Frequently Asked Questions

Can I hire you to work only as needed?

Yes, depending on the issue and the facts of your situation you can. Depending on the facts and issues involved in your situation, we may be able to provide you with legal assistance in one of the following three ways:

  • Full Representation: 
    The law firm takes full responsibility for representing you in your case. We will prepare and file any documents with the Court, which are referred to as pleadings, and will appear in Court for and with you when it is required. We will communicate with the other party for you and will engage in settlement negotiations. We will also keep you updated on the status of your case and will discuss the options available to you so that you are able to make informed decisions concerning how to proceed with your case.
  • Limited Scope Representation: 
    While this applies primarily in family cases, there are times in civil cases where we can do this. In these situations we may be hired to handle only a specific aspect of a civil dispute. For example, we may be hired solely to attempt to negotiate the settlement of a civil dispute, or we may be asked to negotiate the terms of and draft a contract.
  • Consultation and documentation preparation only:
    In these situations we do not represent the person or business, but are only asked to consult with them to help them to understand their legal rights and options in a given situation. At times we are asked solely to prepare or review a legal document for the individual or business with the understanding that we are not being asked to take on the full representation of the person or business.
What should I do if I’m injured from a dog bite?

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What is a guardianship?

A guardianship is a legal process to appoint a guardian for an adult or child that needs a caretaker.

The guardian must be a responsible adult who agrees to be appointed and is often the petitioner (the person asking the court to set up the guardianship).  The guardian will have to sign statements that they understand their responsibilities and fingerprint clearance is required for some guardians.

The ward can be a child or an incapacitated adult.

A child may need a guardian because the parent is not available or not capable of caring for the child.  The ward and guardian do not need to be related.  Guardianships are often by consent.  For example, a parent may agree to their child living with another family so that the child can continue to attend school when the parent is deployed in the military or on a temporary work assignment out of the area.  A guardianship may also be in the child’s best interests if the parent is not capable of properly caring for the child.  Alternative legal options may be third party custody (also known as in loco parentis), severance and adoption, or dependency (foster care or kinship care). 

An adult may need a guardian when the adult is not capable of taking care of his or her own self.  For example, an adult may have a significant mental illness, is unable to manage his finances, and is unable to make decisions regarding daily matters.   

The guardian or potential guardian is allowed to have an attorney in court.  The Court will appoint an attorney for an adult ward in all cases and for the child in certain cases. 

Zawtocki Law can assist you in obtaining guardianship and advise you about your rights as a guardian.

What is a conservatorship?

A conservatorship is a legal process where a conservator is put in charge of someone’s finances when that person is not able to manage it on their own. 

For example, a conservatorship is often required and established when a minor is awarded money in a personal injury case.  The award of money is placed in a special bank or investment account.  The conservator is required to protect that money until the child is an adult.  Once the child is an adult, the conservatorship is usually ended. 

A conservatorship is also used for an incapacitated adult or child that is a ward in a guardianship when they are not capable of managing their own funds.   The guardian and conservator are often the same person, but they can be different individuals as well.  Alternatives to a conservatorship include being assigned as the representative payee by Social Security.

Do I need a will and estate planning?

Zawtocki Law recommends a will and estate planning for all adults. This is the best way for you to dispose of your assets after death in the way you want.   Parents and guardians use a will and estate planning to designate a guardian for their minor children or ward after death.   It also allows you to decide who you want to be your personal representative — the person who distributes your assets and closes your accounts.  It can be particularly important for a single parent to have a will and estate planning.  Your child’s other parent may have rights to be involved in disposing of your assets and estate.   If this is not in your child’s best interest, estate planning is necessary. 

We also provide assistance with preparing a durable power of attorney, beneficiary deed, living will, medical power of attorney, and mental health power of attorney, if needed.

Will I get to keep my house when I divorce?

Your house could be your separate property, your spouse’s separate property, community property, or a combination of these.   We have experience in determining how your property should be characterized. Zawtocki Law can also help you understand your rights and obligations.  We can help you understand the benefits and disadvantages of the different choices you can make regarding your house and real property. 

For example, a number of people have a house that has been foreclosed on or are trying to pursue a short sale.  There may be continuing obligations that need to be addressed in a divorce.   For some people, it is appropriate to sell the house for financial reasons or to have a fresh start.  For others, it is appropriate for one party to keep the house.

Will I get or have to pay spousal support (alimony)?

Arizona does allow spousal maintenance in appropriate cases.  Spousal maintenance and alimony are the same. 

The parties can agree or the  judge must decide if spousal maintenance is appropriate. The judge considers many factors including the relative earning abilities of the parties, the length of the marriage, the parties’ ages, and the property each party will receive in the divorce. If the judge determines that the person seeking maintenance does not qualify, the inquiry ends. If the judge determines that the person seeking maintenance qualifies for an award, the judge then moves to the second part of the analysis under 25-319(B) — the amount and duration of the award. This statute requires the judge to consider another long list of factors, which can be discussed in more detail in an office consultation.

How is child support calculated?

Child support is governed by the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. It is calculated using a formula outlined in the Guidelines after many variables are determined by agreement between the parties or by a judge following a court trial.  These include:

a. Monthly gross income for each parent
b. Cost of supporting children not common to the parties
c. Spousal maintenance (alimony) paid/received
d. Cost of child care
e. Cost of medical insurance for the children
f. Parenting time schedule
g.  Age of the child

Calculations can be prepared in an initial office consultation based on the information you provide us.

How do I get custody of my children?

The parents can agree or the  judge will decide this issue.  The judge may send the parties to a mental health provider or court conciliation services professional who will help the judge make this difficult decision.

In Arizona, custody is known as legal decision making authority.   The judge considers many factors, including the parents’ wishes, which parent has been the primary caregiver, the children’s adjustment to each parent and to home, school and community, the children’s wishes (in some cases), and which parent is more likely to allow the other parent a relationship with the children. The judge will also take very seriously any history of domestic violence, substance abuse, and whether a parent keeps the child from the other parent without a valid reason.

Joint legal decision making authority is shared decision-making and will be appropriate for many families.  It has nothing to do with where the children live. 

Sole legal decision making authority gives one parent decision making authority.  This may be appropriate in situations where one parent is not involved or when one parent is not capable of co parenting in an appropriate way.

Parenting time is the amount of time a child will spend with each parent.  Parenting time arrangements can range from equal time with each parent to the children living primarily in one home.   The parenting time will be based on the best interests of the children.   This includes consideration of where parents live, their work schedules, and many other factors.

 

How much does a divorce cost?

Many divorcing couples with no children in common and no real estate, business interests, or retirement accounts can get divorced quite inexpensively, sometimes without an attorney. When the case involves child custody, support, real estate, retirement accounts, business interests or other complicated assets, the husband and wife would each be well-advised to have an attorney. Depending on the issues involved and the time it takes to reach a final resolution, the cost of legal representation can range from a few thousand dollars to the tens of thousands in more complex and contested cases.

At the initial consult we will have more information about your situation will help to better answer this question.

How long does the divorce process take?

Under Arizona law, a divorce cannot be finalized for at least 60 days after the initial divorce papers are served on the non-filing party. If all issues are resolved by settlement at the end of the 60-day waiting period, the divorce can be finalized.

If issues are not resolved at the end of the 60 days, the divorce will not be finalized until such later time as the spouses reach an agreement as to all issues or the judge decides the case following a divorce court trial. Some cases take up to a year or more to be finalized.

If the other party does not file a response to a Petition for Dissolution, your case could proceed by default.  This means the Divorce will be granted based on the requests in the Petition.  There are a few items the court may not be able to rule on if the matter proceeds by default.

How much will my case settle for?

Our experience allows us to give an opinion on the value of a case after we thoroughly research it. 

In a personal injury case, for example, the value may depend on the property damage and injuries. 

In a divorce, the law requires an equitable division of community assets and restoring each party his or her separate property.

How is a case settled?

Settlement is reached through a number of methods.  Depending on the type of case, we may use a court service such as Alternative Dispute Resolution or private mediation.  The settlement terms must be approved by you.  We will discuss your settlement options at the initial consultation.  If settlement is not  appropriate, we will agressively pursue your rights before the court.

Will my case go to trial?

 The Zawtocki Law Firm will actively seek a favorable settlement with your approval.  If the other side does not agree, a trial will be necessary and we will be ready.  We will also make sure that you are preprared and know what to expect.

What does contingency basis mean?

Personal Injury and other civil cases are handled on a contingency fee.  This means the Zawtocki Law firm will pay case costs up front.  The firm is paid its fees when the case settles or resolves.

How much will my case cost?

The Zawtocki Law Firm takes personal injury cases on a contingency basis. Family, criminal, and probate cases are taken both on flat fee and per hour basis depending on case circumstances.

How long will my case take?

Lawsuit resolution varies in time from case to case. If the parties involved are willing to negotiate a settlement, the case can be resolved in less than a year. If a settlement cannot be reached, your case could go to trial.

How do you file a lawsuit?

As your attorneys, Zawtocki Law Offices will draft a petition on your behalf and file it with the appropriate Clerk of the Court.

Will I need to file a law suit?

For civil cases:  You may, but we will not be able to answer the question until we have the opportunity to discuss the specific facts of your case with you. After doing so, we can identify the options which exist to attempt to resolve the issue.  We can also explain which options seem to be the best to achieve your goals. It may be that filing a law suit is an appropriate step to take, but even when we believe it is, our job is to explain the potential benefits and the potential risks of doing so to you, so that you can make an informed decision on whether you want us to file a law suit. 

In family and juvenile cases, the only way to enforce your rights as a mother, a father,  a spouse, guardian, or caregiver, is to have a court case where orders have been entered.

Can you help me with the Probate of a Will?

In probate cases, legal services can be provided in two ways: full representation or consultation and document preparation. 

If the deceased had an estate plan or has a simple estate, the court may not need to be involved.  If  this is the case, you may want to handle the matter on your own after a consultation.  We will be available to guide you along the way.  We are also available if you want us to do all of the work.

We also provide full representation if the estate needs to be formally probated.  For example, if you have a copy of some of the estate documents but they are unclear or incomplete, a judge may be needed to issue a ruling so you can proceed with distribution.  Sometimes the personal representative that the deceased named in their will is no longer living or can’t be found and someone else needs to be appointed.

Zawtocki Law can assist with the above matters.  We are sensitive to this difficult time when you are still grieving but are having to attend to these legal matters.

What about Domestic Violence victims?

Unfortunately, domestic violence and harassment are real issues in today’s society.  There are legal protections you can use, as well as community resources, to assist you in obtaining the following orders and representation at court hearings.  NOTE:  These procedures are on an emergency basis.  Hearings are scheduled with only 5 to 10 days notice.   Contact our office immediately if you believe you need this assistance.

  • Orders of Protection (between family members or romantic partners)
  • Injunctions Against Harassment (between non related persons)
  • Injunctions Against Workplace Harassment (between an employer and worker)

Domestic Violence, Arizona Supreme Court http://www.azcourts.gov/domesticviolencelaw/DomesticViolenceInformation.aspx

Arizona domestic violence Crisis & Support Resources:       www.aardvarc.org/dv/states/azdv.shtml

In family cases, the court can consider domestic violence when determining legal decision making and parenting time for the children.

What is Juvenile Law?

In law, a minor is a person under a certain age—usually the age of majority—which legally demarcates childhood from adulthood. The age depends upon jurisdiction and application, but is generally 18. Zawtocki Law Offices provides services in the following areas of juvenile law:

  • Guardianships—where the parents provide consent or are unavailable
  • Adoptions (including step parent, relative, and non relative)
  • Dependency actions brought by current guardians or caretakers
  • Emancipation of Minors

In the above situations, the case will be followed through to conclusion, often as co-counsel with the State of Arizona in a Title VIII/permanent guardianship or severance/adoption.  Legal services can be provided through full representation or consultation and document preparation.

 

What types of civil litigation cases do you handle?

Civil Litigation

Civil law is the branch of the law which deals with disputes between individuals and organizations. In civil law, the resolution of the issue often  involves the awarding of compensation, either monetary or by something else of value to the party, to the prevailing party.

Rich Zawtocki is the primary civil litigation attorney for Zawtocki Law offices. He handles the following types of civil law cases:

  • Contract drafting and review
  • Debt collection and judgment enforcement
  • Personal injury claims including:
    • Wrongful death claims
    • Motor vehicle collisions
    • Motorcycle and RV collisions
    • Bicycle and pedestrian injury cases
    • Slip and fall and other injury claims which occur on commercial and private property
    • Dog bites and other injuries caused by pets and animals owned by others
Do I need a lawyer?

That is often a complex question with the answer resting in the specific facts and issues involved in your situation. In general, if you are faced with a legal issue and are asking yourself this question, it will be in your best interest to call Zawtocki Law Offices for an appointment.

In your initial consultation we will learn about your situation and will be able to help you understand your legal rights and obligations.  We will also discuss your legal options with you and help you to assess them so that you can decide what is the best course of action for you to take to arrive at a favorable resolution of the issue.

In our experience we have found that, often, your legal issue will affect many other facets of your life, such as your family, your job or business and your resources. Our goal is to make sure that all facets of the situation are assessed as we work to protect you.