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Phoenix Divorce Law Blog

Review of Arizona's grandparent visitation laws

This blog has on previous occasions talked about how Arizona has a law that, in some circumstances, allows grandparents to obtain a court order requiring that they get to visit their grandchildren from time to time.

While these grandparents' visitation rights are not quite the same as those of a parent, they still can be a great means for preserving a relationship between grandparents in the Phoenix area and their grandchildren.

When may a court deviate from the Arizona Guidelines?

Generally speaking, a Phoenix or Gilbert parent who does not have his or her child the majority of the time or who has equal time but earns more than the other parent is going to be ordered to pay child support in some amount. Usually, the Arizona Guidelines determine how much child support a parent will pay, and the law strongly encourages courts to follow these Guidelines. To review, courts will apply these Guidelines by plugging in the appropriate figures and using the prescribed formula to come to a figure for child support.

However, these Guidelines are not absolute. In many cases, courts are allowed or even required to deviate from them. After all, the important thing is not to apply the Guidelines strictly but instead to come to a child support figure that is fair to both parents and, most importantly, the children.

Child support and federal, state tax exemptions

Unlike other states, Arizona actually has a detailed formula that determines which parent should get the benefit of federal tax exemptions, as well as state tax exemptions, should the parents be unmarried and living in separate households. Exemptions involving dependent children can mean thousands of dollars in tax savings, so parents who are living separate should be familiar with our state's detailed rules and ask their attorneys if they have questions.

Under the state's Child Support Guidelines, parents are supposed to set up a five-year cycle for determining which parent should get what exemptions and under what terms. To the extent possible, exemptions are supposed to be divided according to how much income each parent makes. By way of example, if the mother of the children makes $80,000 a year and the father makes $20,000 a year, then the mother should get 80 percent of the tax exemptions.

How will stock options be handled in a divorce?

Many people in Phoenix, Arizona, who have full-time positions get to take advantage of several benefits that their employers offer to them. Particularly in executive and other white-collar positions, for instance, an employee may be allowed to acquire stock options. As the name implies, a stock option is the right of a person to buy company stock at some point in the future for a price already agreed upon.

A person makes money off of a stock option when he or she gets to use it to buy stock at the agreed upon price of, say, $50, when the stock is worth more, say $100, at the time of purchase. In the context of a divorce or permanent legal separation, stock options present complex valuation questions. Unlike stocks one already owns, there are many factors that go in to estimating a value on a stock option, even if the stock itself is traded on the public market.

Number of children living with single dads increased slightly

It seems that among children who are living with either one or the other of their biological parents, most still live their mothers. Since the late 1960s, the number of children who are living with parents who are married to each other, including stepparents, has declined considerably, from 85 percent down to 65 percent.

In terms of raw numbers, according to a recent analysis, 24 million children live with a unmarried parent. Of these, over half, about 15 million, live with their mothers, while about 3 million live alone with their fathers. Additionally, 5 million children are living with two parents who are living together but who are not married to each other.

Raising grandkids is hard, and is becoming more common

It is not secret that across the country, more and more children are living with and being raised by their grandparents. Across the country, according to numbers reported by one agency of another state, there are now over 5.5 million children who are under the age of 18 and living with their grandparents full time. This number marks a huge increase over the past generation, and there is no sign of this trend slowing down or reversing.

There are a number of reasons why children wind up living with their grandparents. For one, the opioid epidemic has hit Arizona just as it has other parts of the country. And, as a result, many grandparents have to step in to help their grandchildren while the parents struggle with an addiction.

Representation in cross-border custody disputes

A previous post on this blog talked about how international child custody disputes are potentially very complicated. This is especially true when there are allegations that one parent has taken the child out of the country improperly.

The reason they are so complicated is that a lot of laws can affect the case. In addition to Arizona law, the laws of the federal government, the terms of international treaties and even the laws of a foreign country can also be in play.

International custody disputes require special handling

In Arizona, there may be many multi-national couples who have children together. In other words, one of the parents may be a citizen of the United States while another may be a citizen of a foreign country, including countries that are contiguous with the United States. Dual citizenship is also a real possibility.

When the couple is getting along, or even when they have parted ways amicably, this may be an insignificant point. It may even be helpful to a child to get the experience of two countries or cultures.

Review of how to get a child support modification

Like in other states, child support orders in Arizona are not set in stone to the same degree as other court orders and agreements. Perhaps because the law recognizes that the needs of children, and the ability of each parent to meet those needs, can change over time, courts can re-visit child support orders under certain conditions, even if the order was originally agreed to by the child's parents.

This does not mean that one can change child support on a whim or, for that matter, without the court's permission. Whenever a parent wants to change his  or her child support order, even with the agreement of the other parent, he or she will have to demonstrate that what is called a substantial and continuing change of circumstances has occurred. The parent will also need to demonstrate that a newly calculated order will actually be different than the order currently in force.

Is there something I can do to get custody without court?

As this blog has discussed on previous occasions, concerned grandparents who have grandkids that need care and loving support can obtain the legal authority they need to so provide in certain circumstances.

However, this process will almost inevitably involve a trip to court that could be quite contentious and complicated, particularly if the child's parent or parents object to the grandparents' taking custody.