Family Law FAQs

To evaluate an attorney, review these questions:

  1. Does the attorney understand your goals?
  2. Does the attorney listen, identify issues, and seem to be in tune with your needs?
  3. Does he or she speak understandable or in “legaleze”?
  4. Does the attorney have experience in the area of law you need, or does he or she primarily practice in another area?
  5. How has he or she handled other cases like yours?
  6. Have you compared different attorneys’ retainer fees and their approaches to your case?
  7. How long has the attorney been in practice?
  8. How much experience has he or she had in the courtroom?
  9. Will the attorney personally handle your case or will another attorney or paralegal be your primary contact?
  10. Does the attorney openly and directly address your concerns? Answer your questions? Discuss his or her fees?
  11. Can you review the Fee Agreement at home or are you pressure to sign right away?
  12. Does the attorney explain the law, level with you, and explore options?
  13. Does the attorney carry malpractice insurance? (Note: More than 50% in Arizona do not.)
Expense — Many people believe hiring a paralegal or document preparation service is much less expensive than hiring an attorney. This may not be true. You may want to check if the paralegal’s fees are actually less than the attorney’s fees.

Expertise – Under Arizona law, a paralegal or document preparation service cannot provide legal advice. Some agencies, by the way they advertise or behave, may make you believe you are speaking to an attorney. Ask the person if he or she is a licensed Arizona attorney, licensed paralegal, or licensed document preparer! Ask specifically for the person’s qualifications: training, legal education, how long they have been practicing, type of experience. All attorneys practicing in Arizona Superior Court must be a licensed by the State Bar of Arizona. Only attorneys can represent, advise, and advocate for you in open court.

Note: Look in the upper left hand corner of any document prepared for you. Only an attorney’s name will appear in that space. Neither a paralegal nor a document preparer can be listed there. If you are representing yourself, your name and address will go in that space. If you have been served, check that corner to see the identity (if any) of the attorney of the other side.

Additional Note: Some mediators are attorneys and are credentialed; most are not. Some individuals/agencies promote that they are mediators without having any training, legal background, experience, or credentials. Mediators are not licensed in Arizona.

Speed – Allowing an attorney to represent you may speed up your case. Not only will your case receive individual attention, but you will be represented throughout the process by someone in court who can handle and expedite your case.

Doing it right the first time — Some individual proceed on their own without legal advice and find that it costs more (e.g. money, time, energy and aggravation) on the “back end” to straighten things out than it would have at the outset. Sometimes, if a person has not been represented and certain orders were already entered, it may be very difficult (and expensive) to straighten out.

Compare and Decide — You should at least consult with an attorney and receive legal advice before making decisions that adequately protect yourself, your family, your property. Do not underestimate the importance of seeking legal advice for your situation as early as possible. A paralegal or document preparation service cannot provide you with legal advice, and is not necessarily cheaper, faster and easier. A mediator may not have legal training or expertise at all. Consult with an attorney, compare the others, and decide.

Before the consultation, you will complete some intake forms based upon your type of case. You can usually complete the forms in 15 minutes or less. Ms. Varney will then meet with you to discuss your case for approximately 30-60 minutes. During the consultation, Ms. Varney will answer your questions, and discuss procedures, strategy, and other considerations pertaining to your case. She will also address specifics about retaining her as your attorney, availability to accept your case, and her fees and costs. 
  1. Make a list of your questions
  2. Make a list of your concerns
  3. Bring court documents in date order
  4. If appropriate, create a brief chronology of events
  5. If applicable, make a list of assets and debts
  6. For support issues, bring each party’s gross monthly income, how much is owed and has been paid, and if applicable, monthly child care expenses and cost for medical insurance for children only.
No, Arizona does not recognize common law marriage formed in the state, and has not been a common law state for more than 100 years. However, if you lived in a common law state, Arizona may recognize your common law marriage.
Until you establish legal paternity, you have no legal rights. If you are on the birth certificate, you can establish legal paternity and rights to your child. Legal paternity means filing in court to get an Order of Paternity.
Arizona is a no fault divorce state. If you want to get divorced, your spouse cannot stop the divorce from moving forward or prevent you from filing and getting a divorce.
Deborah Varney represents both women and men in her practice. She diligently handles each case, advocating for every one of her clients. She represents an equal number of men and women, listening carefully to her clients concerns, makes recommendations, and vigorously defending her clients.

For more information, please contact Varney Family Law today.


“I would HATE to have to face this attorney in court! Do yourself a favor and place her on retainer now if you know that, down the road, you may need her. She knows how to win. If you think she is intimidating, just imagine what it would feel like if you faced her.”
“Deborah’s support during this difficult process, along with her guidance, counsel, and knowledge helped me manage through my situation. Her prompt responsiveness to questions and concerns has been professional and a great assistance.”
“I would highly recommend her for anyone in need of a family law attorney. In my opinion, there is no one better for the job. Ask my ex-husband…he would cringe as soon as she walked in the room.”
“I had three major legal actions that needed to be dealt with: present child support, child support arrearages, and sole custody. Deborah Varney not only won all three cases, she also counseled me through appropriate expectations. She was able to keep me stress-free so that I could perform my duties at work and home. She is terrific and I would recommend her to anyone in need of family legal services.”
“Deborah’s advice and support has allowed me to hold my ex-husband accountable and receive the child support on a much more consistent basis. Deborah is tough and knowledgeable as well as being accessible whenever I have had questions. I feel very grateful.”