the court and served upon the intended recipient.

Each discovery tool can help you to achieve a given objective. As always, know your strategy and what you must prove to determine which tools to use. Consider the cost benefit analysis of each decision and take advantage of either a certified legal document preparer, lay legal advocate, or an attorney for further information.

Final Thoughts

If you plan to self-represent, create an account with Access Legal to access dozens of the professional quality documents you’ll need for your case. Some are even available for free, and every document you purchase comes with complimentary access to a Certified Legal Document Preparer (CDLP) who can answer your questions. Access Legal is an easy-to-use platform that guides you step-by-step to create professional quality legal documents for a fraction of the cost of hiring an attorney.

Read Part 3 of this series in which we cover the RMC, ERC, ADR, Return Hearings and Status Conferences.

Navigating Debt and Bankruptcy in Divorce

Debt and Bankruptcy in Divorce

Equitable Distribution vs Community Property

Couples going through a divorce are usually seeking to keep their finest assets, but who gets to keep the debt? There are several methods used throughout the United States to determine who gets the debt for couples going through a divorce. Most states follow common law, but some recognize community property. Debt and Bankruptcy in divorce can be complicated, you will want to at least consult with an attorney, even if you represent yourself.

Common law is when debts incurred by one spouse will remain as their own and income earned by one spouse is not automatically considered mutual.

Community property states follow a different approach, which we discuss below. Arizona is included in the list of states that recognize community property. Knowledge about community property and how it works is key to avoiding conflict during a divorce.

Defining Debt Ownership in a Community Property State

Property and Debt ownership follow the same general rule: everything is considered mutual unless there is very clear evidence of specific ownership. An example of a purchase that can be proven as single ownership is a car with only one spouse’s name on it. Similarly, debt made by one spouse, and not the other, will remain as their own. However, most couples will acquire properties and debts using a joint account or both names thus making it community property.

Who Gets What?

Because we are in a Community Property state, Arizona couples divorcing must follow particular procedures. Dividing property can get complicated and messy, so Arizona has provided designated lawyers and judges to help decide who gets what. The court is available for assigning where debt belongs and how to split expenses evenly. The goal is to make sure that all property is divided equally and that both spouses have an equivalent amount of debt to compensate. Evidently, leaving the decision up to the divorcing couple might lead to problems, hence why we have resources to assist you through the already difficult process.

Bankruptcy

Filing for bankruptcy can be very discouraging. It will not only affect you and your financial stability, but also your spouse’s. If bankruptcy was filed during the marriage or before the finalization of the divorce then its adverse effects are now a part of both spouses’ finances. The only way to relieve your spouse from the obligation is to claim full responsibility. If the bankrupt spouse refuses to do so, Arizona will distribute the debt evenly. We fully encourage couples to make sure they are allocating debts in a marriage and when facing divorce, otherwise challenges will arise and make the process even more problematic.

Arizona Property Division: Community Property Vs. Separate Property and Debt

Arizona Property Division: Community Property Vs. Separate Property and Debt

The A.R.S. 25-215 is the regulation for how community and separate property will pay for community and separate debt. Every separation case that leads to divorce will endure separate and community debts and properties. Because these are what will be used to pay outstanding bills, it is crucial that each person understands its nature before filing.

Community properties and debts are the ones acquired during marriage.

Separate properties and debts are the ones acquired before marriage.

Separate Property

The simple definition of separate property is listed above. For a better understanding, we have broken it down into two categories:

  • Property owned before marriage or property acquired after filing for separation that leads to divorce
  • Property acquired by gift, inheritance, or intestacy (when a relative dies without a will and you must divide the wealth among family members)

The rule for separate property is that it cannot pay off the debts of the other spouse, so a question we often hear is this: Does this mean creditors can use separate property to pay off community debt?

No. Most often, creditors will sue the person responsible for the debt, leaving them with two options:

  1. File with a response of why they should not be held liable for the certain debt
  2. Pay off the debt and sue the other spouse for reimbursement of payment

It is a court order to pay any debts assigned to you by a divorce settlement. If left unpaid, you will be held accountable for contempt of court.

The Exception

As you can see, dealing with community and separate properties and debts is very complex. Some couples chose to sign prenuptial agreements (prenups) before entering into marriage. Prenups can change everything we just discussed. They can allow separate property and debts to be viewed as community property. The couples who have prenups and choose to divorce have the option to negotiate all properties and debts until an agreement is achieved. They have the ability to change the stated rules and submit a practical and fair contract declaring their settlement.

Statutory Limitations

The law states that the separate debt that is being paid off by community property must have been incurred after September 1, 1973. This situation does convey some limitations. The individual using the community property as payment can only receive a certain percentage of it. The amount is the ratio of debt that would be considered separate property if the spouse were single. As a result, the indebted spouse only gets a partial disbursement of the community property to put towards expenses and must pursue further means to pay the remaining.

Liability to Spouse’s Debt

Most commonly, one spouse is never liable for the other’s separate debt. Creditors do not have the option to use a spouse’s separate property to pay for another spouse’s separate debt. So, if the spouse is unaware of what type of properties and debts he or she has, financial problems can transpire. It is essential for individuals to be aware of their assets and to make sure they undergo thorough communication throughout their divorce case or misunderstandings are bound to take place.