Family Law Arizona
Whether you're thinking about getting a divorce or have already started the process, I fully understand what you and your family are going through. To help, I offer compassionate counsel and diligent representation in cases involving divorce, property division, child custody and a wide range of other issues. For a free initial consultation with an experienced family law lawyer in Arizona, please call or contact me at your convenience.
Custody and Visitation
Family law is the term applied to the laws and rules developed regarding family relationships. Family law rules define not only the relationships between members of a family but also between a family and society as a whole. More than any other area of the law, family law reflects the values society shares regarding how people who are related should treat each other. When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of a family law attorney, like Royer Law Office in Phoenix, Arizona, often proves crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter.
Typically, family law attorneys assist people in making and breaking family relationships. Specific areas of representation include marriage and relationship planning, divorce, paternity, child custody, and child support and assistance in the area of adoption.
Marriage is a legal and business union as much as it is a romantic one. Because marriage is a legal and business arrangement, it may be wise to consult with an attorney about the advantages of premarital and prenuptial agreements. Many couples find it helpful to work through financial issues and the potential disagreements such issues can create before entering into a marriage.
Divorce is a method of terminating a marriage contract between two individuals. From a legal standpoint, divorce restores an individual's right to marry someone else. The process also legally divides marital assets and debts and determines the care and custody of the children. Each state addresses these issues differently. However, most states, including Arizona, follow the same basic principles and use relatively uniform standards. In a very few States you need to prove fault, commonly referred to as grounds, to obtain a divorce. However, the majority of states, including Arizona, allow for no-fault divorce in which the spouses are not required to prove that the other person caused the breakdown of the marriage. Under no-fault grounds for divorce, either you or your spouse may obtain a divorce, even if one of you does not consent to the divorce.
In most divorces, the primary issues to be decided are alimony or spousal support, property division, and, if there are children, child custody, visitation, and child support. When spouses agree on how to resolve these issues, they can usually obtain a divorce quickly, and the result is usually much better than being involved in a long discovery battle. However, in many cases, divorcing spouses have disputes regarding their post-marriage financial arrangements and the care and custody of their children. Property division and alimony are often hotly contested issues in divorce proceedings, but the early advice of a family law attorney may be able to impact the ultimate result favorably.
Child Custody and Visitation
The care and upbringing of children following divorce is often an ongoing source of conflict for divorcing parents. Custody must address both physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody typically involves allocating parental rights and responsibilities regarding the day-to-day care and activities of the children. Legal custody typically involves allocating the legal rights and responsibilities associated with the child's upbringing. Sometimes the parents agree to an arrangement; sometimes the court determines one for them. In the past, courts routinely gave mothers physical custody and gave fathers visitation rights. Today, the courts have begun to realize that sometimes it is in the best interests of the children to reside with the father and reverse the roles of the parents. In general, the courts favor joint ongoing child rearing responsibilities with the children residing where it is most practical and where they will flourish. The advice and assistance of a family law attorney can help parents to establish child custody and visitation agreements that focus on the interests of the children.
Parents must financially support their children. That obligation usually lasts until the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 or 21 years old depending on state law) or becomes self-supporting. An order for child support may be entered during or after a divorce, and either parent may be ordered to pay support depending upon how custody is arranged. In most states, including Arizona, an unmarried mother may also file a petition for child support in family court, and an order for support will be entered once paternity has been established or agreed upon.
A parent who fails to remain current on his or her child support obligations faces significant penalties. Every state has a child support enforcement office that works with the family court to suspend professional or business licenses, take away driver and recreational licenses, require payment of future owed sums in advance, or place non-paying parents in jail when child support obligations are overdue. Because of the state specific requirements involved in child support, parents can benefit from the advice and involvement of a family law attorney when child support issues arise.
Every adoption, whether foreign or domestic, requires the action and approval of a court to become final, and each state has its own adoption policies and procedures. Most states have measures in place to assess the fitness of the adopting parents. Adopted children generally receive all the benefits afforded to natural children, and parents owe adopted children the same legal duties of care and support owed to a natural or birth child of the marriage.
Each state has its own policies and procedures controlling child adoption. Most states have measures in place to assess the fitness of the adopting parents. Upon adoption, adopted children generally receive all the benefits afforded to natural children and parents owe adopted children all the legal duties of care and support owed to a natural or birth child of the marriage. A family law attorney who offers adoption-related services can help both adoptive and birth parents throughout all phases of the adoption process.
Family relations create a host of legal consequences. Whether you are contemplating marriage or divorce or are considering adoption, a family law attorney at Royer Law Office in Phoenix, Arizona, can explain the laws that apply to your particular situation and help you to make the best choices for you and your family.
There are millions of divorced parents who pay or receive child support. Federal legislation and uniform state laws exist to make enforcement and collection of child support easier for America's single parents. Because every state uses its own guidelines for establishing child support and each has various methods to set support amounts and recover support when it is overdue, it is often important to consult with a family law attorney who is familiar with the child support guidelines and child support enforcement laws in Arizona. If you have questions about the child support laws in Arizona, the rules for child support collection and enforcement that apply to your particular situation, or the process to establish paternity, contact a family law attorney at Royer Law Office in Phoenix, AZ to schedule a consultation.
Child Support Basics
In general, parents owe their children a legal duty of financial support until the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 or 21 years old) or becomes self-supporting. When only one parent has primary custody of the child, the other parent's obligation for financial support is usually fulfilled through the payment of child support. Child support is owed whether the child lives with his or her other parent or a third party and whether or not the person with whom the child lives can afford to support the child on his or her own. Depending on the state, child support may be owed even if the parents share custody.
Each state, including Arizona, has adopted its own set of guidelines for determining child support. While individual guidelines differ, most arrive at the amount of support owed through a consideration of the needs of the child and the income of the paying parent. Family courts use the guidelines to establish the amount of support required and presume the amount the guidelines indicate is correct unless persuasive evidence to the contrary exists.
Enforcement of Child Support Orders
The duty to pay child support generally starts with an order for support from the Arizona Superior Court. The order may be issued in a temporary or final divorce proceeding or, following establishment of paternity, after a request for support is received from an unmarried custodial parent.
Child support payments are often due at specific times each month and in many jurisdictions may be directly withheld from the paying parent's wages. In Arizona, the paying parent will be able to make his or her payments to a child support registry (Support Payment Clearinghouse) that will forward the payments to the custodial parent and keep track of payments that are made.
When child support is owed but not paid, a variety of measures exist to collect past due amounts and protect against future non-payments. To ensure payment of child support, many states have laws that allow a family court judge to suspend professional or business licenses, to take away driver and recreational licenses, to require pre-payment of future child support, or to order incarceration for the failure to make court ordered child support payments.
All states have also created offices of child support enforcement. These federally supported state agencies help locate responsible parents and create and enforce child support orders. There are also federal laws that criminalize non-payment of child support when the paying parent lives in a different state.
Modification of Child Support Orders
Both the parent receiving child support and the parent paying child support may request changes in child support orders. Some states require regular review of existing child support orders while others review child support orders only upon request. Parents receiving support may have the amount increased upon a showing that the paying parent's income has increased, especially if the current amount of ordered support does not meet the child's needs. Support may also be increased because of a child's specific needs for things like tutoring, medical treatment, or therapy.
Paying parents may be able to decrease the amount of future support payments if they face the loss of a job, a reduction in income or when the custodial parent's income increases. Federal law prohibits states from forgiving past due child support payments. Courts are reluctant to reduce child support awards and paying parents may have an earning capacity imputed to them whether or not their actual earnings reflect that amount. Conclusion
A family law attorney at Royer Family Law in Phoenix, AZ can help you to obtain a child support order, enforce a child support order, or request a child support order modification. Contact me today to schedule a consultation. Divorce
Deciding to pursue divorce is one of the most difficult and emotional decisions you will ever make, particularly if you have children. Divorce also involves financial matters that must be resolved and legal issues that must be addressed. A family law attorney at Royer Law Office in Phoenix, Arizona, can help you to understand the basic issues involved in divorce and to use a rational approach to the divorce process.
Grounds for Divorce
Traditionally, a person filing for divorce had to prove grounds (fault) to obtain a divorce. Today, the majority of states, including Arizona, allow at least one form of no-fault divorce that does not require proof of fault. If no-fault divorce is available in your state, either you or your spouse may obtain a divorce even if one of you does not consent.
Some states may require a legal reason for divorce. These are called fault-based divorces. Those states requiring a showing of fault have statutes that specifically outline the different types of conduct that are required before a divorce can be granted. Some of the more common types of fault that may be grounds for divorce are adultery, mental illness, conviction of a felony, abandonment, drug abuse, cruelty, impotency, and bigamy. In some states, both fault and no-fault divorce are available, and some courts consider fault when determining the amount of spousal support owed by one spouse to the other. Arizona is a no-fault divorce state.
Alimony, Spousal Support, and Maintenance
Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, is financial support paid by one spouse to the other. Because each state determines alimony differently, it is important to consult with an attorney in your state to determine what factors the court considers when deciding if, how much, and to whom alimony will be paid.
There are essentially three types of alimony: permanent alimony, reimbursement alimony, and rehabilitative alimony. Permanent alimony is an allowance for support and maintenance (such as food, clothing, housing, and other necessities) of a spouse. When a party requests permanent alimony, he or she must establish his or her need for support and that his or her spouse has the ability to provide for part or all of the need. Reimbursement and rehabilitative alimony are paid for a shorter period and most likely provide less than the standard of living during the marriage. Rehabilitative alimony is designed to provide the means necessary to enable a spouse to refresh or enhance job skills necessary to become self-sufficient and to provide financial support while the spouse is obtaining necessary training.
The types of factors the courts consider vary from state to state. In fault-based states the respective fault of the parties may be considered in awarding alimony. Other factors include the length of the marriage and each party's financial condition, age, health, education, and employment opportunities. Of all the issues that need to be resolved to dissolve a marriage, alimony and property division are often the most difficult issues to negotiate successfully.
Division of Property
Property division is often one of the most difficult issues to resolve at the termination of a marriage. Each state has adopted one of two basic systems for distributing property: equitable distribution (sometimes called a separate property system or common law system) or community property. Regardless of the system used, each state has its own rules for dividing marital property. States differ as to how marital or non-marital, community, or separate property is defined. States also use different rules to decide how the property should be distributed. This is a complicated area of family law, and the advice and assistance of a family law attorney familiar with the property division rules in your particular state can be invaluable.
Reaching the decision to end a marriage is always difficult. Once you do make the decision, it is in your best interest to approach the divorce process from a rational, business-like perspective, which is extraordinarily difficult given the emotional issues with which you must also cope. Working with a family law attorney at Royer Law Office in Phoenix, Arizona who is experienced in family law can help you to get through the process with less stress.
Custody and Visitation
When parents divorce, it is important to learn about the child custody and visitation options that are available and the legal standards that apply. In many cases, divorcing couples can ultimately agree on custody and visitation issues without the need for a court order. When an agreement cannot be reached, knowledgeable advice and representation from a family law attorney at Royer Law Office in Phoenix, Arizona, can often make the difference.
The duty to provide day-to-day care of a child and the right to direct the child's daily activities is known legally as physical custody. Legal custody means the rights and responsibilities associated with decisions regarding the child's upbringing.
Many options regarding the division of custody rights and responsibilities between divorcing parents exist. More and more, courts are encouraging parents to continue working together to raise their children even after their marriage has ended. Custody arrangements commonly include the following:
- Sole Custody. Sole physical custody occurs when one parent retains the exclusive, primary right to have the child live with him or her. Sole legal custody occurs when one parent has the exclusive right to control the child's upbringing. The most common type of sole custody is sole physical custody with joint legal custody and a generous visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent. When one parent ends up with the primary responsibility for the couple's children, the other parent, known as the non-custodial parent, usually has a right to maintain contact with the children through ongoing visitation.
- Joint Custody. In joint custody, parents share responsibility for decision-making, for physical control and custody of the children, or for both.
- Split Custody. Split custody is a less popular resolution where each parent takes custody of different children.
- Shared Parenting. Shared parenting is a relatively new concept in child custody that has been adopted in several states. In shared parenting, children usually spend equal amounts of time with each parent and the parents share legal and physical custody.
Determination of Custody and Visitation
Divorcing couples often tackle custody and visitation issues as soon as they separate. Courts generally honor both long-term and short-term custody arrangements agreed to by parents. When couples can't agree, procedures exist throughout the divorce process to resolve custody conflicts. Common procedures used to resolve custody issues include:
- Temporary Hearings. The family court holds a temporary hearing shortly after the initial papers are filed. If custody is contested at this point, the court will issue an order deciding custody that will be in effect until the court enters its final divorce decree.
- Custody and Mandatory Mediation. Most states now require parties in a contested divorce to attempt mediation. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which divorcing couples work with a specially trained neutral third party to resolve some or all of their disagreements. Couples who resolve their custody disputes through mediation can include a provision in their final divorce decree making mediation mandatory to resolve future custody and visitation disputes.
- Custody Evaluations. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding custody, most courts will order a custody evaluation prior to trial. The custody evaluation is made by an outside expert on whose assistance the court will rely in ordering a child custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.
- Custody Trials. Every state has statutes and procedures for the legal resolution of disputed child custody. Most courts decide contested custody cases based upon a determination of what arrangement is in the best interests of the child. Factors considered in determining custody arrangements include the child's age, the child's attachment to the parent who has been the primary caretaker, the physical and mental health of each parent, the existence of domestic violence, and the child's wishes.
Modification of Custody and Visitation
Once the issues of custody and visitation have been resolved, either by the court or the by agreement of the parents, specific procedures must be followed to change the arrangement. If the parents reached their agreement through mediation, they may have to go back to mediation to make any modifications. If custody was established by a court order the parents must typically petition the court to make any modifications. In order to support a request for a change to a custody or visitation arrangement, the parent seeking the modification must show a substantial change in circumstances. Some courts will only consider a request for modification within a certain number of years after the original custody determination, but courts will almost always consider a request for modification if there is a showing that the child is endangered by the current custody arrangement. Some states place residency limitations on requests to prevent parents from shopping for friendly rulings in different states.
The resolution of child custody and visitation disputes requires parents to act rationally and in their child's best interests at a time when they are facing the overwhelming stress of divorce. Advice from a family law attorney at Royer Law Office in Phoenix, Arizona, can help you to understand your options and to make a plan that will serve the best interests of you and your children.
Marriage is a voluntary, private contract between two adults. While it is a personal and emotional commitment, it is also a legal relationship that changes the legal status of both parties. A family law attorney from Royer Law Office in Phoenix, Arizona, can help you to understand the legal technicalities of marriage.
The legal rights and obligations associated with marriage have evolved with our society and today are the same for both spouses. Each state has its own rules about marriage, but there are some uniform principles, including:
- Who Can Marry Whom. Each state prohibits marriage between brothers and sisters, parent and child, and some prohibit marriage between aunt or uncle and niece or nephew. Most states will not issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.
- Age Requirements. Each state has a minimum age requirement, typically 18 years. Many states permit marriage at a younger age if parental consent is given.
- Residency. Most states require one or both of the parties to reside in the state for a specific period of time before issuing a marriage license.
- Medical Exam and Licensing. Some states require the completion of a medical exam and blood test before issuing a marriage license. The blood test screens for venereal diseases, rubella, sickle cell anemia, AIDS, and other diseases. The marriage license must be issued by a designated public official.
- Ceremony and Officials. Some states require a formal ceremony of some kind with witnesses and a licensed public or religious official.
There are several legal benefits to marriage. There are both federal and state laws available only to married people. Other benefits include Social Security benefits, inheritance rights, property rights, the ability to sue third parties for the wrongful death of a spouse or loss of consortium, and the right to make medical decisions on a spouse's behalf.
Common Law Marriage
Many couples believe they will achieve a common law marriage and be entitled to the legal benefits and obligations of married couples if they live together for a significant period of time. It is not quite that simple. Each state defines the requirements that must be met to legally qualify as married. Generally, a common law marriage is recognized when a heterosexual couple lives together in a common law marriage state for a significant period. Among the states that recognize common law marriage, none define the time period, but typically a ten-year-old relationship is required. The couple must also have the intent to be married, which is generally measured by whether or not the couple presents themselves to the public as a married couple. Evidence of the necessary intent includes sharing the same last name, filing joint tax returns, and referring to each other as husband or wife.
Premarital and Cohabitation Agreements
Couples who are considering marriage or living together may benefit from talking to a family law attorney about the advantages of a premarital agreement (also called prenuptial agreement or antenuptial agreement) or a cohabitation agreement. Although not very romantic, premarital agreements are a useful tool for defining the legal relationships between two people, particularly as they relate to property. Generally, the intent of the agreement is to create a framework for handling money and property issues during the marriage or relationship and to create a roadmap for property division should the relationship eventually terminate. Each state has its own laws about what can be included in a premarital agreement. Most states will not uphold agreements about child support and will not uphold agreements that were created fraudulently or unfairly. A number of states have also adopted the Uniform Pre-Marital Agreement Act. The Act dictates how premarital agreements should address property ownership, control, and management during the marriage and how property should be divided upon separation, divorce, or death.
Getting married is one of the most important things people do. Hopefully, it reflects a deep emotional commitment because it also truly changes the participants' legal statuses. By understanding your rights and obligations as a married person you may more fully appreciate the step you are taking. Before you marry or move in with your partner, consult a family law attorney at Royer Law Office in Phoenix, Arizona, to identify any future issues that you need to resolve now to keep you and your beloved on the path of matrimonial or relationship bliss.