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Divorce Involving Children in Arizona

Divorce Involving Children in Arizona

Defending the People of Arizona

With more than 100 Years of combined experience

Divorce Involving Children in Arizona

The decision to divorce can be difficult for any couple in Arizona. When a divorcing couple shares children, the process can be even harder on everyone involved. Divorces involving children will involve all of the other legal issues of other types of divorces, including property division and the potential for spousal support.

However, when children are involved, the couple will need to contend with child custody, child support, and the potential for parental relocation. Working with an experienced family law attorney at the Schill Law Group might help you to resolve your legal disputes when you are going through a divorce with children in Arizona.

How is the Divorce Process Started?

To begin the divorce process in Arizona, the spouse who wants to get divorced will need to file several legal documents. The initial document that must be filed in a non-covenant dissolution involving children is the petition for dissolution. Together with the petition, most people also file the preliminary injunction, which is a document that will result in an order that prevents either party from selling, transferring, or giving away the marital property until the property division has been determined.

Some women choose to file a request to restore their maiden names. An order and notice form for both parents to attend the required parenting classes should be filed. Finally, a summons must be filed. The filing fee will need to be paid at the time the petition is filed. Once the documents are filed, the court will issue the summons. The summons and copies of the petition and other legal documents will then need to be served on the respondent spouse.

Once the petition and other documents have been served on the other spouse, both parents will be required to complete the parenting classes within 45 days. The parties will also need to submit a parenting plan to the court if they have reached an agreement. If they have not, each spouse can submit a proposed parenting plan to the court to be litigated during a hearing. The court will not issue a divorce decree until the classes are completed.

Once the court has received all of the documents, the judge will make sure that the court has jurisdiction to hear the case. To meet the residency requirements, one of the spouses must have lived in the state for 90 or more days. If both spouses agree to everything, including the determination of custody and support, there will be a 60-day waiting period after the service of the petition before a final decree can be issued.

How is Child Custody and Visitations Handled While the Divorce is Pending?

A court can issue temporary orders when a petition for dissolution is filed. These orders can be used to determine which spouse will remain in the marital home during the pendency of the divorce, whether one spouse will be ordered to pay spousal maintenance to the other spouse, who will be responsible for paying specific bills, and where the children will live. If the parties agree, some of the temporary orders might become permanent orders.

In most divorces involving children in Arizona, the spouse who files a petition for dissolution will also file a request for temporary child custody orders. Parents file these requests to outline where the children will live and how visitation with the other parent will be handled until the final decree is issued.

The goal should be to minimize the upheaval in the lives of the children as much as possible. When the court decides what temporary orders to issue, the judge will consider what is in the child’s best interests. The temporary orders will normally outline where the children will live, the type and amount of visitation the children will have with the other parent, temporary child support, legal decision-making, and a protective order to prevent one of the parents from kidnapping the children or withholding them from the other parent.

The following factors are important to understand when thinking about temporary orders:

  • Temporary orders will normally remain in effect until the divorce process is completed.
  • The orders will be issued under the best interests of the child standard.
  • Temporary orders can be contested.
  • The parents must follow the orders or face potential criminal consequences.
  • Temporary orders may become permanent if the parents agree.

It can take a couple of months before the court will hear a request for temporary custody orders. Either party can file a request for emergency temporary orders that can be heard within 24 hours. Normally, the requesting parent will need to show that the children might suffer irreparable harm without an emergency order.

In most of these types of cases, mental health issues, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, child abuse, or domestic violence is involved. Most of these types of requests are heard ex parte, which means that only the requesting party will appear. The judge will base his or her decision on the testimony and declarations made by the requesting party.

If the court grants the emergency custody order, a return hearing will be scheduled within seven days. The respondent spouse will then have a chance to gather evidence to contest the order and the allegations that the petitioner has made. Based on the evidence and testimony at the emergency order return hearing, the court might issue temporary orders, dismiss the emergency temporary order, or modify it.

What is the Standard Used for Determining Child Custody?

In Arizona, the courts follow the best interests of the child statute when they make child custody decisions. This standard involves the court’s consideration of several factors, which can be found at A.R.S. § 25-403. Under this statute, the courts consider the following factors:

  • The relationship between the child and the parent in the past, present, and likely future
  • The child’s relationship with the parent, siblings, and others in the home
  • How well the child is adjusted to his or her school, home, and community
  • The child’s wishes as long as he or she is of a suitable maturity and age
  • The physical and mental health of all of the involved parties
  • Whether one parent is likelier to encourage frequent and continuing contact with the child’s other parent unless domestic violence or abuse is involved
  • Whether one of the parents misled the court intentionally
  • Whether child abuse or domestic violence has occurred
  • Whether one parent engaged in coercion or duress to secure an agreement
  • Whether the parents have completed the required parenting classes
  • Whether one of the parents has been convicted of falsely reporting child abuse or neglect

When the decision making and visitation are contested, the court will make written findings of each of the factors that the judge took under consideration. The court may also consider other relevant factors in addition to those on this list.

What are the Types of Custody in Arizona?

When people think about child custody, they normally think about where the child normally will live. In the legal context, however, legal child custody refers to which spouse will have decision-making authority for important decisions regarding the child’s education, health care, and religious upbringing.

The physical custody of the child involves where the child will live and how much time he or she will spend at each home. Both legal custody and physical custody can be either sole or joint.

Sole Decision-making

Sole decision-making occurs when the court grants the legal authority to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing solely to one parent. Courts generally prefer to order joint decision-making unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, including child abuse, domestic violence, drug abuse, or something else.

When a parent is awarded sole decision-making authority, he or she will be able to make important decisions about the child’s religious upbringing, medical care, and education without having to consult the other parent. In some situations, the court might grant sole decision-making authority to one parent over one area and sole decision-making authority over a different area to the other parent.

Joint Decision-making

Joint decision-making is generally favored by Arizona courts. When joint-decision making is ordered, both parents are expected to participate in making decisions for their children. If it is ordered in your case, you will need to consult with your ex-spouse before making unilateral decisions about the education, medical care, or religious upbringing of your shared children.

Residential Custody

Residential or physical custody of a child refers to where the child lives most of the time. When one parent has primary physical custody, the child resides with that parent most of the time. The other parent will have visitation according to the schedule that the parents or the court determine.

In cases in which abuse, domestic violence, or substance abuse problems have been an issue, one parent may have sole physical custody while the other party might only have supervised visitation.

How is Child Support Determined?

Under A.R.S. § 25-501, Arizona expects both the custodial and non-custodial parents to contribute financially to the upbringing of their children. The courts have guidelines that judges follow when issuing child support orders. The guidelines take into account the relative incomes of each parent, whether they have other children to support, the amount of time the children spend with each parent, and any extraordinary expenses a child might have, among other factors.

The factors that the courts take into account when determining the amount of support to order are listed in A.R.S. § 25-320.

Child support will normally be ordered to continue until a child reaches age 18 or graduates from high school. However, the court can order support to continue past the age of majority. For example, the court might order support payments to continue if children go to college or if they have developmental disabilities. Courts can also deviate from the guideline amount in certain situations.

Schill Law Group can Help With Complex Divorce

Getting divorced is difficult for most people. When children are involved, the divorce process can be more complicated because of the number of issues that may be involved. If you are planning to divorce and share children with your spouse, contact the Schill Law Group today to learn about your options by calling us at 480.525.8900.



What Does “Best Interest of a Child” Mean?

What Does “Best Interest of a Child” Mean?

Defending the People of Arizona

With more than 100 Years of combined experience

What Does “Best Interest of a Child” Mean?

When parents of a child have a dispute over custody, the family court is required to make its custody decision based on what is in the best interests of the child. This is a legal standard that includes several factors that must be considered by a judge who is hearing a child custody matter.

Family court judges use the best interests of the child factors to make decisions about parenting time, custody, and modification requests. If you are involved in a dispute about the custody of your child, the attorneys at the Schill Law Group can help you to understand how this standard might be applied in your case.

What Issues Must be Determined in a Child Custody Case in Arizona?

When Arizona courts hear child custody cases, two issues must be decided. The first issue that a judge will need to determine is the physical custody of the child. This refers to which parent the child will live with and the amount of visitation the other parent will enjoy with the child.

The second issue that a judge will need to decide is the legal custody of the child. Legal custody refers to which parent will have the authority to make decisions for the child. These two issues are referred to as parenting time and decision-making authority in Arizona instead of physical and legal custody.

Instead of letting the court make decisions about parenting time and decision-making authority, parents should try to negotiate with each other to reach an agreement. In many cases, parents are happier with the outcome when they can reach negotiated agreements with the help of their lawyers instead of leaving the decisions up to the court.

After reviewing the best interests of the child factors, the court might issue any of the following orders:

  • One parent could be granted sole legal decision-making authority and sole parenting time with limited or supervised visits for the other parent.
  • Each parent could be granted sole decision-making authority over different types of decisions with shared parenting time.
  • Both parents could be granted joint parenting time and shared decision-making authority.

In some cases, the parents will not be able to agree on parenting time and decision-making authority. If this happens, the court will listen to the evidence and issue orders about the issues for which the parents were unable to agree. When the court makes the decision, the judge will follow the best interests of the child standard.

What is Arizona’s standard for Best Interests of the Child?

The best interests of the child standard are codified at A.R.S. § 25-403, which includes the factors that the courts are expected to consider when they make custody decisions. The factors that the courts must consider when determining what is in a child’s best interests include all of the following:

  • The relationship the child has had with each parent in the past, the relationship that the child has with each parent currently, and the potential future relationship that the child might have with each parent;
  • The relationship that the child has with each parent, any siblings, any stepsiblings, and others in the home;
  • How well the child is adjusted to his or her current home, community, and school;
  • If the child is old and mature enough, the child’s wishes;
  • The physical and mental health of all of the parties;
  • In all cases that do not involve domestic violence or abuse, whether one parent is likelier to encourage a continuous and meaningful relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • Whether a parent misled the court intentionally;
  • Whether child abuse or domestic violence has occurred;
  • Whether one parent used duress or coercion to secure a parenting time agreement;
  • Whether the parents have completed the required parenting classes;
  • Whether a parent has been convicted of falsely reporting child abuse;

In any child custody dispute that is handled by the court, these are the factors that the judge will be required to consider before making his or her decisions. When custody is disputed, the judge will also be required to make specific findings of each of the relevant factors that led to his or her decision.

You need to keep the factors that the courts consider in mind when you try to negotiate with your child’s other parent about parenting time. The factors can help to give you a better understanding of whether the court might grant you primary custody in a contested hearing. You can also use the factors to help to shape your parenting plan.

Joint vs. Sole Parenting Time and Legal Decision-making Authority

In Arizona, the courts are not supposed to have a preference for one type of custody. This means that a judge should not prefer joint vs. sole custody but should instead make his or her decision based only on what is in the best interests of the child. Under A.R.S. § 25-403.01, courts can award joint or sole legal decision-making authority. When they make their decisions about the type of custody to order, they are supposed to consider all of the best interests of the child factors as well as the following factors:

  • Whether the parents have an agreement about joint decision-making
  • Whether the lack of an agreement is due to something that is not included in the best interests of the child factors
  • The parents’ ability to cooperate when making decisions that will affect their child
  • Whether joint decision-making is logistically feasible

If a parent is granted sole decision-making authority, he or she does not have the power to change the court-ordered parenting plan on his or her own. Legal decision-making authority allows the parent or parents to make important decisions about their child’s education, religion, and health care.

If a parent has sole decision-making authority, he or she will not have to talk to the other parent before making a decision. If the parents share decision-making authority, they must consult with each other before making decisions for their child.

Parenting Plans and the Best Interests of the Child Standard

Under A.R.S. § 25-403.02, parents who are able to reach parenting-time agreements can submit a stipulated parenting plan to the court. The court will then issue the plan as the court’s order. If the parents cannot agree to a plan, they can each submit a proposed parenting plan for the court to consider. The court cannot have a preference for one plan over the other based on the parent’s gender.

Parents who do not agree on a plan will need to submit proposed plans about the decision-making authority of each parent for the child’s medical care, religious upbringing, and education.

The parenting plan should also include a schedule with details about where the child will be during vacations and holidays. They should also include a proposed schedule for visitation and how disputes will be resolved.

The plan should include information about how violations will be handled and provide for reviews of the plan. Each parent will have to sign a notice and agree that they understand that joint parenting time is not necessarily equal.

Child Custody Modifications and the Best Interests of the Child

Under A.R.S. § 25-411, a parent can file a request to modify a previously issued child custody order with certain limitations. People cannot ask for a modification of a previously issued order unless at least one year has passed since the previous order or something has happened that makes the court believe that the child is in imminent danger in terms of his or her emotional, physical, or mental health.

The court might also modify an existing order if child abuse or domestic violence has happened since the original order was issued, one or both of the parents have violated the order, or the custodial parent’s military deployment calls for a modification of the order.

Like other child custody issues, the court will consider the best interests of the child factors when deciding whether to grant the requested modification.

Get Help from the Custody Attorneys at the Schill Law Group

The experienced family law and child custody attorneys at the Schill Law Group can help you to understand the best interests of the child standard and how it might apply to your situation. We can help you to decide the type of custody arrangement that might work best for your family. Our child custody attorneys are skillful negotiators and might help you to resolve your outstanding disputes about custody and parenting time.

While reaching a negotiated parenting plan is often the best way to resolved child custody disputes, there are some cases in which litigation is more appropriate. For example, if there is a history of domestic violence, child abuse, drug abuse, or mental health issues involved in your case, it might be better to litigate the case through a contested hearing.

Our attorneys can help you to figure out the approach that you should take. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling us at 480.525.8900.


In the Child’s “Best Interest”: How to Negotiate for Custody and Visitation

Defending the People of Arizona

With more than 100 Years of combined experience

In the Child’s “Best Interest”: How to Negotiate for Custody and Visitation

Divorces can be very rough on children. When two parents make the decision to separate from one another, the children may experience significant changes in their lives, and that can result in fear, anxiety, and even anger. In order to minimize these negative feelings, the Arizona court system works diligently to ensure that any decisions that are made regarding the divorce are in the “best interest” of the children involved. What does this mean, exactly? Taking a closer look at what constitutes the best interests of a child will help you ensure a smooth transition for your kids and prepare for court.

Putting Children First

As a parent, your job is to protect and provide for your children. This means that you are always going above and beyond the call of duty in order to ensure that your children are happy and healthy. Divorce doesn’t change any of that. Even when you and your child’s parent make the decision to divorce, your goal is to take care of your kids to the best of your ability. Although emotions and tensions may run high during a divorce, it’s imperative that you work to put your children first when trying to negotiate living arrangements, visitation schedules, child support agreements, etc. Partnering with an experienced lawyer from Schill Law Group can make the process of negotiating with your spouse much easier, and will ensure that someone is fighting on behalf of you and your children, even if you and the other parent can’t reach an agreement outside of the courtroom.

Allowing for Ample Parenting Time

Regardless of how you may feel about your child’s other parent, your child deserves the opportunity to have a positive and healthy relationship with their mother or father. You, your lawyer, and your spouse must come up with a schedule that allows for ample parenting time for both parties. You will need to consider which holidays and traditions are important to your child, and how time should be shared amongst yourselves so that the child is able to stay connected with both sides of his or her family. You will also need to consider how close you and the child’s other parent live to one another, and what is practical in terms of shared living arrangements or visitation. If a child lives far away from one parent, the two should have a regular schedule for communicating via telephone or webcam.

Constant Communication

Even after divorce, communication is essential for ex-partners who are co-parenting their children. If both parents have shared custody, both have the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing and welfare. This means that if an incident occurs related to the child’s health, schooling, or behavior, both parents should be informed and involved. Without adequate communication, this cannot happen. It’s very important that the child receives input from both parents in order to live a happy and well-adjusted life.

Safety First

It’s always imperative that you consider the safety of your child before anything else. If you believe that the child’s other parent may be abusing drugs or alcohol, or may have violent tendencies, it is your responsibility to protect your kids. This doesn’t mean that you can withhold visitation from the other parent on your own, though. You will need to go through the court system and all of the proper channels in order to protect yourself and your children.

Divorce doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience for children. When the child’s best interests are taken into consideration, he or she can grow up to be healthy and happy. Contact the team at Schill Law Group today to start building a case for your child’s best interests in your divorce.


Divorce and Kids: Steps to a Smooth Transition

Defending the People of Arizona

With more than 100 Years of combined experience

Divorce and Kids: Steps to a Smooth Transition

Divorce is extremely stressful, and things only get more complicated when there are children involved. For children, divorce can be confusing and scary. As a parent, it’s your job to make sure that as you and your spouse transition into a life separate from one another, your sons and daughters are able to make that transition as smoothly as possible. Here’s a look at a few tips for minimizing the amount of stress and anxiety placed on your children during the divorce process.

Hire an Attorney

The first step to keeping your divorce simple and stress-free for your kids is to hire a divorce attorney right from the get-go. Schill Law Group has worked with countless individuals and families going through the divorce process and understands what it takes to create a safe and nurturing environment for children after their parents have separated. Our team can work with you to come to an agreement with your ex with regards to legal custody of the children, living arrangements, child support, visitation schedules, and more. Having an attorney work with you on these types of arrangements is a critical part of keeping things civil between you and your former spouse so that your children can transition into this new way of life without fear and anxiety. Working with legal representation helps to remove much of the emotional turmoil and drama so that you can focus on what’s truly best for the kids.

Establish Paternity

When a child is born, there’s no question of who the mother is. Even in committed, long-term marriages, though, paternity can come into question. Without legally establishing paternity, a father may find himself stripped of his parental rights. Conversely, without the legal establishment of paternity, a mother may be forced to grant visitation to a man who is not legally the father of her child. It’s a good idea to go through all of the proper channels and legally establish paternity in order to guarantee that no problems arise as the result of your failure to do so.

Obey Court Orders

Once the court makes a ruling about custody, visitation (or “parenting time”), and/or child support, you must comply with this ruling. Even if you disagree with the decision that was initially made, you should never violate a court order as this can lead to much more trouble. Trying to keep your kids longer than the allotted visitation period, for example, could result in a kidnapping charge or you could be held in contempt of court. This is very traumatic for your children and could result in your inability to spend any time with them at all. Failure to pay child support in full and on time, too, is a huge mistake. You may believe that the amount is unreasonable, but that doesn’t mean that you can make the decision not to pay. This is harmful to your children and could lead to penalties. It’s imperative that you always go through the court and petition for changes to be made to the ruling instead of doing whatever you believe is right and fair.

Work Together

Wherever possible, it’s always in the best interest of you and your children to work to cooperate with your ex and keep communications open at all times. Your relationship with your ex will impact your children whether you realize it or not, so try to work together and keep things civil. Trust us – though it may be difficult with some couples, we urge you to grin and bear it for everyone involved.

If you’re going through a divorce with children, you absolutely need someone on your side. The Schill Law Group is experienced in this area and is ready to help you today. Reach out to us for a free case evaluation.

The Whys and Hows of Establishing Paternity in Arizona

Defending the People of Arizona

With more than 100 Years of combined experience

The Whys and Hows of Establishing Paternity in Arizona

Fatherhood is a huge deal. As a dad, it’s your job to provide for your child financially, to look out for your child’s physical and emotional well-being, and to take part in making important decisions in your child’s life. Whether or not you and the child’s biological mother are in a relationship at the time of birth, it’s very important that you take measures to establish paternity in Arizona. Today’s post will highlight who should be concerned with establishing paternity, why it’s such a critical step, and how to go about doing it.

Understanding Paternity in Arizona

The team at Schill Law Group firmly believes that taking the time to establish paternity in Arizona can work to the benefit of both yourself (the biological father) and the child. Paternity is viewed by the state as a means of creating “legal, emotional, social, and economic ties” between you and your kids. Establishing paternity (usually through genetic DNA testing) means that you are fully recognized as being the father of a given child and ensured that your parental rights to legally make decisions for your kids and enjoy “parenting time” will be protected as the child grows up.

In addition to allowing a father and child to have a positive relationship, establishing paternity is also a necessary part of conferring certain rights upon the child from the father. These rights may include (but are not limited to):

  • Inheritances
  • Medical/life insurance benefits
  • Veterans benefits
  • Social Security benefits
  • Access to information about paternal medical history

Who Should Be Interested in Establishing Paternity in Arizona?

Any father who is interested in protecting his parental rights to his children should be interested in taking the necessary steps to establish paternity in Arizona. Even fathers who do not wish to play an active role in raising their children should consider establishing paternity. This is because you will be required to pay child support, it’s in your best interest to make absolutely certain that the child is, indeed, your own.

In some instances, mothers may find that the father of their child does not wish to claim the child as his own. This can create complications in collecting the needed child support. A mother may wish to take steps to have paternity established through the Arizona court system in order to protect her child and her rights and to ensure that the child’s financial needs are met.

How is Paternity Determined in Arizona?

Paternity may be established through either a voluntary or court-ordered DNA genetic test. In order for a paternity test to be legally recognized, paternity must be established through the courts. This means that it’s often best to work with an attorney who has experience in these matters so that everything is done correctly. A legal expert can also be extremely helpful in cases where the father does not wish to submit to a paternity test and needs to be legally served and court-ordered to do so. A seasoned and knowledgeable lawyer can make the process much simpler and less stressful.

Once paternity has been officially established in Arizona, it will be recognized nationwide. This will ensure that both you and your child’s needs and rights will be protected – regardless of whether or not the child relocates to another U.S. state.

Establishing paternity in Arizona is relatively straightforward, but it’s always best to leave these matters to those with experience. The Schill Law Group has worked with many families in cases involving paternity establishment and can help you navigate the process as smoothly and seamlessly as possible. Reach out to us to learn more today.

When Supervised Visitation is the Best Option for Your Child

Defending the People of Arizona

With more than 100 Years of combined experience

When Supervised Visitation is the Best Option for Your Child

In cases involving child custody and visitation, the Arizona court system always has the best interests of the child or children in mind. A judge will not take the decision to order supervised visitation lightly, and a number of factors must be considered prior to making such a ruling. As such, you need a qualified attorney working on your behalf in order to present all of the facts and pertinent case information to the court. Today’s post will take an in-depth look at when supervised visitation is the best option, and how to go about arguing your case for supervised visits.

Is Supervised Visitation Right for My Child?

Whatever personal conflict you may have with your child’s other parent, your personal feelings mean little in the Arizona court system. In order to have a judge order supervised visits between the other parent and your child, you’ll need to work closely with Schill Law Group to prove that supervised visits are, indeed, the best option for the child.

So, how do you do this, and how do you know for sure that supervised visitation is the best way to go? Arizona Code Section 25-403 outlines the guidelines for making decisions regarding child custody and visitation in situations where the parents are unable to come to an agreement on their own. Because the safety and stability of the children are the most important factors, a judge will usually only consider supervised visits when it can be proved that one parent may not be able to offer a safe, stable, and supportive environment. Some common scenarios in which supervised visitation may be court-ordered include:

  • When parents haven’t had much, or any, parenting time before. Sometimes, a parent has not been previously involved in the child’s upbringing. The Arizona court system may order supervised visitation for a specified length of time in order to allow the parent and child to become better acquainted with one another before unsupervised visits can be permitted.
  • When parents have a history of domestic violence. If there is any history of domestic violence, a judge will often designate a person to supervise parenting time.
  • When parents face grave mental health issues. If it is determined that a parent’s mental health conditions are severe enough that they impair judgment and the ability to safely parent a child, the court may order supervised visitation or limited contact.
  • When parents are living in an unsafe environment. If it is determined that a home environment is unsafe or unsanitary, the children may be removed and supervised visits may be ordered until the home is restored to livable conditions.
  • When parents are believed to be using illegal drugs. If a parent has a problem with illegal drug use, the court may determine that supervised visits are necessary. In some cases, a judge may order regular drug testing as a condition of both supervised or unsupervised visitation.

Arguing for Supervised Visitation

If you believe that supervised visits between your child and his or her other parent are in the best interest of the child, you will need to be able to clearly and objectively present your case to a judge. Your best bet for making a compelling argument is to hire an experienced legal professional who knows how to present the facts to the judge and make the best argument for your child. A seasoned attorney will also be able to fight for certain conditions to be met, such as court-enforced drug testing in order for supervised visits to take place.

Even if you believe your case is pretty cut-and-dry, it’s never a good idea to try to represent yourself in court – especially when the safety of your child is at stake. Don’t wait another moment to contact the experts at Schill Law Group. Give us a call to set up a free case evaluation today.