The first thing the parties should do is create a complete inventory of their assets and liabilities. In some cases, some assets may be characterized as either community property or separate property depending on their origin. An attorney’s opinion will probably be necessary to determine whether property is separate property or community property. The significance is that separate property stays with the party who owns it whereas community property is to be equitably divided between the parties
If there are minor children involved, the parties should begin discussing the issues of how they will handle legal decision-making and how much parenting time each party will have.
The parties should also gather at least three years’ worth of income tax returns and look at their most recent pay stubs to determine each of their gross monthly incomes.
Once that information is gathered, the parties can meet with an attorney or mediator and probably get a lot of questions answered as to the appropriate outcome of their case.
Robert C. Howard, partner of Jekel, Howard & Thomson, LLP, has practiced family law in Arizona for more than 35 years, with concentration on prenuptual agreements, divorce, paternity, and post-decree modification matters.