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Child custody agreements and modifications in Arizona

The saga continues. Last week, we learned that celebrity Bethenny Frankel refused her estranged husband's request for a lump sum of $10 million to settle their divorce. After 15 months, the two have still not finalized their divorce case. One of the issues is Jason Hoppy's claim that he helped Ms. Frankel build her Skinnygirl Cocktails company, a business she reportedly sold for $100 million in 2011. He wants a portion of the proceeds.

Another issue is custody of their 3-year-old daughter. Ms. Frankel is said to want full custody with visitation rights for Mr. Hoppy, while he wants joint custody. Arizona divorcing couples may find familiarity in the request, or at least in the notion of determining child custody rights. While most judges prefer the parents come to an agreement themselves on matters such as joint and legal custody, visitation rights, holidays and summers, some divorcing couples will not be able to reach a mutual understanding. In these instances, the judge will determine the custody arraignment.

In doing so, and in reviewing any agreements by the parents, the judge will consider certain factors. These may include where each parent lives in proximity to schools and the other parent, the home environments of each parent, and the age and gender of the children involved. It may also include considerations such as the wishes of the children, religious and cultural needs, and the relationships with other household members. In all instances, the Court will consider what is in the best interest of the children involved.

Ultimately, a Court will issue child custody orders, which both parents must follow. These orders do not have to remain in place forever. Either parent can seek to modify an order and can do so by agreement or by returning to court. A modification may be sought for various reasons, including one parent receiving a new job with high travel demands, the needs of the children changing, or simply because a change works better for all parties involved. The laws surrounding child custody can vary from state to state, and an Arizona attorney with family law experience can answer questions.

Source: Azcentral.com, "Bethenny Frankel refuses $10m divorce settlement," April 29, 2014

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