The attorneys at Schmidt McElwee & Gordon, PLLC, practice primarily in the area of family law, representing clients in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and surrounding areas on matters such as property division, spousal maintenance, child custody and support, and post-divorce modifications. The firm also counsels and represents prospective spouses in negotiating, drafting or reviewing prenuptial agreements. Below is a brief overview of the firm’s major areas of practice. For advice or representation in these or other family law matters in Arizona, contact Schmidt McElwee & Gordon, PLLC to speak with an attorney.
Although the firm focuses its expertise on the resolution of high-asset or complex divorce cases, the attorneys are equally capable of handling an uncontested divorce as in dealing with a contested divorce involving a high-conflict custody disputes or complicated business valuations.
Child Custody and Support
Although some form of joint parenting is most often favored, it rests with the court whether to grant sole or joint custody (now known as legal decision making) and how to divide parenting time for the children. Child support is usually ordered to be paid by the non-custodial parent to the primary custodial parent. The amount of child support is calculated according to a statutory formula; however, there are many ways a parent, particularly one who is self-employed, may represent or misrepresent income. In addition to ensuring a fair calculation of the support amount, the firm also argues, when appropriate, for a deviation from the guideline amount in the best interest of the children.
Modification of Custody and Support
While a child custody order can usually be modified upon a showing of changed circumstances, modifying a spousal maintenance or child support award requires proving that the change is substantial and continuing. Because any modification requires going back to court, experienced and effective legal representation is essential to protect your rights.
A prenuptial agreement is an excellent planning tool for parties contemplating marriage, particularly when one party has significantly more assets than the other. A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement allows the parties to enter into marriage with safety and security by deciding in advance how matters such as the division of property or the payment of spousal maintenance will occur in the event of divorce or legal separation. When properly drafted, both parties should feel protected and that their needs and interests have been addressed.
The Phoenix family law attorneys at Schmidt McElwee & Gordon represent clients in negotiating and drafting valid prenuptial agreements that conform to the rules of the Arizona Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, thereby ensuring that the agreements are properly prepared, address only valid and legally enforceable topics, and based on voluntary agreements after fair and reasonable disclosure of property and financial obligations.
Approaching a division of property requires a thorough understanding of what constitutes community property and separate property. This itself is often a complicated matter depending on how and when property was initially acquired, how the property was handled throughout the marriage, and whether separate and community property were intermixed to an extent that could transmute the entirety to community property. Equally important to locating, identifying and properly characterizing every asset is assigning the correct value to the property. The firm specializes in complex property valuation matters, such as business valuations, goodwill and ownership interests, and future interests such as stock options, retirement plans, or complicated investment instruments.
Although spousal maintenance is most often ordered to be paid by the primary wage earner in the marriage to help the other spouse become self-supporting, it is not ordered automatically or granted in every case. It is up to the court to determine whether to award maintenance and if so, at what amount and for what duration. The firm’s attorneys have been involved in significant litigation that still governs the determination of spousal maintenance today. This background and experience enables the firm to provide sound advice and representation to their clients.