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Phoenix Divorce Law Blog

Does my grandkid have to live with me before I can seek custody?

This blog has frequently discussed the hurdles and steps Phoenix, Arizona, grandparents may have to navigate if they want to get court-ordered child custody of their grandchildren. Generally speaking, a request for relative visitation rights and, especially, a request to have custody of one's grandchildren, is best handled through an experienced Phoenix-area grandparents' rights attorney.

However, there are certain basic questions a grandparent may have before even deciding to visit a lawyer's office, particularly when it comes to satisfying the legal prerequisites for getting custody as a child's grandparent.

Child support for special needs children

Many parents in the Phoenix area are raising children who might be loosely referred to as having "special needs." These special needs can include medical or rehabilitative care that a child might require on a regular basis because of a physical ailment. Special needs can also include counseling, tutoring and other support when a child struggles with neurological conditions, autism or a learning disability.

While most parents will lovingly pay for them, there is no doubt that these extra costs put a financial burden on parents. Should a child with special needs also have parents who live in two separate households, then it is only fair that this financial burden be split equitably via an appropriate child support order.

Taking the next steps after acknowledging paternity

Previous posts here have talked about how a father in Phoenix, Arizona, who is not married to his child's mother can bypass much of the formal process of establishing paternity by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. However, as those previous posts mentioned, the form itself, while it makes a man legally his child's father, confers no specific rights to child custody or parenting time. If it turns out that a father needs a court order in order to have the time to form a relationship with his children, then an additional step will be necessary.

To take this additional step, a father may need to get legal help. After all, while mothers and fathers are legally on equal footing when it comes to custody and parenting time, there are lot of factors that can influence a judge one way or the other.

How an order of joint legal custody can help fathers in Phoenix

There are many fathers in the Phoenix area who do not live with their children's mother, but who nonetheless want to have a meaningful relationship with their children. One important component to accomplishing this goal is to obtain a child custody order, either by agreeing with the child's mother or resolving the matter in court. Ideally, this order will give a father in Arizona liberal access to his children and the ability to make important decisions in that child's life. Without such an order, a father may not be able to have the time and influence in his child's life in order to form a meaningful relationship with the child.

For example, in order to be involved in his child's life, a father in Arizona would want to strongly consider asking for joint legal custody (joint legal decision-making). While an order of joint legal decision-making does not guarantee equal parenting time, it does mean that on important issues, like education, healthcare and religion, the parents have equal decision-making authority.

Introduction to the discovery process

One topic that comes up in a divorce or legal separation in Arizona is property division. As a community property state, Arizona has certain rules that are designed to ensure that each spouse gets his or her fair share of the property that they worked together to obtain.

However, a person cannot claim a fair share to property that he or she knows nothing about. This is one reason why, as in every court case, both spouses have the opportunity to use the "discovery" process of the courts during a divorce or legal separation case.

How does child support work when a grandparent has custody?

As previous posts here have discussed on several occasions, many grandparents in Phoenix can and often do step in and take over the responsibility for raising their grandchildren. While this may happen because the child's parents have died or are physically unable to care even for themselves, in other cases the issue may be that the parent has, through a series of bad choices, become unable to live the life of a responsible parent.

In the latter case, a parent certainly can work if they so choose, and holding a job and helping their children financially is probably a good thing for the parent. The Arizona Child Support Guidelines even contemplate situations in which children are in the care of grandparents or another relative, or third party.

How do I go about changing a child custody order?

In Arizona, orders with respect to child custody and parenting time are not set in stone. Under the right circumstances, a parent can pursue a child custody modification, especially if that parent feels that the current custody arrangement is no longer in the best interests of the children.

While a parent in Phoenix and the surrounding suburbs in Maricopa County can ask for a change in custody or parenting time, there are certain limits to their being able to do so.

Grandparents can trust us to give honest, frank advice

As this blog has discussed on previous occasions, a grandparent in the Phoenix area may have rights to see their grandchildren and may even have the option of pursuing custody in certain circumstances.

However, as many grandparents probably know, a child's parents may not always agree to letting the grandparents visit with the grandchildren, and they are even more likely to fight when they feel their rights to custody are being threatened by the grandparents.

Am I allowed to bargain away child support?

To follow up on a previous post, as is the case in virtually all other states, courts in the Phoenix area must follow Arizona Guidelines when setting the amount of child support a parent must pay.

These Guidelines limit when a judge can deviate from them and order more or less support than what the Guidelines call for, and this is true even if the parents are in agreement or wish to bargain over support in exchange for some other benefit.

Must a court always follow the Arizona Guidelines strictly?

As this blog has discussed previously, Arizona parents have their child support orders calculated according to Arizona's Child Support Guidelines. Some Phoenix residents might wonder, however, whether there are any cases in which a court might decide to order child support of a higher or lower amount, despite what the guidelines say.

There are most certainly special family situations in which a child will require some additional support, such as in a case where they are dealing with an illness or disability. In these and similar situations, a judge can deviate from the support guidelines to make sure a child has what he or she needs, but the judge must consider the appropriate factors as required by Arizona law.