Written by Canterbury Law Group

Who Pays Attorney Fees In Divorce?

Who Pays Attorney Fees In Divorce?

Divorce and annulment are two options for legally ending a marriage or domestic partnership, and they have similarities and differences. The type of evidence required for an annulment vs. a divorce, for example, is different. The costs of these processes can differ. While the average annulment costs between $500-$5,000, lengthy divorce settlements can cost much more.

The most significant distinction between a divorce and an annulment is that a divorce terminates a legally valid marriage, whereas an annulment declares a marriage to be legally invalid.

Annulment Vs Divorce

Divorce is the process of legally dissolving, terminating, and ending a legally valid marriage. Divorce dissolves a legal marriage and declares the spouses single once more. Annulment: A legal decision that declares a marriage null and void, indicating that the union was never legally valid. The marriage records, however, remain on file even if the marriage is erased.

The basis for an action—the reasons why a decision is justified—is referred to as “grounds” in legal terms. There are several reasons to seek a divorce rather than an annulment. The primary reason for ending a marriage is that one or both spouses wish to separate.

When the parties acknowledge that the marriage existed, they seek a divorce, which is far more common. When one or both of the spouses believe that the marriage was legally invalid in the first place, they seek an annulment.

An annulment is a legal process that dissolves a marriage that at least one of the parties believes should never have happened. The legal grounds for annulment vary by state, but they usually include the following:

  • One or both of the spouses were coerced or duped into marrying.
  • Due to a mental disability, drugs, or alcohol, one or both spouses were unable to make a decision to marry.
  • At the time of the marriage, one or both spouses were already married (bigamy).
  • One or both of the spouses were under the age of marriage.
  • It was an incestuous union.
  • One spouse hid a major problem, such as substance abuse or a criminal record. From one, a child, and from the other, an illness.
  • An annulment is much less common than divorces because one of these conditions must be met and proven in court for it to be granted.
  • Both types of divorce can be costly and time-consuming in the courtroom. And they both begin with one or both spouses filing a formal divorce or annulment petition with the court.
  • If both parties agree to end the marriage without many disputes or disagreements about how to do so, either a divorce or an annulment can be simple and inexpensive.

How Much Does An Annulment Cost?

According to Costaide, the majority of annulments cost between $500-$5,000. Exact costs will depend on the type of agreement you and your-soon-to-be-ex spouse come to. For example, signing a joint petition for annulment can lower the cost compared to instances where one spouse files alone.

Prices for annulments will vary based on location. Each and every state has its own regulations related to this process.

How Much Does An Uncontested Divorce Cost?

The average cost of an uncontested divorce is $750 with prices ranging from $100-$1,500 for the US. A large amount of money can be saved if your spouse and you can agree to divorce, how the divorce will take place and how your lives are going to be separated.

This situation often leads to what is known as an “uncontested divorce.” The total cost will be determined by several aspects. If you have no issue with becoming a part of the legal procedures of your state, the cost may well be under $500. It will obviously be higher if you utilize the services of an attorney.

How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost

How Much Does A Collaborative Divorce Cost?

On average collaborative divorce costs $7,500. Collaborative divorce costs ranged from $5,000-$10,000 per spouse in the US, according to Equitable Mediation. However, Canterbury Law Group has navigated many divorce collaborations for less than $10,000 in legal fees per spouse.

This is a far cry from the tens of thousands of dollars that other couples will inevitably spend in contested divorce litigation in a court of law, not to mention the high emotional cost in traditional divorce cases.

Annulment vs. Divorce: When Should You Annul?

Because of the short duration, many people believe that a very brief marriage can be ended with an annulment. However, a short duration is not a legal basis for annulment. To be annulled, the marriage must still meet one or more of the conditions listed above.

Furthermore, a long-term marriage might not be eligible for an annulment. After a certain amount of time has passed, many states will not grant an annulment. In California, for example, an annulment based on fraud must be requested within four years of the discovery of the fraud (one partner alleges that the other deceived them into agreeing to the marriage).

An annulment can be requested very soon after a marriage has taken place. However, in some states, a couple must be married or in a committed relationship for a certain amount of time (usually one or two years) before filing for divorce. In some states, the couple must live apart for a certain period of time before either party can file for divorce.

Canterbury Can Help With Marriage Annulment In Arizona

Marriage annulment is a term many people have heard of, but only a few really understand. Forget about what you may have heard about annulment on TV. There are actually two types of marriage annulments: civil and religious. A religious annulment is granted by a religious institution like a church and its clergy. Civil annulment is granted by a court of law and affects your legal civil status. This article explains civil annulment. Learn more about Marriage Annulment In Arizona.

The Canterbury Law Group should be your number one choice for when you need an annulment in Phoenix or Scottsdale, Arizona. Our experienced family law attorneys will work with you side by side to achieve the best possible legal outcome. You can trust Canterbury Law Group to represent you fully, so you can get on with your life. Call today for an initial consultation!

*This information is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your unique situation.

Loveless Marriage Quotes
Written by Canterbury Law Group

35 Loveless Marriage Quotes

Loveless Marriage Quotes

If your relationship features more lows than highs, use these 35 loveless marriage quotes to ease the pain.

Quotes About A Loveless Marriage

1. “Both men and women remain in dysfunctional, loveless relationships when it is materially opportune.” – Bell Hooks

2.”Every man’s work, pursued steadily, tends to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life.” – George Eliot

3. “Scholarship has the same relationship to wisdom as righteousness has to holiness: it is cold and dry, it is loveless and knows no deep feelings of inadequacy or longing.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

4. “For every quarrel a man and wife have before others, they have a hundred when alone.” – E.W. Howe

5. “All sins, except a sin against itself, love should forgive. All lives, save loveless lives, true love should pardon.” – Sir Robert

6. “All love is betrayal, in that it flatters life. The loveless man is best armed.” – John Updike

7. “An unhappy person in marriage is always the most unhappy kind of parent.” – Rossana Condoleo

8. “While neither of us is content, neither of us wants to quit. So we keep hurting one another while claiming to be in love.” – Rupi Kaur

9. “Lack of communication is the main cause of unhappy marriages.” – Akita Lailah Gifty

10. “A lack of responsive intimate interactions is the first sign of marriages’ demise. Conflict develops later.” – Sue Johnson

11. “A man and his wife fight 100 times more when they are by themselves than they do in front of other people.” – E.W. Howe

12. “I find it astonishing that a miserable marriage continues to be miserable after it is over.” – Rebecca West

13. “There is nothing more severe than living in an unhappy marriage. I’ve witnessed it kill people, so it worries me.” – Simon Cowell

14. “So far, it’s much preferable to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone.” – Marilyn Monroe

15. “I wasn’t sure which would be the harshest; I debated between having him die in Hell or in an unhappy marriage.” – Lord Byron

16. “Divorce is not always tragic. Staying in an unhappy marriage while giving your kids the wrong lesson about love is awful.” – Jennifer Weiner

17. “Why don’t we call it quits? I suppose that she continues to be with me as I stay with her. And doing that is not simple.” – John Green

18. “Marriage is not a process for prolonging the life of love, sir. It merely mummifies its corpse.” – P.G. Wodehouse

19. “Between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said, most of the love is lost.” – Khalil Gibran

20. “Ultimately, the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or friendship, is conversation.” – Oscar Wilde

21. “And the worst thing she had heard was the words he hadn’t said, the fact that he hadn’t loved her.” – Danielle Steel

22. “I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.” – Groucho Marx

23. “We ruined each other by staying together. We destroyed each other’s dreams.” – Kate Chisman

24. “Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.” – J.K. Rowling

25. “Rich only matters if he marries you, I said grimly. Handsome matters not at all.” – Danielle Teller

26. “Two strangers sharing a roof, that’s the tragedy of a loveless marriage.” – Preeti Shenoy

27. “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in a marriage.” – Charlotte Gilman

28. “I know enough to know that no woman should ever marry a man who hated his mother.” – Martha Gellhorn

29. “A bad husband in a marriage can be like a bully; he’s constantly belittling and berating you.” – Anonymous

30. “He is like a black hole; he sucks away any happiness and hope you have.” – Anonymous

31. “At times, sleeping with you makes me feel really lonely.” – H.R.K. Murakami

32. “You can be enough for a person sometimes, but they may decide not to be in your life.” – Shannon Alder

33. “Shouting ruins so many enjoyable moments in one’s life. If your neighbors haven’t heard about it first, you’ve never heard of a bad marriage.” – Lillian Russell

34. “When a noise interrupts your sleep and you don’t want to be awakened, you can have a long, complex dream that explains the entire noise.” – A. Witting

35. “You should not be involved in or worried about an unhappy marriage.” – Anthony Riches

Contact our Divorce Attorneys in Scottsdale AZ

Our divorce attorneys in Scottsdale can help with restraining orders and orders of protection. We can also ensure thorough preparation of your restraining order or order of protection, or defense from them, and help you navigate the legal issues that inevitably arise.

*This information is not intended to be used as legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs. 480-744-7711 or [email protected]

Written by Canterbury Law Group

When Is a Bankruptcy Claim Contingent, Unliquidated, or Disputed?

The bankruptcy procedure requires you to categorize your debts or “claims” as contingent, unliquidated, or disputed. You’ll need to be familiar with these phrases in order to properly identify and categorize your debts on the various bankruptcy forms.

In a bankruptcy, You Must List All Debts or “Claims”

You describe your financial condition to the court, trustee, and creditors on your bankruptcy filings. Your financial information will be disclosed, along with your monthly budget, real estate and personal property holdings, debts or “claims” you owe, income, and recent real estate transactions.

When listing claims in your documentation, you must include the name, address, and amount owed to each creditor. Find out how to fill out bankruptcy forms.

Not Every Bankruptcy Debt Is Conditional, Unliquidated, or Contestable

Because the label is only necessary if it is unclear whether you owe the loan, the majority of debts won’t require a contingent, unliquidated, or contested label. There will almost always be no doubt that you owe the money. You won’t need to describe the claim as contingent, unliquidated, or contested if you don’t have a defense to use to avoid paying the debt.

Consider the scenario when you have a car loan that is past due. The claim would then be for the remaining sum. Other common responsibilities, like credit card debt, would follow the same rules.

Types of Creditor Claims in Bankruptcy: Secured, Unsecured & Priority explains additional claim classifications that you should be aware of.

When a Contingent, Unliquidated, or Disputed Debt Will Arise

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine how much money you owe a creditor. Each of the labels—contingent, unliquidated, and disputed—identifies a specific problem that must be fixed before the claim may be paid.

Maybe how much you owe will rely on what someone else does, or maybe it won’t. Alternatively, you and the creditor may differ on the amount you owe.

If there is an issue, you should note it when filing the claim on your bankruptcy papers under the relevant heading of contingent, unliquidated, or contested claim (the form provides checkboxes for these designations).

A contingent claim is what?

Payment of the claim is subject to a future occurrence that may or may not take place. For example, if you cosigned a secured loan (like a mortgage or auto loan), you aren’t liable for paying it until the other cosigner defaults. Your responsibility as a cosigner depends on the default.

An Unliquidated Debt Is What?

There are times when you owe money but are unsure of how much. Although the precise amount of the debt hasn’t been established, it might exist. Let’s take the example of a lawsuit you filed against someone for injuries you had in a car accident. Your attorney has accepted the case on a contingency basis; if you win, the attorney will receive a third of the recovery; if you lose, the attorney will receive nothing. The debt owed to the attorney is unpaid. The amount of the attorney’s fee won’t be known until the case is settled or won at trial.

A Disputed Debt Is What?

You will tick this box if there is a discrepancy between the amount you owe and what you owe, if anything at all. Consider a scenario in which the IRS has an involuntary tax lien on your property and claims that you owe them $10,000. On the other hand, you think you just owe $500. You should state that the claim is disputed and include the total amount of the lien rather than the amount you believe you owe (you can clarify how much you believe you owe in the notes).

In Bankruptcy, You Must List All Claims

For a variety of reasons, it’s typical for someone to desire to exclude a claim from the bankruptcy petition. You cannot succeed. All claims, including those you believe you owe and those that others think you owe, must be listed.

It’s ideal for you to do that. Even if it would typically be considered a dischargeable debt, if you don’t list a claim, it might not be eliminated or “discharged” in your situation.

Claims Payment in Bankruptcy

Following the payment of creditors, the following will take place:

Creditors will be notified by the bankruptcy trustee assigned to the case that it is a “asset case.”
In order to get a portion of the available funds, a creditor must submit a proof of claim form by a specific deadline.
The claims will be examined by the trustee, who will then pay them in accordance with bankruptcy law’s priority payment system.
But keep in mind that every circumstance is different. Consult with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer if you are unclear about what will happen to the claims in your bankruptcy case.

Who Has Child Custody When There's No Court Order?
Written by Canterbury Law Group

Preference for the ‘Primary Caregiver’

Physical custody of a child may be requested and granted to parents who are divorcing. In a perfect world, the parents would resolve their differences out of court. However, disputes over child custody and divorce are frequently complicated. They can be challenging for the pair to resolve independently. The duty of determining the best custody arrangement for the child may fall to the court.

When deciding how to manage child custody in a divorce, the court must take a number of considerations into account. Courts are becoming less inclined to support the child’s “primary caregiver.” Instead, they prioritize the “best interests of the child.” This norm frequently promotes an equal level of parental involvement in the child’s life. Some states, like Kentucky, have even enacted legislation that codifies the 50/50 custody arrangement.

This article provides a summary of the criteria the court considers when deciding on a child custody arrangement.

‘Child’s Best Interest’ Standard

Most governments prioritize the “best interests of the child” in custody disputes. This standard takes a holistic approach to the child in order to safeguard their general well-being. The majority of states now hold the opinion that it is best for both parents to play a significant role in their children’s lives. The court does not automatically favor one parent over the other when using this criteria. However, the court may decide that one parent will have less than 50/50 custody if that parent engages in destructive activities that injure the kid.

What is in the child’s best interests will be determined by the court after considering a number of various considerations. To determine custody and issue a custody order, the court will take into account the following factors:

  • Age of the child and the desires or preferences of the child (if they are old enough)
    Relationship of either parent to the child
    The state of mind and body of the parents
    The child’s and parents’ preferred religion
    Maintaining a stable home environment is necessary.
    Assistance and chances for interaction with either parent’s extended family
    Relationships and interactions with other family members
    Adaptation to the community and school
    Too strict punishment from parents, emotional abuse, or domestic violence
    Evidence of drug, alcohol, or sexual abuse by your parents

The family court judge may grant single custody to one parent if the court decides that shared custody is not the best option for the child. This parent will likely be given primary physical custody of the child and may be deemed by the court to be the child’s primary caregiver. Additionally, they may be granted legal possession of the child. In order to provide for the kid financially, the judge may require the noncustodial parent to pay child support.

The ‘Primary Caregiver’ Doctrine:

The “primary caregiver” notion is becoming less prevalent in court decisions. According to this idea, judges would favor the parent who took care of the children the most of the time. The following are some of the criteria used to identify the primary caregiver:

  • Grooming, dressing, and bathing
    Organizing and making meals
    Obligations for laundry and clothing purchases
    Health care policies
    Encouraging involvement in extracurricular activities
    Teaching reading, writing, and math concepts and providing homework assistance
    conversing with educators and going to open houses
    Together with the youngster, plan and partake in leisure activities.
    The court may take these things into account. But today’s courts place more weight on other considerations (including what is in the best interests of the child). View a list of state custody summaries to find out how your state handles child custody.

In fact, since contemporary families embrace shared parenting, courts all over America have shifted toward equal 50/50 parenting. More and more courts are coming to the conclusion that giving the kids time with both parents is in their best interests.

Protect Your Child’s Interests With the Assistance of an Attorney

The custody of the child is one area where there is frequently disagreement, even in amicable separations. In order to decide who gets custody, the court will consider a number of issues. The court is, however, ceasing to take the primary caregiver into consideration. The best interests of the kid are instead the focus of the court.

You can get assistance from a skilled family law attorney in your child custody dispute. They can help you by providing insightful legal counsel and taking child custody laws into consideration. If you are a noncustodial parent, they can aid in advocating for your parenting time or visitation rights. Additionally, they can aid in your representation in custody disputes before the family court.

Speak to a family law professional about your custody dispute right away. Many law firms provide free initial consultations.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Sole Custody

When a divorce involves children, Canterbury Law Group fights to protect their future and well-being both emotionally and financially.

Our Scottsdale divorce lawyers work diligently to ensure your children remain a priority throughout and after the divorce, and strive to remedy sensitive issues including custody arrangements and parenting plans. Our primary focus is to reduce the possible future damage divorce can have on children and relationships.

We often see parents who hope to win sole child custody and “take the kids”. However, it is important to realize that the court’s priority is the best interests of the child, which frequently mandates a ruling of joint custody. Many parents go into a child custody hearing with the intention of seeking sole custody. For some parents, this is because they believe that the other parent is “unfit” to raise their child. Any parent hoping to be awarded sole custody should realize that there is a higher burden of proof for the parent seeking sole custody. You will have to literally prove in a court of law that the other parent is an unfit parent based on substance abuse, criminal history or acts of domestic violence.

To award sole custody, the courts have to establish one parent as the “better parent,” which can be difficult to do, particularly if both parents have been involved up until this point. In addition, most judges are reluctant to prevent either parent from having a relationship with their child because the implication is that both parents, together, are best able to care for a child. As a result, any parent seeking sole custody has to prove that he or she is best able to care for a child, with or without the assistance of the other parent.

In addition, from a judge’s standpoint, parents should not be trashing one another during a child custody hearing. Instead, the parent seeking sole custody should focus on proving that he or she is the better parent without attacking his or her counterpart. When seeking sole custody, one should focus on the physical and psychological well-being of the child. Physical well-being includes your child’s routine, sleeping habits, eating schedule and activities. Judges tend to notice parents who encourage a healthy lifestyle. The factors of psychological well-being may include making sure that the child has access to liberal visitation with the other parent. Judges tend to favor parents who openly support the child’s the ongoing relationship with the other parent. Whether hoping for sole custody or joint custody, the legal team at Canterbury Law Group in Scottsdale can effectively represent you. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Joint Custody

When parents divorce or separate, they come across new legal jargon like “joint custody.” But what does that actually mean in a legal and practical sense?

In contrast to solo custody, where one parent has sole legal custody of their kid, joint custody involves both parents sharing these rights.

Depending on which parent has the child’s legal custody, either joint custody or solo custody may apply. Parents who share custody have equal say over important life choices for their children. Parents do not share these rights in single custody cases.

Joint custody arrangements and legal custody

It is crucial to mention legal custody in any conversation about child custody agreements. When a parent has legal custody, they are able to make important choices that will effect their child’s future. Major choices are frequently made in relation to extracurricular activities, health care, extracurricular schools, and religious instruction. However, other facets of your child’s life might also be considered to be such. When trying to ascertain the areas of your child’s life over which you possess decision-making authority in a joint custody arrangement, it is crucial to verify with your attorney regarding what technically qualifies as “major.”

Parents who share custody have an equal say in such important choices. You risk being found in contempt of court if you try to stop the other parent from taking part in this decision-making. Any custody agreement is joint only if there is an equal division of the legal authority to make such significant choices.

Every state has its own laws on the matter, and joint custody can take many different forms.

Official Language for Spending Time with Children

In the majority of states, time spent with your child when you share custody of them is formally known as “timesharing,” “parenting time,” or “visitation.” While many may refer to such a situation as having “joint physical custody,” the term is not legally recognized to describe features of visitation in custody situations where joint legal responsibility for important life decisions is allocated.

One Standard Arrangement for Custody
One popular form of joint custody is one in which both parents are entitled to an equal amount of time with their child while also sharing the responsibility for all significant life decisions for that child. In these arrangements, the child will live with each parent for a certain amount of time, and the parents will work together to make choices regarding the child’s welfare and upbringing in a manner akin to when they were married (legal custody).

Example: Mother and Father agree to jointly decide on all significant matters pertaining to the welfare and upbringing of the child (legal custody) and set up a timetable where the child spends one week at a time with each parent.

Additional Types of Joint Custody

There are further joint custody situations that parents can come upon. One involves equal physical contact with the child but unequal legal custody. This could imply that the child will only live with one parent while both parents agree to work together to make parenting decisions.

Example: Mother and Father agree to jointly resolve all significant matters pertaining to the welfare and raising of the child (legal custody), however the child will reside with Mother, with the Father being granted visitation rights. A parent who has visitation rights is allowed to spend a specific amount of time with their child.

There are several forms of joint custody. For instance, even though the child spends time with both parents on a rotating basis, one parent can be given the entire authority to decide on the child’s educational options.

Get Legal Assistance from a Professional in Your Child Custody Dispute

It can be advantageous to have a knowledgeable attorney defending and guiding you in a custody dispute. Whether you want shared custody or some other arrangement, a child custody lawyer can help you get the best outcome for you and your child. Get a jump start right now by getting in touch with a local child custody lawyer.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

When Is it a Bad Idea to File Bankruptcy Without an Attorney?

Almost often, hiring legal counsel to represent you in bankruptcy is a wise decision. Here are two scenarios where legal counsel is always necessary.

You’ve Got a Difficult Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

You’ll probably want a lawyer if you operate a small business, make more money than the average resident of your state, have a sizable quantity of assets, priority debts, nondischargeable debts, or creditors who can sue you for fraud. This is why.

A Chapter 7 case cannot be automatically dismissed by the filer. The bankruptcy court may reject your case or liquidate assets you believed you could keep if you make a mistake. A bankruptcy case could potentially be brought against you to decide whether or not a debt should be dismissed. If you lose, the debt will still need to be paid after filing for bankruptcy.

What Are Nondischargable Debts and Priority Debts?

A great tool for many people who are drowning in debt to get back on their feet is bankruptcy. However, it might not completely discharge your debt. In addition to being non-dischargeable, many “priority” debts also have the advantage of being paid off first if funds are available to pay creditors.

Child support, spousal support, or another domestic support duty, fines, penalties, and restitution imposed as punishment for breaking the law, some taxes, and impaired driving obligations are among the top debts you’ll still be accountable for after filing for bankruptcy.

You’ll still be liable for the following debts:

Retirement plan loans can be utilized to pay off debts that were deemed non-dischargeable in a prior bankruptcy as well as non-dischargeable tax debt (for example, if you used your credit card to pay a tax bill).
Unless you can demonstrate that completing your payments would put you in difficulty, a student loan won’t be forgiven either. The majority of people, however, fall short of the requirement. The lawsuit that is required to establish the case may also be expensive to file and defend.
Additionally, any creditor may seek the court to identify a debt that shouldn’t be dismissed in your case by filing a nondischargeability complaint.
The creditor will have to demonstrate one of several scenarios in order to prevail.
You lied about your income on a credit application or wrote a bad check, for example, to commit fraud.
Less than 90 days before you filed for bankruptcy, you charged a luxury item.
You harmed or destroyed someone else’s property on purpose.
You stole money or embezzled money.
In your bankruptcy petition, you omitted a list of all your creditors.
It’s usually not a smart idea to represent yourself if you think you might have nondischargeable debts or that a creditor would sue you.
You must submit a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings are preferable than Chapter 7 filings for a variety of reasons. If you want to keep your home, you might wish to apply for Chapter 13 bankruptcy to pay off mortgage arrears. Alternatively, you might choose to pay off your second mortgage, “cram down” or reduce a car loan, or repay a debt over time that won’t be discharged in bankruptcy, such back taxes or support arrears.

Even if your main reason for filing for Chapter 13 is that your income is too high to qualify under Chapter 7, most Chapter 13 cases are too complicated for an individual to file on their own.

Why Filing a Chapter 13 Case Without a Bankruptcy Attorney Is Too Difficult

You must prepare a proposed Chapter 13 repayment plan outlining how you would pay creditors over a period of three to five years in addition to filling out the bankruptcy paperwork.

Without the pricey software that most attorneys use, it is difficult to develop a plan due to the numerous bankruptcy requirements you must follow. Additionally, particular measures like paying off a car debt in full or stripping your second mortgage will necessitate submitting additional bankruptcy motions and paperwork with the court.

The vast majority of Chapter 13 cases filed without counsel are dismissed by the court due to the complexity involved. Therefore, it is a good idea to hire an experienced attorney if you intend to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Married Debt

Whether you are liable for your spouse’s debts depends on whether you live in a community property or equitable distribution state.

Whether you and your spouse are responsible for paying each other’s debts will depend primarily on where you live. If your state follows “common law” property rules, spouses are only liable for their own debts, with a few exceptions. For instance, both spouses must pay debts for family necessities like food, shelter, or tuition for the kids, although how states treat joint and separate debts varies slightly, so you’ll want to check your state laws.

However, if you live in one of a few states with “community property” rules, both you and your spouse will owe most debts incurred by either one of you during the marriage.

Keep reading to learn more about:

  • when you owe your spouse’s debts, and
  • how community property laws will affect you and your spouse in bankruptcy.

If you plan to file for bankruptcy in California or another community property state, you’ll want to know about the “limited community property discharge” that arises when only one spouse files for bankruptcy. Although all community property will be safe from creditor collection, the nonfiling spouse’s separate property will remain at risk.

Community Property States

The states that follow community property rules are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. (In Alaska, spouses can sign an agreement making their assets community property, but few people choose to do this.)

When Are You Responsible for Your Spouse’s Debt?

In community property states, most debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage are owed by the “community” (the couple), even if only one spouse signed the paperwork for a debt. The key here is during the marriage. So if you incur a debt, such as a credit card balance, while you’re single and then get married, it won’t automatically become a joint debt. However, an exception can occur when a spouse signs on to an account as a joint account holder after getting married. Some states, like Texas, have a more nuanced way of analyzing who owes what debts by evaluating who incurred the debt, for what purpose, and when.

After a legal separation or divorce, only the spouse who incurred the debt owes it unless the debt was incurred for family necessities, to maintain jointly owned assets (for example, to fix a leaking roof), or if the spouses keep a joint account.

If you’re considering wiping out debt in bankruptcy with a debt discharge, start by learning how bankruptcy works and what to avoid before filing for bankruptcy.

How Are Income and Property Shared Between Spouses?

In community property states, couples share income, as well. All income earned by either spouse during marriage and property bought with that income is community property, owned equally by husband and wife. Gifts and inheritances received by one spouse and separate property owned before marriage that remains separate are the respective property of one spouse alone. Comingling a gift or inheritance, such as by adding it to a joint bank account, could erase the protection. All income or property acquired after a divorce or permanent separation is also separate.

What Property Can Be Taken to Pay Debts?

In a community property state, creditors of one spouse can go after the assets and income of the married couple to make good on joint debts, and remember, most debts incurred during marriage are joint debts.

You’ll find out more about when you’re responsible for your spouse’s business debt here.

Creditors can go after joint assets in a community property state no matter whose name is on the asset’s title document. For example, a business owner’s name might not be on the title to her spouse’s boat. Still, in most community property states, that won’t stop a creditor from suing in court to take the boat to pay off the business owner’s debts assuming the boat was purchased with community funds and not separate funds.

Community property collection rules also apply to a spouse’s separate debt, such as one spouse’s child support obligation from a prior relationship, or a debt in one spouse’s name only where the spouse hid the marriage. In that case, a creditor can go after only that spouse’s half of the community property to repay the debt.

Do You Owe Your Spouse’s Student Loans?

With one exception (see below), the community property rules apply to student loan debt the same way they apply to other debts acquired during the marriage. Both spouses are responsible 100% for a student loan taken out during the marriage even though only one spouse signed for it. When the parties divorce, each spouse will be awarded 50% of the debt in the property settlement.

California presents an exception to the rules applied in other community property states. According to California law, student loans aren’t community debts, and a judge doesn’t have to split this kind of debt 50/50.

Recognizing that a student loan can benefit both spouses, California takes a more equitable approach than other states. In assigning each spouse a percentage of the outstanding student loan, a judge will consider factors like:

  •  the effect of the course of study on the community
  •  whether the other spouse also went to school, and
  •  the course of study’s effect on the spouse’s ability to support the community.

How to Remove a Spouse’s Liability

Couples in community property states can sign an agreement with each other to have their debts and income treated separately. Signing a pre- or postnuptial agreement like this can make sense for a couple before one spouse goes into business. But if you’re already in business, signing an agreement now won’t protect your spouse from liability for business debts that you already owe, only from liability for future business debts.

Keep in mind that this agreement will be between you and your spouse. It likely won’t affect whether a creditor can pursue you for debt, only your ability to pursue your spouse’s personal assets for payment. Check with your family law lawyer or bankruptcy lawyer for clarification.

You can also sign an agreement with a particular store, lender, or supplier, stating that the creditor will look solely to your separate property for repayment of any debt, essentially removing your spouse’s liability for any obligation or debt from the contract—if you can get the other party to agree.

How Does Bankruptcy Work in Marriage?

If only one spouse files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in a community property state, creditors can collect community debts against the nonfiling spouse. However, the creditor can’t forcibly take community assets to pay community debt discharged in the filing spouse’s bankruptcy. The creditor can only collect against the nonfiling spouse’s separate property.

This protection is known as a “limited community property discharge.” (11 USC § 524(a)(3).) Also, if you’re considering divorce, talk with your lawyer about the effect the divorce will have on your limited community discharge. You could likely lose its protection. Learn more about filing for bankruptcy without your spouse.


Written by Canterbury Law Group

Common Misconceptions about Divorce in Arizona Divorce & Bankruptcy: Which Comes First?

We all have our own ideas about divorce. When it comes to the legal aspects of divorce, most people have significant misunderstandings. The legal process to divorce in Arizona is straightforward, but cases that go before a judge can become really complicated. If you are considering a divorce, it’s very important to realistically understand the legal process and consequences. Here is a list of common misconceptions about divorce most Arizonians have:

Does Filing a Court Petition Equal a Divorce?

When you file for a divorce in a court, you are required to file a petition. Some people believe this petition to be equal to a legal divorce. It is not. You are legally divorced when a judge says so and issues a ruling which recognizes the formal Date of Separation. From that day on, your civil status will be officially divorced and single, but not a day before. This date is very important because your income and property ownership (that you retain after the proceedings) only become non-marital property after this date is set by the court.

Can Child Custody be Arranged According to a Prenup?

This is an absolutely inaccurate idea. Prenups can set provisions for things like asset division in a divorce. However, child custody is solely up to a family court to decide. Child custody is largely a matter of public policy that ensures the well-being of a child. That requires judicial assessment of a child’s current living situation. Therefore, having provisions for child custody is highly improper in a prenup agreement. It could possibly render the whole agreement void. To make sure your prenup agreement has no chance of being voided by a court, consult with a divorce attorney in Scottsdale.

Can A Spouse be Ordered to Pay My Attorney’s Fees?

In Arizona, the laws allow for a divorce court to order one spouse to pay the legal fees of the other in whole or part. However, this is very much subject to a judge’s independent review. The aim of these laws is to eliminate any income disparity between the spouses from hindering access to similar legal representation (going to court on “a level playing field” so to speak). However, the judge will see how “reasonable” both parties are. In other words, your spouse will be ordered to pay your legal fees if only the request is evaluated as reasonable and that your positions are in fact reasonable as presented in court.

Is Alimony is Forever in Arizona?

Courts in Arizona typically set alimony for a specific period of time, such as until a child comes of age. The purpose of alimony is to provisionally support a spouse in need. But alimony is not financial life support. If the receiving spouse dies, remarries or cohabits with another, then alimony can be terminated.   Generally speaking, the longer the duration of the underlying marriage, the longer the potential duration of payout on spousal maintenance.

Creditors will Only Go After the Spouse for Debts He or She Agrees to Pay Off

Arizona is a “community property” state. That means that any debts incurred during a marriage become the presumptive responsibility of both spouses. The actual person who signed the loan agreement may not always matter. This status applies even after a divorce. Your spouse could agree to pay off a credit card loan or the home equity line of credit in the divorce agreement, but you won’t be completely off the hook. If the spouse fails to pay, the third party creditors could come after you. Any agreement in a divorce is between you and the spouse, not the creditor.

Filing Together: A Joint Petition

A bankruptcy case starts when an individual, a married couple, or a business files official bankruptcy paperwork to the court. A married couple filing together will submit a “joint petition” containing the financial information of both spouses in one set of documents.

Divorcing couples often file together because it can be more efficient. For example, filing a joint petition comes with the following benefits:

the bankruptcy will wipe out (discharge) the qualifying debt of both spouses, thereby reducing the issues to be decided in divorce court, and it costs less to file bankruptcy together as opposed to apart.

Married couples are not obligated to file together, however. If one spouse needs bankruptcy protection immediately, an individual filing might make sense. Or each spouse might find it easier to qualify for bankruptcy after the divorce due to a mutual drop in income. But when it’s feasible, many couples find that filing together streamlines the divorce process.

Bankruptcy and Divorce Costs

Bankruptcy filing fees are the same for joint and individual filings. So filing a joint bankruptcy with your spouse before a divorce can save you a lot of legal fees. Also, if you decide to hire a bankruptcy attorney, your attorney fees will likely be much lower for a joint bankruptcy than if each of you filed separately. However, you should let your bankruptcy attorney know about your upcoming divorce as there may be a conflict of interest for him or her to represent you both.

Filing for bankruptcy before a divorce can also simplify the issues regarding debt and property division and lower your divorce costs as a result.

Chapter 7  vs. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation bankruptcy designed to get rid of your unsecured debts such as credit card debt and medical bills. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you usually receive a discharge after only a few months. So it can be completed quickly before a divorce.

By contrast, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy lasts three to five years because you have to pay back some or all of your debts through a repayment plan. So if you were looking to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it might be a better idea to file individually after the divorce because it takes a long time to complete.

Property Division

Wiping out your debts jointly through bankruptcy will simplify the property division process in a divorce. However, before filing a joint bankruptcy, you must make sure that your state allows you enough exemptions to protect all property you own between you and your spouse. Certain states allow you to double the exemption amounts if you file jointly. So if you own a lot of property, it may be a better idea to file a joint bankruptcy if you can double your exemptions.

If you can’t double your exemptions and you have more property than you can exempt in a joint bankruptcy, it may be more advantageous to file individually after the property has been divided in the divorce. Also, keep in mind that if you file bankruptcy during an ongoing divorce the automatic stay will put a hold on the property division process until the bankruptcy is completed.

Discharging Marital Debt

Litigating which debts should be assigned to each spouse in a divorce can be a costly and time-consuming process. Further, ordering one spouse to pay a certain debt in a divorce decree does not change the other spouse’s obligations toward that creditor.

For example, let’s say your ex-husband was ordered in the divorce to pay a joint credit card you had together. If he doesn’t pay it or files bankruptcy, then you are still on the hook for the debt, and the creditor can come after you to collect it. If you end up paying the debt, you have a right to be reimbursed by your ex-husband because he violated the divorce decree. This holds true even if he filed bankruptcy because he can discharge his obligation to pay the creditor but he cannot discharge his obligations to you under the divorce decree.

However, trying to collect from your ex will usually mean spending more money to pursue him in court. As a result, it may be in both spouses’ best interest to file bankruptcy and wipe out their combined debts before a divorce.

Income Qualification for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

If you intend to file a Chapter 7, the decision to file before or after a divorce can come down to income if you maintain a single household. If you wish to file jointly, you must include your combined income in the bankruptcy. If your joint income is too high and you don’t pass the Chapter 7 means test, you might not be able to qualify for a Chapter 7.

This can happen even if each spouse’s income individually is low enough to qualify on his or her own. This is because Chapter 7 income limits are based on household size and the limit for a household of two is not twice that of a single person household (it’s usually only slightly higher). In that case, it may be necessary to wait until each spouse has a separate household after the divorce to file bankruptcy.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Managing Marital Property: Do’s and Don’ts

Property division can become challenging for divorcing couples. However, this need not be a challenge.  And If you and the soon-to-be-ex cannot come to good terms on your own, a court will have to do it for you. Under Arizona’s community property law, debts and assets accumulated during a marriage belong to both parties 50/50 in the absence of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that says otherwise.  Arizonian family courts emphasize fairness when dividing up a property. Unlike in some states, the property may not be divided equally 50/50, but equitably in the eyes of the judge assigned to your case.  This can sometimes mean 55/45 or 60/40 or 40/60—every case is unique.

No matter what the facts, you will have to hire a talented divorce attorney in Scottsdale, Phoenix or your local area in the state. Absent years of litigation experience, you likely won’t be able to capably represent your interests in court without a deep knowledge of divorce and property laws in the state. If you are undergoing a process of dividing property in a divorce, here are some important items you should be aware of:

Determine if the Property Belongs to the Community or the Separate Category

There is a very clear distinction between community and separate property under Arizona law. Separate property is assets a spouse owned before marriage, inherited solely during the marriage, was gifted solely during the marriage, or purchased alone during the marriage with sole and separate finances. A prenuptial or postnuptial contract may also designate that certain items are to be treated as separate property.  Absent these facts, the law presumes all property and all debt, acquired or originated during the marriage, is community property.

Courts in Arizona only have jurisdiction over community property, not either spouse’s sole and separate property. Each party will have to provide evidence for separate property claims in the form of financial documents. It is possible that property that was originally separate later becomes community property during the marriage. For example, a house purchased by one spouse before marriage may become community property following the marriage if both spouses names are later placed on the recorded deed.

The reason that each is different is that the distinction between community and separate property during the marriage can be blurry. Some spouses may have unknowingly turned separate assets into community property by the “commingling” process, where two assets are combined. A bank account owned by one spouse before marriage becomes marital property if the other spouse makes deposits to it later with community income. Sometimes assets are partially community and partially separate, such as houses and retirement accounts. A business that one spouse operated but later received contributions from the other spouse after marriage can fall into this category.   A seasoned lawyer can walk you through these issues, and advance them in a court of law.

Set Values for Property

Regardless of whether community or separate property, all assets and debts must be assigned a monetary value before equitable division. The two spouses can do this themselves, or a court can do it in case the parties cannot agree on values. Typically appraisals are used to set values of real assets, like houses, antiques, or vehicles. The toughest asset to value can sometimes be retirement accounts.  You may have to hire a financial professional like an actuary to ascertain the value of a retirement account and the growth in value of such retirement assets since the original marriage date.

The Process of Dividing Property

You can see the first section above that determining whether a property is community or separate can be complicated. Ideally, both parties come to an agreement out of court. But this rarely happens when multiple assets are in question and the stakes involve hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

Courts may divide up property in multiple ways. In the case of property that is partially separate, the court may offer a spouse the option of buying out the remaining portion from the other. In some cases, it may be recommended to mutually sell the assets and divide the proceeds. Some property, like family homes, can be co-owned even following a divorce if children are living there or visiting each year.

Arizona courts typically divide property approximately equally among the divorcing partners. There are only a handful of exceptions to the rule. For example, if one spouse is known to have squandered money through irresponsible activities like gambling or drug use, the court may rule in favor of the other. In the case of property under massive debt, the court may rule against the spouse responsible for the debt.  At the end of the day, you will need the guidance and stewardship of experienced legal counsel to navigate these issues for you.

The following information will assist you in comprehending who owns what in terms of marital property.

Common Law Property and Marital Property States

The majority of states adhere to common law property. Consequently, what does it mean to reside in a common law property state, and who owns what following a divorce? The term “common law” is simply a term used to determine marital property ownership (property acquired during marriage). Under the common law system, property acquired by one member of a married couple is solely owned by that individual.

Obviously, if the title or deed to a piece of property is placed in the names of both spouses, then the property belongs to both partners. If the names of both spouses appear on the title, each spouse owns a one-half interest.

Distribution of property upon death or divorce: When one spouse dies, their separate property is distributed according to their will or through probate (in the absence of a will). The distribution of marital property depends on how ownership is shared between the spouses. If they hold property in “joint tenancy with the right of survivorship” or “tenancy by the entirety,” the surviving spouse inherits the property. This right is independent of the provisions of the spouse’s will.

However, if the property was owned as “tenancy in common,” then the deceased spouse’s will may direct the property to someone other than the surviving spouse. Some property does not have a title or deed. In this instance, the owner is typically the person who paid for or received the property as a gift.

In the event of a divorce or legal separation, the court will decide how the couple’s property will be divided. Obviously, the couple can enter into a premarital agreement detailing the division of marital assets upon divorce.

States with Marital and Community Property

Louisiana, Arizona, California, Texas, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin are the states with community property. In states with community property, all assets acquired during the marriage are regarded as “community property.”

In states with community property, both spouses own the marital property equally (50/50). This marital property consists of earnings, all property acquired with those earnings, and all marital debts. Community property commences at the time of marriage and terminates when a couple physically separates with the intent to no longer be married. Therefore, any earnings or debts accruing after this date will be considered separate property.

Any assets acquired prior to the marriage are regarded as separate property and belong solely to their original owner. A spouse may transfer the title of any separate property to the other spouse (gift) or to the community property (community property) (making a spouse an account holder on bank account). Couples can also commingle their separate property with their community property, for instance by adding funds from before the marriage to the funds that constitute the community property.

Spouses may not transfer, modify, or eliminate a whole piece of community property without the consent of the other spouse, but they may manage their own portion. However, the entire piece includes the interest of the other spouse. In other words, that spouse’s share of the property cannot be alienated.

Separate property consists of

  • prior to the marriage, only one spouse owned the marital home.
  • Gifts made to only one spouse prior to or during the marriage
  • inherited property by only one spouse
  • Community property consists of
  • Earnings of either spouse during the marriage
  • Items purchased with money earned by either spouse during the marriage
  • Unidentifiable separate property that has become entangled with common property.

Distribution of property upon death or divorce:

When one spouse dies, his or her half of the community property is transferred to the surviving spouse. Their separate property may be bequeathed to whomever they choose in accordance with their will or through probate in the absence of a will. Numerous states with community property provide an interest known as “community property with the right of survivorship.”

Under this doctrine, if a couple holds title or deed to a piece of property, typically a home, then upon the death of one spouse, the title automatically transfers to the surviving spouse without the need for court proceedings.

In the event of a divorce or legal separation, all community property is divided equally (50/50). The separate property of each spouse is distributed to the spouse who owns it, rather than being divided equally.

Sometimes, economic circumstances necessitate awarding certain assets entirely to one spouse, but each spouse still receives 50 percent of the total economic value of all community property. This is most prevalent in married households. Due to the impracticality of dividing a home in half, courts frequently award one spouse the home and the other spouse other assets with a value equal to half the value of the home.

Before the marriage, the couple may enter into an agreement outlining the division of marital property upon divorce.

Exceptions to the rule of equal division:

  • Prior to or during a pending divorce, one spouse misappropriates the community property.
  • One partner carries educational debts. This is the same as debt incurred separately. The spouse retains their GSL loans upon divorce.
  • One spouse incurred tort liability NOT as a result of activity performed for the benefit of the community of marriage.
  • Personal injury awards are considered community property during the marriage, but are awarded to the injured spouse upon divorce.
  • “Negative community” refers to a situation in which the community’s liabilities and debts exceed the assets available to cover them. Here, the relative ability of the spouses to pay the debt is taken into account. The objective here is to safeguard creditors.

Managing Marital Property: What You Should Do

Do consider entering into a prenuptial or premarital agreement prior to marriage. Such agreements make clear what will happen to your property upon your death or divorce. With one, you can prevent undesirable arrangements in how your property is divided in a divorce.

Do maintain accurate and complete books and records to establish the separate nature of property you wish to keep independent from the marital estate. Property you may want to keep separate can include things you had before marriage. It can also include gifts or inheritance you receive during the marriage.

Do continue to keep all separate property separate throughout the marriage, if you’re concerned about keeping it in your family upon your death or divorce. You should also do this with other things that you would also like to keep as a personal asset. Generally, this means you shouldn’t “commingle” property you owned prior to marriage with property you and your spouse acquired during the marriage. In cases of “commingling,” it may become difficult or even impossible to legally determine if it’s separate or marital property.

Do be aware that the increase in value of nonmarital property may be considered marital, so that each spouse is entitled to a share of the increased value of a possession upon divorce or the owner’s death. This is especially true if the increase in value is considered “active” rather than “passive.” (Such increases in value are officially referred to as “appreciation.”) Passive appreciation is, for example, the increase in value of a bank account as a result of interest earned. Passive appreciation also occurs with an increase in property value that results from standard inflation. Active appreciation, on the other hand, occurs as a result of some form of effort, such as repainting rental property, home improvement projects, or actively managing a stock portfolio.

Do use only your non-marital property to purchase other property that you want to be considered separate property. In other words, a boat that you pay for with money you had before marriage and kept in a separate account during marriage may be considered separate or non-marital property. But if your spouse pays for part of it, or even helps maintain it, the boat could lose the status of non-marital property.

Do keep proceeds acquired from any personal injury case during marriage separate, if you want to prevent them from becoming you and your spouse’s marital property. The money you get from a personal injury lawsuit is yours alone, except for any portion that reimburses you for your lost income or compensates your spouse for the loss of your services or companionship.

Managing Marital Property: What You Should Not Do

Don’t use separate funds to pay off a marital debt, or those funds could lose their non-marital character.

Don’t make deposits of income earned during the marriage into non-marital accounts. Income earned during marriage is usually considered marital property. Depositing that income into non-marital accounts can result in “commingling.” When that happens, the non-marital account is no longer considered separate property.

Don’t open a joint bank account with non-marital funds, even if you intend to keep track of which portion is separate. It’s much more prudent to maintain separate accounts if you wish to keep non-marital assets separate.

Don’t assume that just because you owned property prior to marriage, no portion of it will be deemed marital property. For example, if the home you owned before marriage increases in value during the marriage because of you and your spouse’s efforts to maintain and improve it, your spouse may be entitled to a portion of that increase in value.

Don’t assume that a business you owned prior to marriage remains entirely a non-marital asset after marriage. If your business or professional practice increases in value throughout the marriage due in part to your spouse’s contributions, your spouse may be entitled to a share of the increase in value upon divorce or your death. Such contributions can be obvious, such as in bookkeeping or entertaining clients. But they can also be more subtle, such as in taking care of the home and children so that you can focus on running the business.

What is Whose? Obtain Assistance with Your Marital Property Issues

Dividing marital property upon divorce or the demise of a spouse is never an easy subject to broach. Despite the fact that the specifics of property division depend on the state in which you reside, it can be quite confusing. However, you are not required to figure out the law on your own. Consider contacting an experienced divorce attorney in your area to discuss your options.

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