Do The Rules Of Evidence Apply In Arizona Divorce Cases? | AZ Divorce Lawyer
August 19, 2015
Last decade, Arizona experimented with relaxing the rules of evidence. In Arizona, prior to this change, family law cases, such as divorce and child custody cases, were subject to the formal rules of evidence that apply in civil and criminal court. However, this proved to be a hindrance to the efficient disposition of cases, especially those involving self-represented parties. This is because if a person does not follow the formal rules of evidence exactly as required, important information can be kept out of the trial, and conversely, very damaging information could be let in (if the proper steps were not taken to keep it out before it was let in).
When Arizona changed its application of the rules of evidence in family law cases, it started with the default status of a relaxed version of the evidentiary rules. The most obvious and important of the changes is that hearsay evidence is now admissible in family court cases unless it is so extreme that it would be too damaging to allow it to be talked about or used in court. Another important change is that with regard to proving the authenticity of documents, building an evidentiary foundation, and other matters that used to take up lots of time in court, you can simply use the documents if they appear to be legitimate (authentic and untampered-with). Family law hearings and trials are much shorter than civil or criminal hearings and trials.
Whereas a civil trial can go on for weeks in some cases, most divorce and child custody trials take only hours. Divorce and custody cases in Arizona should be scheduled for at least a day on average, but unfortunately that rarely happens. Because there is so little time for trial, relaxing the rules of evidence has enabled parties to present far more evidence and testimony than used to be the case before the changes to the rules of evidence were implemented. An important decision an attorney must make is whether to demand that the strict, formal rules of evidence be applied. That is an option in every case. Nobody is forced to present their case under the informal evidentiary rules.
In a good number of cases, depending on what your objective is, it is much better to force the other side to comply with the strict rules of evidence in order to prevent them from loading their case with evidence that is of questionable value or reliability. This is the kind of decision that many people who represent themselves fail to consider. Even many family law attorneys appear to routinely operate under the informal evidentiary rules without considering the consequences. You want to hire an attorney who is able to make a good judgment about whether your case should be heard under the relaxed rules of evidence or the formal, strict rules of evidence.
Your case could be won or lost with just this one decision that appears to be overlooked by many family law attorneys.
Can Someone Lose Their Pet To Their Spouse In A Divorce Case?
Nearly seventy percent of households in America have a cat or dog or both. What happens to these pets in divorce cases in Arizona? People are very attached to their pets and often consider them to be members of the family. Pets themselves are often very attached to their owners and probably will be emotionally affected if they are separated from the owner they are most closely bonded to. Unfortunately, Arizona law is very harsh toward pet owners. Under Arizona law, pets are considered to be community property if they were acquired during the marriage from community sources (such as the income of either or both spouses during the marriage).
If the pet was owned before marriage, it continues to be the sole property of that spouse. If the pet was a gift from one spouse to the other, it belongs to the spouse who received it as a gift. If the pet was a gift from a third party, it belongs to the spouse who received it as a gift. If the pet was received from a third party as a gift to both spouses, then the pet is treated as community property. When a pet is treated as community property, it is coldly considered to be no different than a chair, bed, or dresser. If the pet has special monetary value (a show dog, for example) the pet’s value will need to be determined and offset by other property.
For example, if the pet is worth $1,000 and you receive the pet in the court’s division of your property, your spouse will need to receive property of equivalent value. However, the pet’s true value is emotional in nature and cannot be monetized. That is a major problem for divorcing couples. If the divorcing couples are cooperative, they can agree to share the pet. A good divorce attorney can help you to draft an enforceable agreement to share your pet with your ex. But if you and your spouse cannot agree to share the pet, the judge is going to award the pet to just one of you.
If you need the pet for a disability, then you are very likely going to be the spouse who is awarded the pet. But even if you by far are the spouse who is most emotionally attached to the pet that does not guarantee that you are the one who is going to be awarded the pet. A vindictive spouse can use the pet against you as leverage in settlement negotiations. It is important to have a good divorce attorney on your side to find other things to use against your spouse in negotiations or at trial in order to increase the likelihood that you will be the spouse who is awarded the pet that brings you so much joy.
For more information on Rules Of Evidence In Divorce, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling today.
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