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Phoenix Divorce Law Blog

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.

Legal separation and property division

As is the case in other states, Arizona has a process by which a couple can choose to obtain a legal separation instead of a divorce. There a number of reasons a couple might choose to take this route, including personal moral beliefs or for financial reasons like tax breaks or health insurance.

Couples who are legally separated in Arizona remain legally married, even if they are choosing to live in separate households. However, in just about every other aspect, legal separation is very similar to divorce. In other words, a legal separation is much more than just two people deciding to live apart, either because they never got married or because they have chosen to take a break for a while.

Arizona's Acknowledgement of Paternity form

As this blog has discussed on previous occasions, the most certain means of establishing paternity in Arizona is to go to court and get a legal decree which will officially identify a man as the father of his or her child. A court will generally do this after court-ordered DNA testing.

However, when a father and mother are reasonably certain about the father's biological relationship to the child, the man may then opt to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity, which is a state-created form often offered to unmarried dads while at the hospital.

Review of Arizona's Acknowledgement of Paternity form

As is the case in other states, Arizona has a means for fathers to establish paternity over any of their children who are born out of wedlock without having to go to court. Specifically, so long as the mother is also willing to sign, a father can sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. Before signing on the dotted line, it is important for dads in Phoenix to know what this form will and will not do should they elect to sign it.

For one, an Acknowledgement of Paternity is not effective, standing alone, if the mother of a child is married at the time of giving birth. If a man signs an Acknowledgment of Paternity, he is admitting that he is certainly the father of the child named on the document and that there is no need for genetic testing or other court proceedings to establish that fact.

For grandparents, what is the importance of "in loco parentis"?

Arizona law recognizes that, sometimes, children are raised by their grandparents or other relatives who are not their biological parents. In these sorts of situations, it may not be possible or prudent, for a variety of reasons, for grandparents to immediately run out and get a court order for grandparent custody, via a guardianship. As such, grandparents often raise their grandchildren without any legal authority whatsoever, at least until the child's parent is ready to resume his or her responsibilities.

Problems arise when the grandparents who have been caring for a child disagree with the parent that he or she is really ready to take on the parental role again. Unfortunately, without any order saying otherwise, a parent can simply take the child and leave, not even offering grandparents visitation.

Why is it so hard for grandparents to get custody?

Previous posts on this blog have talked about how it is hard, although not impossible, for grandparents to get custody of their grandchildren when the child's parents are in the picture, even if the parents are not the best mother and father for the child.

The reason it is more difficult for grandparents to get custody, or even grandparent visitation, is that the Constitution of the United States, at least according to the United States Supreme Court, give parents special privileges to raise their own children. The court has even equated this privilege to a fundamental right.

When your ex-spouse moves: your right to a relocation hearing

In a previous post, we talked about what happens when one parent in a divorce wants to relocate-and the implications of this move on child custody. In today's post, we examine the recourse the non-relocating parent has to contest this move.

If your ex-spouse decides to move to another state or more than 100 miles away within Arizona, they must give you a 45-days notice of the move. If you are opposed to this move, you have 30 days to submit a petition to the court to block it. The court will then hold a relocation hearing. For parents who have equal physical custody of their child, a relocation hearing is a prerequisite of any move.

When deciding child support, what counts as income?

Although the Arizona Guidelines for child support include a formula by which Phoenix residents can consistently calculate how much child support they owe, there can still be a lot of controversy between parents as to what numbers should go in to this formula in the first place.

In Arizona, "income" includes just about anything that a person would report on his or her taxes, as well as some other items that one might not even have to pay taxes on. In addition to his or her salary, a person should expect to have items like winnings in games or other prizes, additional bonuses and overtime, if consistently worked as part of a regular schedule, and similar items included as income in a child support calculation.

Can I control how my ex uses my child support payments?

If you pay child support, it can be frustrating if you make your payments in full and on time, but believe the other parent is not spending your contribution wisely. You might wonder if you have any power to control how the other parent spends child support.

The answer is generally no, you cannot monitor or control how the other parent spends child support. An exception would be if your child's needs are not being met, in which case the courts could order more detailed accounting.

Property division: How can I put a value on our family business?

One of the hardest pieces of property to put a precise value on is a family or other closely-held business.

Unlike other valuable items, like a bank account or even shares of stock, one cannot just go to a reliable source and look up the dollar value of a family business. So, although it is counterintuitive since most Arizona businesses are closely held by spouses, family members and close friends, it is actually harder to get an idea of how much one's interest in a family business is worth than it is to put a value on one's interest in a multinational corporation