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Phoenix Divorce Law Blog

What does "shared custody" really mean?

While many Phoenix residents may refer to "sharing" custody of their children, the term "shared custody" actually has no one legal definition. Rather, it can refer to more than one legal concept, and even then, what these legal concepts really entail can come as a surprise.

In a true situation involving shared child custody, parents will have joint legal and joint physical custody. With respect to joint physical custody, this means that the child will live with each parent. In practice, this means that each parent will have the child in his or her home about half the time. However, the division of time is not, and usually cannot be, exactly 50-50.

If you are an involved dad, can you claim your kids on taxes?

Many dads in the Phoenix area really want to be involved in the lives of their children and make a lot of efforts do so. Sometimes, the moms of these children sadly try to interfere with these efforts, which means that these men need to use the formal legal process to assert their fathers' rights.

While these disputes often involve custody or parenting time, another right that dads may well have is the right to get some credit for providing for their children via child support, extra payments and gifts, and via the food, clothing, shelter and the like they provide when their children are with them. One way a man can get this credit is by being allowed to claim all or some of their children on his tax return in a given year. These tax breaks can save a man thousands of dollars in tax liability and can thus free his wallet up so he can better provide for his children.

Can I see my grandkids if my adult child dies?

Even if it happens when one's child has reached adulthood, one of the saddest things a Phoenix, Arizona, parent may have to go through in their lives is the death of their children. Sadly, a grandparent can lose their adult child to an accident or an illness that set on relatively early in life. It can only make it more difficult if the child who dies has children of his or her own with whom the grandparents have developed a bond. The other parent may not have gotten along with the family, or even the child's parent, and thus may not want the grandparents to see the grandchildren now that the other parent has died. This situation can occur even in what seemed like a healthy relationship, as the grief of losing someone, a spouse or a significant other, can cause another person to behave in ways one would not expect.

Fortunately, these are the sorts of situations for which grandparent visitation was designed. These are arguably more compelling situations for grandparents to ask for court-ordered visitation rights, because they likely had a good relationship with the grandchildren and, through no fault of their own, they now risk losing even that relationship.

August is National Child Support Awareness Month

With children returning to school and parents oftentimes seeing some extra costs for their children, the subject of child support may be on their mind. This is fitting in a sense, because August is National Child Support Awareness Month.

National Child Support Awareness Month was started by President Clinton via a special Proclamation, much like other Proclamations that other presidents have used to set up federal holidays and events. The point of this commemoration is to remind parents that, ultimately, child support payments go to benefit the needs of that parent's child. Not only does this mean that the child and the child's custodial parent don't need to go to the government or some other source to meet these needs, it also means that, at least according to reliable studies, the child will fare better emotionally. Children seem to thrive when both of their parents contribute to their support.

How does paternity fraud occur?

Many residents of Phoenix, Arizona, are probably aware that a man can become the legal father of a child, and thus have the right to have a relationship with that child and a duty to support that child, by submitting to DNA testing. This type of testing is very accurate and can determine almost to a point of certainty whether a man is the father of a particular child.

However, DNA testing is not the only way for a man to establish paternity, that is, to become the legal father of a child. Generally speaking, this is a good thing since it saves men time and money when they know a child is biologically theirs. However, these other means of establishing paternity can open up the possibility of paternity fraud or, to use a slightly gentler phrase, "misattributed paternity."

Medical expenses and child support obligations

Parents do a lot for their children, and one of the most important expenses they pay for is medical care. Even among happily married couples, it is imperative that parents provide for their children's basic medical needs. In some cases, not doing so can land parents in legal trouble.

It is no wonder then that under Arizona's Child Support Guidelines, a judge must consider the medical care of the children in two respects when ordering child support.

Sentimental value versus market value in property division

As this blog has discussed, part of the divorce or separation process in Arizona involves dividing up property. When doing so, one of the biggest if not the biggest issue involves asset valuation and division. It is an important issue because, without paying attention to it, a party to a divorce can end up getting an unfair deal that they may wind up just having to live with. Incidentally, understanding asset valuation is also important for happily married couples when they are selling something like a house, a car or even a piece of furniture.

One problem with valuation is that emotions often get in the way of doing it accurately. Generally speaking, a couple's marital assets are going to be value based on what a person who is motivated to buy would pay to a seller who truly wants to part with the property. This is called fair market value.

Custody and visitation for dads accused of domestic violence

Like other states, Arizona has laws protecting victims of domestic violence as well as those victim's children. Basically, although the default in Arizona is that parents should share legal custody of the child and should each get liberal parenting time, this default will not apply when a judge finds domestic violence has occurred or has been occurring regularly over the course of the couple's relationship. Therefore, it is important for fathers or mothers to recognize that, under the law, a court does not have to wait for a criminal conviction or have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a parent committed an act of domestic violence.

Once a judge finds domestic violence has occurred, the parent accused of perpetrating the violence will be presumed not to have shared decision-making authority or liberal parenting time. In fact, he or she will have to show why visits should not be supervised or otherwise restricted in some way. Otherwise, he or she may be paying for supervised visits or, at a minimum, attending counseling and being prohibited from having the children overnight.

Navigating child support cases when one parent has a high income

A previous post on this blog discussed how Arizona courts handle child support when a parent has been blessed with a great job and thus earns a high income, which the law defines as in excess of $240,000 gross a year. The fact that a family has a good income does not make going through a divorce, or a paternity case, any easier emotionally. Moreover, a divorce or separation in particular will still financially shock both parents simply because they will walk away with approximately half of their resources, only a portion of their income and, quite possibly, additional financial obligations.

A parent who is seeking additional child support, that is, above and beyond what they would get under the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, should never allow themselves to feel greedy or like they are asking for too much. The goal of child support is to put the child in the same position as if their parents were living together, which means both parents should pay their fair share.

What are some possible signs of abuse or neglect?

As this blog has discussed on previous occasions, while it may be difficult for grandparents to get custody of their grandchildren as a matter of routine, grandparent custody may be an option in Arizona when it appears that the grandchildren have been abused or neglected.

The trouble is that child abuse and neglect rarely occur out in the open. For one, parents who engage in this sort of behavior have some natural shame about what they are doing and also probably recognize that they can get in to a lot of trouble for their actions. Moreover, children themselves are often too scared or embarrassed to tell their grandparents or, for that matter, anyone else.