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How Does Divorce Impact My Bankruptcy Case?

By: Alex Coomer


November 24, 2020

©Alex Coomer Law, PLLC, All Rights Reserved.

It is a sad reality that financial stress is a major cause of marital problems.  Similarly, marital stress or living within an unhappy marriage can lead to bad financial decision-making and debt. Either way it goes down, bankruptcy and divorce law often overlap.  When these sad and difficult situations occur, there is a complex interplay between two different types of law that generates a lot of confusion.  This FAQ article seeks to provide very basic information and help you understand the issues when divorce and bankruptcy overlap.

Disclaimer — Both divorce and bankruptcy are complex fields of law in their own distinct forms. And, when these two areas of law mingle together, it gets even more complex.  Therefore, if you are presently going through or contemplating both divorce and bankruptcy, it is highly advised that you seek legal representation immediately.   

What is community debt and community property? 

To understand the interplay of divorce and bankruptcy, it starts with a simple understanding of community debt and community property.  

Arizona is a community property state. This means that any property (other than gifts or inheritances) you and your spouse acquired during the marriage belongs equally to both parties and any joint debts incurred during the marriage are the equal responsibility of both parties. It does not matter whether one spouse worked during the marriage and the other did not. Community property includes real property, personal property, money, stocks and bonds.

All debt incurred during the marriage, no matter by whom, is generally considered to be the community debt of both parties. This is true even if the debt was incurred for purchase of an item that only one of the parties uses.  As with community property, generally, debts owed by one party prior to the marriage remain a separate debt of that party and do not become transformed into a community debt just because the parties got married.

If I am contemplating filing for bankruptcy AND divorce, should I get divorced before, after, or at the same time as my bankruptcy case?  

This is a very difficult question to answer and there is no one set answer to this question.

 The best strategy for you and your family here will depend on the nature of your debts, assets, and relative level of cooperation you have with your soon-to-be ex-spouse.   As there are many variables to consider here, there is not one conventional strategy that fits most people.  

With the understanding that every case is different, here are some important things to keep in mind in terms of timing, logistical issues, and costs of the two legal processes.  

If you file your bankruptcy case prior to divorce, you will be able to lawfully double your exemptions pursuant to the bankruptcy code as a joint-filing couple.  This could be meaningful to your family if, for example, you own fairly nice furniture (worth more than $6,000) that you do not intend to divide equally or if your family owns a single vehicle that has substantial equity (between $6,000 and $12,000).    

If you file your bankruptcy case prior to divorce and wish to only hire one attorney to represent both debtors to save on fees and costs, there are serious ethical considerations regarding conflicts of interest to consider in this situation.  As such, you can really only consider filing for joint bankruptcy with one attorney prior to divorce if the parties are amicably divorcing and without controversy on splitting of exempt marital assets.  Keep in mind that non-exempt assets will be frozen when filing for joint bankruptcy before getting divorced. Only exempt property will be eligible for division between the spouses.

If there are disputes about finances leading into the bankruptcy or disputes over property, it is not advised for one attorney to represent both parties in the bankruptcy.   In this case, like your divorce case, it would be advised that the parties retain separate counsel and file separate bankruptcy cases in conjunction with divorce litigation that splits exempt marital assets.   

One of the worst steps to take is filing for bankruptcy in the middle of divorce proceedings without consulting with qualified lawyers. In most cases, filing for bankruptcy will put the divorce proceedings on hold and may only continue once the bankruptcy case is completed or if a divorce attorney files a motion to move forward with the legal separation.  In these situations, communication is king.  It is critical to keep all attorneys up to date with all relevant developments, including financial stress.  

Don’t forget that community debt acquired during the marriage becomes joint debt, even after the divorce was finalized. The divorce will also lead to the apportioning of the debt between the two spouses. As such, the creditors may still go after the spouse who did not file for bankruptcy and demand debt payments. Therefore, it is advisable that two separate filings be done after the divorce to keep creditors from pursuing one of the spouses.

My ex-spouse owes me money and I got notice that he/she is now filing for bankruptcy.  Can my ex-spouse discharge alimony or child support payments owed to me in bankruptcy?   

No.  Alimony and child support are considered priority unsecured debt.  Alimony and child support are a special form of debt.  This type of debt is paid first by debtors under repayment plans in Chapter 13 and cannot be discharged at all in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  

If you receive notice that your ex-spouse has filed for bankruptcy and you are listed as a creditor, you have rights that you should understand.  If you have questions, concerns, or want representation to protect your rights, it is highly advised you consult with a creditor lawyer immediately upon learning of the bankruptcy filing by your ex-spouse who owes you money.   

Can my ex-spouse discharge personal loan debts that they owe to me from prior to our marriage?  

Yes.  If you loaned your spouse money at some point prior to marriage, this is considered unsecured non-priority debt.  If your ex-spouse files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and lists this loan correctly, this type of debt can be discharged by the borrowing party. 

What if he/she promised me over and over that he/she would pay me back?

Unfortunately, a subsequent promise to repay does not change anything in a bankruptcy case.  Barring some unusual exception, such as your ex-spouse committing fraud, personal loans given prior to marriage will be dischargeable debt.  


Disclaimer: The information in this web site is not intended to provide legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship; but is intended for general education and information purposes only. Laws change periodically, therefore the information in this site may not always be accurate. It is imperative that you seek legal counsel in order to determine your rights and obligations under the law and based upon your specific circumstances.

Alex Coomer Law, PLLC is a debt relief agency and helps people file for bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code. The material and information contained on these pages and any pages linked to from these pages is intended to provide general information only and not legal advice. You should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction before relying on any of the information presented here. You are advised that the acts of sending e-mail to or viewing or downloading information from this website does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.

© Copyright 2020 – Alex Coomer Law, PLLC – Tucson Bankruptcy Attorney.

Divorce. What is best for the children?

Divorce. What is best for the children?

Divorce. What is best for the children? Divorce is not only challenging for the two people involved in the relationship, but it can also take a significant toll on your children.

While children often can pick up on the tension between their parents, studies indicate that a whopping 80% of children who experience a split between their parents when they are young, do not show any signs of being negatively impacted by the decision.

How divorce affects children of a certain age

On average, children aged 6-10yrs old are least affected by divorces; however, children aged 1-2yrs old’s seem to be the most affected. Every marriage goes through its good times and bad times; however, when children become involved in the equation, the stakes become even higher.

If you’re someone who is currently experiencing issues in your marriage and are considering divorce, it’s crucial that you think about what is best for your children and not just the two parents involved.

There are several aspects to a divorce that must be considered to ensure that both parties are satisfied with the end results, while also making sure that your children aren’t affected adversely by the whole ordeal.

The good news is that if you are trying to get a divorce, you can do a few things to make sure your children feel safe and loved while you and your significant other split up.

Every child handles divorce differently, while some children enjoy both parents being the home regardless of whether they fight all the time or not. Some children understand the dynamic between their parent’s relationship and can pick up on signs that there may be unhappiness looming. This is why it’s so important to speak with your children about how they feel when going through a divorce so that you can make sure everyone in your home is happy with whatever decision you two decide to make.

Below, we’re going to give you some helpful tips and information that you can use to get a divorce from your partner in the most amicable way possible.

Figuring out what’s best for your child during a divorce

One of the significant factors that impact children during a divorce is the custody arrangement that goes into place once the divorce is finalized. If your child has a great relationship with both parents, a custody arrangement will likely have little to no effect on them.

However, this can change in situations where a child may have a stronger relationship with one parent as opposed to another.

Divorce. What is best for the children?

Your divorce dynamics will also play a huge role in determining how well your child reacts to the split. For example, some couples are able to separate without any bad blood or bickering during the process. If this fits your situation, the good news is that you will likely not have to worry about your child experiencing any adverse side effects after you and your partner decide to do a split.

If you and your significant other have been having problems for quite some time now, the odds of your child being able to pick up on the tension between you two is very high. If your child is coming to you and asking questions about why “mommy and daddy” are arguing, the odds are they are able to sense all of the hostility between you two. In this circumstance, it can be beneficial to sit down with your child or children so that both of you can explain to them exactly what’s happening in order to get their input about how they would feel in the event of a divorce.

The good news for those out there dealing with marital issues is that a new phenomenon known as joint physical custody or JPC is slowly but surely on the rise within the United States. Joint physical custody is essentially “equal opportunity” parenting as both guardians are required to share equal splits for their children in terms of child support, housing, and the overall amount of time that each parent gets to spend with them.

Making the split happen

Once you’ve spoken with your child about the decision that you and your partner are about to make, you can proceed with the official court hearings so that you can make your divorce final.

Every divorce hearing is different, given that each couple will have unique elements to their situation that may not apply in other circumstances.

It’s best that you speak with a family attorney anytime you plan on getting a divorce so that they can give you advice on the best steps to take with your case on an individual basis.

People Also Ask

Q: Can divorce ever be good for a child?

A: According to statistical data, about 80% of children who experience a divorce can adapt without showing signs of any negative impacts on their social abilities, school grades, or mental health. This commonly happens when a child has developed a strong relationship with both parents.

Q: How do I help my kids through a divorce?

A: There are many things you can do to make the divorce process much easier for your children. This includes things like offering support during the separation process, maintaining good health, help them verbalize how they feel about the entire situation, and encouraging an atmosphere of honesty with your child.

Q: At what age does divorce affect a child?

A: Research shows that children’s worst age to experience a divorce is between the ages of 6-10. Alternatively, the best periods for a child to experience separation are between 1-2yrs old.


Now that you know how to handle a divorce while also considering your children’s feelings and emotional state, it’s time for you to make it happen. Before filing for a divorce, ask yourself these two questions: “Have I noticed any odd behavior from my children since my partner, and I have decided to split?” and “What is my child’s relationship like with both my partner and me?” These questions can be used as litmus tests to determine whether or not divorce is right for you.

Further reading: A self-help guide to best practices for parents getting divorced where children are involved.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us

Arizona Divorce 101 – How Does it All Work?

Arizona Divorce 101 – How Does it All Work?

Arizona Divorce 101.

One of the questions most often asked when someone walks into our offices to pursue a divorce is; “How does this all ACTUALLY work?”.  The more we are asked this question, the more we realize that there is a lack of plain information for the average person wanting to know about the basics of divorce in Arizona.

So we will attempt to put it all together here, in a nutshell, so that someone who wants to understand the basics, the ideal timeline, the requirements, can walk away better informed.

Here at Randle Palmer & Bernays, we do not want to have clients hire us who in fact do not need our services. We regularly send people away with the “self-service” forms the court provides (they charge $10,  we do it for free) if the matter they are facing is straight-forward and can be handled without the help of an attorney. We do not subscribe to the “every case would be better if a lawyer was involved” theory, rather, we prefer to maintain our credibility and integrity through every action, even if it means we do not get hired.

This brief outline is not meant to substitute for legal guidance and is not legal advice. It is meant to give a general road-map of the process. Depending on the complexity of your situation a divorce can be finalized in as little as 61 days in Arizona or can stretch on for over a year in the worst cases.

In that vein, please see this fairly straight-forward explanation of the divorce process in Arizona. essentially the Arizona Divorce 101.

The Basic Principles in Divorce:

  • Arizona is a purely no-fault divorce state, which means that neither spouse has to prove blame or responsibility to end the marriage. The only question that must be answered is whether the marriage is “irretrievably broken”, which simply means that there is no chance that the spouses want to continue the marriage. A.R.S. §25-312 (Unless it is a covenant marriage)
  • Arizona is a community property state. This means in short, each party is “owner” of half of everything acquired during the marriage. Real property, retirements, debt, etc… A.R.S. §25-211(There are some exceptions).
  • When it comes to the kids; The Court is supposed to design a plan “that maximizes their respective parenting time. The court shall not prefer a parent’s proposed plan because of the parent’s or child’s gender. A.R.S. §25-403.02

The Minimum Requirements:

  • One party must have lived in the County they file in for the previous 90 days consecutively.
  • If there are children in common (the parties are the biological parents) the children must have resided in the County of filing for at-least 6 months prior to the date you file.
  • Because Arizona is a “no-fault” state all that must be “proven” is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”, which simply means that there is no chance that the spouses want to continue the marriage.

The First Steps:

In order to begin a divorce in the state of Arizona, one of the spouses (the Petitioner) must file a Petition with the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county of residence of either spouse (filing fees vary from county to county). The petition asks the court to legally end the marriage and to issue the orders that are necessary to deal with the spouses’ property, debts, child support, custody and alimony. Generally, the court will not give a spouse anything that isn’t requested in the petition.

When the petitioner files the petition he or she must also file:

  • Summons
  • A Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance
  • Preliminary Injunction
  • Notice to Creditors
  • Domestic Relations or Family Court Cover Sheet

If there are children involved the Petitioner must also file:

  • Affidavit Regarding Minor Children
  • Order and Notice Regarding the Parent Information Program

The Petitioner must create three copies of the aforementioned forms.

  • The original must go(be filed) to the Clerk of the Superior Court
  • The next to his or her spouse
  • The final copies are for the Petitioner’s records.

Notice to the Other Party:

The Constitution guarantees that in both the 5th and 14th Amendments that a person be given notice before a lawsuit can be filed against them. This applies in divorce actions: In order to let your spouse know that you are filing for divorce, copies of the above forms (the summons, the petition etc.) must be served within 120 days of the filing of the petition.

The other party is not “on notice” and thus the divorce action isn’t really “live” until one of the accepted forms of service has been completed and the notice of such is filed with the Clerk of the Court.

To Respond or Not to Respond:

This is where the road begins to fork; The Respondent has 20 days to respond if they live in the same state the petition was filed in and 30 days if they live out of state.

If the Respondent does nothing, you can, and should, file for a default. Provided the Respondent has been appropriately served, and they do not respond, your petition will likely be granted in its entirety and the divorce will be done. This is subject to some specific rules and requirements (like most of the stuff in this process).

However if a response is filed, the case will move forward to the next steps.

The 60 Day Waiting Period

In the state of Arizona, a divorce cannot be granted until at least 60 days have passed since the petitioner served his or her spouse. Once this waiting period is over, if both couples agree on the terms of the divorce, or if proceeding by default, then the divorce can be finalized rather quickly. However, if the couple cannot agree on the terms, than the case will go to court and a judge will settle the terms.

Curveballs and Detours

TEMPORARY ORDERS: Because some cases require significant research, negotiation or, in the worst cases full-blown trials, the court can establish “rules” for the in-between times. This is done at a “mini-trial” where the court hears evidence and argument and then decides things like: Parenting Time, Child Support, Spousal Maintenance (alimony), who stays in the home, who pays the bills, etc. These rules last until a final agreement, order, or decree is in place.

CHILD INTERVIEWS: In some cases it is appropriate to ask the Court to have the child(ren) interviewed to ascertain how they feel about things. Please note that the Court is not obligated to allow this, and generally decides based on the age and maturity of the specific child.


In any case where there are minor children involved the Courts generally require that the parties attend mediation to try and work out an agreement on issues specific to legal decision making and parenting time ONLY. No agreements are required, but as a general rule the case will go much smoother in the long run if the parties can agree on at least a few things during this process. Mediation is done without the lawyers or judge. A trained mediator works with the parties in a neutral environment to maximize the potential for agreements to be made.

Disclosure & Discovery

The rules that govern the divorce process outline the very specific things that each party can ask the other party to provide in the way of information and documents. Many of these things are mandatory to provide, such as a financial affidavit, and depending on the issues involved, this process can be very complex and significantly stretch out the length of the divorce.

Setting For Trial

When all the disclosure/discovery has been completed, or is very close to being completed, the case can be set for a trial. When this happens the Court will set a date for the trial and some other specific events. These are:

Settlement Conference

This is a meeting between the parties, their lawyers, and a neutral 3rd party (usually a Judge Pro Temp) where the issues are worked on and any agreements are put on the record to narrow the scope of what will be argued at trial.

Final Pre-Trial Conference

This is a short hearing in front of the Judge where the issues for trial are nailed down and any last minute administrative details are worked out.


This is largely self-explanatory but trials can last anywhere from an hour to several days depending on the complexity, amount of issues, evidence to be presented, witnesses, etc.

Final Decree

This is the piece of paper (several pages actually) that finally outlines the terms, conditions, and rules of the divorce moving forward. The decree details property division, child support, spousal support, parenting time, legal decision making, returning maiden names, terms for future enforcement or changes, and any other final or binding orders.

If you have questions or think it may be too much for you to handle on your own, call us for a FREE consultation at (520) 327-1409 today.

Read more on divorce in Arizona 

Staying For the Kids

Staying Together For the Kids

Staying Together For the Kids, We often hear from clients that the reason they are still in a bad marriage is “for the kids”. While the logic is understandable, the reality is that this is actually much worse for everyone involved, especially the kids!

The experts agree that what children need and want more than anything are stability and calm. If the “normal” state of the home is chaos and fighting the damage can be long-lasting and much worse than working through a divorce.

However, creating a “new normal” where the marriage ends, but so does the cycle of anger and venom, can significantly improve the quality of life for everyone in the family, ESPECIALLY THE KIDS!

If you are in an unhealthy marriage and are looking for a better way for everyone involved, give us a call today for a free consultation at (520) 327-1409


Staying Together For the Kids

Here are important links to both Child Custody and also Child Support

Here is a link to a great article on Staying together for children

The 10 Documents You Need to Gather to Prepare For a Divorce

The 10 Documents You Need to Gather to Prepare For a Divorce

Prepare For a Divorce.

When someone is considering ending a marriage, they often start by gathering the information they think they need…

Even with the best of intentions, most people don’t get the things they will actually need to provide to either their lawyer, the other party or the Court. Some lawyers would have you believe that the information you need to gather is a secret, or is a matter of their specific expertise, and that just isn’t true.

We want to take the mystery out of the process, so with that in mind, here are the 10 most important documents to gather in preparation for a divorce. This list is not all-inclusive, nor is it exhaustive, but it is the minimum you should gather to give the case an easy start.

Prepare For a Divorce

1. Financial Documents in Divorce

Specifically – proof of income from all sources, completed tax returns, W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and K-1 forms, for the past two (2) calendar years, and year to date income information for the   current calendar year, including, but not limited to, year-to-date pay stubs, salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest,  trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits, worker’s compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, recurring gifts, prizes, and spousal maintenance.

  1. Proof of court-ordered child support and spousal maintenance actually paid in any case other than this one;
  2. Proof of all medical, dental, and vision insurance premiums paid for any child listed or referenced in the petition;
  3. Proof of any child care expenses paid for any child listed or referenced in the petition;
  4. Proof of any expenses paid to private or special schools or other particular education needs of a child listed or referenced in the petition; and
  5. Proof of any expenses paid for the special needs of a gifted or handicapped child listed or referenced in the petition.

2. Property Paperwork for divorce

Unless you and the other party have entered into a written agreement disposing of all property issues, or no property is at issue, each of you must provide to the other the following information:

  1. Copies of all deeds, deeds of trust, purchase agreements, escrow documents, settlement sheets, and all other documents that disclose the ownership, legal description, purchase price and encumbrances of all real property owned by either party;
  2. Copies of all monthly or periodic bank, checking, savings, brokerage and security account statements in which either of you has or had an interest for the period commencing six (6) months prior to the filing of the petition and through the date the information was provided to the other party;
  3. Copies of all monthly or periodic statements and documents showing the value of all pension, retirement, stock options, and annuity balances, including Individual Retirement Accounts, 401 (k) accounts, and all other retirement and employee benefits and accounts in which you have or had an interest for the period commencing six (6) months prior to filing of the petition and through the date of the disclosure, or if no monthly or quarterly statements are available for this time period, the most recent statements or documents that disclose the information;
  4. Copies of all monthly or periodic statements and documents showing that cash surrender value, face value, and premiums charged for all life insurance policies in which either party has an interest for the period commencing six (6) months prior to filing of the petition and through the date of the disclosure, or if no monthly or quarterly statements are available for this time period, the most recent statements or documents that disclose the information;
  5. Copies of all documents that may assist in identifying or valuing any item of real or personal property in which you or the other party have or had an interest for the period commencing six (6) months prior to the filing of the petition, including any documents that the party may rely upon in placing a value on any item of real or personal property.
  6. Copies of all business tax returns, balance sheets, profit or loss statements, and all documents that may assist in identifying or valuing any business or business interest for the last two (2) completed calendar or fiscal years with respect to any business or entity in which any party has or had an interest; and
  7. A list of all items of personal property, including, but not limited to, household furniture, furnishings, antiques, artwork, vehicles, jewelry and similar items in which any party has an interest, together with the party’s estimates of current fair market value (not replacement value) for each item.

3. Debts

Unless you and the other party have entered into an agreement disposing of all debts issues, you will need to provide the following information:

  1. Copies of all monthly or periodic statements and documents showing the balances owing on all mortgages, notes, liens, and encumbrances outstanding against all real property and personal property in which the path has or had in interest for the period commencing six (6) months prior to the filing of the petition and through the date of disclosure, or if no monthly or quarterly statements are available during this time period, the most recent statements or documents that disclose the information; and
  2. Copies of all credit card statements and debt statements for all months for the period commencing six (6) months prior to the filing of the petition and through the date of disclosure.

4. Health/Dental/Vision Insurance Plans

With premium breakdowns for all plan options.

5. School Records

This is specifically for the kids common to the parties.

6. Employment Records

(to include your schedule, length of employment, position, etc.).

7. Text or Email

Communication With the Opposing Party

That would benefit you. Remember that this sword cuts both ways, and the Court is far from stupid, they have seen the old “only show 1/2 of the conversation” trick and the other party will likely bring the whole record.

8. Any Police Reports, Orders of Protection or Court Records


Concerning you, the opposing party or children. Domestic violence, abuse, neglect, etc.

9. Disclosure of Witnesses

You will need to provide the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any witness whom you expect to call to trial, along with a statement fairly describing the substance of each witness’s expected testimony. You have to provide this information to the other party at least sixty (60) days before trial unless a different deadline is ordered by the court.

10. Continuing Duty to Disclose

You have a duty to make additional or amended disclosures whenever new or different information is discovered or revealed.

Here is the link to the main divorce page

Additionally, here is a link to Divorce in Arizona with children

Avoiding the financial pitfalls of a grey divorce

Avoiding the financial pitfalls of a grey divorce

Avoiding the financial pitfalls of a grey divorce

Couples who are unhappy are deciding to end their marriages even if they have been married for many years. Divorce over the age of 50 — or grey divorce as it is known — is becoming more common today. In fact, overall divorce rates are declining in the country except for couples in this age range. Arizona spouses in this situation may wish to sidestep the possible financial ramifications of divorce later in life by avoiding certain mistakes.

When a couple that is close to retirement age divorces, there can be added financial pitfalls which could include retirement plans. One piece of advice experts agree on is selling the family home to offset any financial injury; holding onto a home may make the situation even more tenuous. Couples also need to know where they stand in terms of their assets and their debts so each person can make plans regarding their financial situation. Not looking at that picture can also create an added financial burden.

grey divorce

Dealing with taxes in a grey divorce

Divorce also changes a couple’s tax situation, so they need to focus on those changes and how they will affect each of them. Speaking with an accountant or tax adviser independently may be wise. Another error many people make is underestimating their monthly expenses living as single individuals. And former spouses should never hide assets from each other; it’s actually against the law.

See the main page on divorce

Here is a great article on grey divorce from Forbes

The information contained in the Randle Palmer & Bernays website website is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as tax or legal advice on any subject matter. Randle Palmer & Bernays provides legal advice and other services only to persons or entities with which it has established a formal attorney-client relationship.