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Once you have received a judge’s “Decree of Dissolution,” you are officially divorced in the state of Arizona. You are expected to adhere to the terms of the divorce, and those expectations can be legally enforced. However binding they are, though, they are not set in stone. In Arizona, you can get a modification under the caveat of a “substantial change in circumstances.” There are three areas into which most modifications fall: alimony, child custody, and child support.
Alimony: Because alimony, or spousal maintenance, is not meant to be a punishment, it is subject to modification. It exists to assist the needier spouse in maintaining the standard of living from the marriage. It can be modified if the needier spouse becomes able to meet his or her own needs, or if the spouse with excess finds him or herself with need. Either of these fit the caveat of a “substantial change in circumstances” and can affect the divorce decree.
Child Custody & Child Support: Just like in creating the original decree, when modifying the decree, the number one consideration is the best interest of the child. The same considerations that determined original child custody and support are again covered (child preference, ability of parents to foster a loving relationship, education, parental fitness, etc.). If the court finds that circumstances have changed significantly, the custody agreement could change, either from joint to sole custody or some other situation, dependent on the best interests of the child. Child Support can vary based on the same situations that affected alimony, as well as the circumstances determining custody.
If you’ve had a substantial change in circumstances and believe your divorce terms should be modified, contact the Scottsdale divorce attorneys at the law office of Hope E. Fruchtman today for a consultation.
If you find yourself facing the challenge of raising your grandchildren, you’re not alone. A growing number of grandparents across the country are raising little ones full-time, rather than spoiling them and sending them home. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy points out that grandparents are the sole caregivers of about 4.5 million children in America.
What are some of the reasons you might find yourself in this role? These may include the following:
• The untimely death of the child’s parents
• The divorce of the child’s parents leading to a situation in which neither parent can care for the child
• Alcohol or drug abuse
• Teenage pregnancy
• Neglect, abuse or abandonment
You might also be asked to take care of your grandchildren if the parents have any physical or mental impairments that have made it impossible to care for their children. Understandably, this responsibility may seem overwhelming. You could face challenges that are different from those you dealt with the first time raising children. For example, you might have age-related physical challenges of your own. Financial difficulties could present another obstacle. The children might have behavioral or emotional issues from feeling like they were rejected by their parents. You will also have a few legal and administrative tasks to deal with, including gaining legal custody or guardianship, enrolling the children in school and finding counseling services.
Fortunately, you should have access to a number of services that could help ease the transition into raising children a second time. These might include local and online support groups, grandparents’ rights advocates and public benefits. At this time, an Arizona family law attorney with experience in grandparents’ rights can be a valuable ally. The Law Office of Hope E. Fruchtman should be able to help you build the best plan for you and your grandchildren to succeed during this challenging time.
At the Law Office of Hope E. Fruchtman, we understand that in most cases, it is in the best interests of children and parents alike for the children to have regular access to both parents. After a divorce in most instances, both parents should be able to raise their children and make parenting decisions. This can help create lifelong bonds and aid in the emotional development and security of the child. However, there are always exceptions. In some cases, it may be better for the child not to have access to one or both parents. It might instead be safer physically and emotionally to limit the child’s contact with the parent in question.
In these cases, it may be best to terminate the parental rights, which removes the parent’s legal right to visit, contact or raise the child. Reasons for termination may include the following:
• Physical or sexual abuse
• Extreme emotional abuse or abandonment
• Willful refusal to support the child
• Alcohol or drug abuse, for which the parent has failed to get help
• Mental illness
• Refusing to see or contact the child
It can be emotionally devastating to a child to feel neglected or ignored by a parent, so how does terminating a parent’s rights do any good? For one thing, it protects the child from contact with an abusive parent. It may open the door for the child to be adopted by a more caring parental figure, such as a step-parent or foster parents. It may also give custodial grandparents better rights over raising and protecting their grandchildren.
The termination of parental rights is a sensitive issue that needs careful consideration, as well as sound legal counsel. If you believe you have a case for terminating the parental rights for a vulnerable child, contact our law offices today to talk about your options.
Everyone can learn from their elders, but sometimes the older generation might take a page out of their children’s and grandchildren’s books. The modern generation isn’t afraid to move on when a marriage is unbearable. In decades past, people would stay married even if they were miserable in their union. Why? For many reasons: Divorce was stigmatized, especially in traditional religious families; the wife would usually stay home and take care of the kids and household, and often lacked the job skills to support herself on her own; and certain marital topics, such as spousal abuse, were seen as taboo and swept under the rug.
Today, however, many older couples are taking a stand when it comes to their own happiness, and walking away from even long-term marriages. Studies have shown that more than double the number of couples over age 50 were divorcing in 2010 than they were in 1990. Often referred to as “gray divorce,” it would seem like times have changed enough for seniors to be confident enough to strike it out alone.
Here are three things to think about if you are considering a divorce in your later years:
Property and Asset Division
In Arizona, you can expect the court to divide your marital property just about equally. This includes retirement pensions, so be prepared if you were expecting to have your large retirement account all to yourself.
You will likely not have to worry about such issues as child support and custody during a gray divorce, but remember that this will be difficult for your kids, nonetheless. If they grew up with both parents together, your divorce may come as a shock. You can address the issue with them honestly as adults, but give them time to heal and understand.
Getting a divorce can signify the beginning of a new life and possibilities. While this prospect can seem exciting, remember that you will also probably deal with conflicting feelings of sadness, loss, anger and depression for the first few months after the papers are signed. Do cultivate new friendships and activities, but be careful not to jump into a relationship too soon. Recognize the symptoms of chronic depression and seek help if you are having difficulty moving on emotionally.
Ending a marriage entails much more than moving into separate homes, especially if you have years of accumulated assets and conflicts. Call the Law Offices of Hope E. Fruchtman to discuss your options.
At the Law Office of Hope E. Fruchtman, we understand how stressful it is when you start planning a divorce. On top of the emotional upheaval you are probably feeling right now, you might also feel confused, scared and overwhelmed. Do you have any options other than a litigated divorce process? Will a judge still intervene if you think you and your spouse can agree on divorce terms amicably?
Fortunately, people have options today that can allow them to customize their divorce, which in turn can greatly lessen the stress surrounding this difficult time. Here, we’ll give you a brief explanation of the options you might consider with an Arizona divorce attorney, as well as possible reasons for choosing a court divorce.
Mediation and collaborative law are also known as “uncontested” divorce. This does not necessarily mean that you won’t have any conflict during the process, but you and your spouse may be able to iron out your differences without a divorce court judge making decisions for you. During mediation, a neutral third party will sit down with you and your spouse. This person may make suggestions to help you both come up with terms you can agree with. In collaborative law, you will both have your own Arizona divorce attorney, and you may also involve other professionals to help you with complex matters, such as child therapists or financial advisors.
Uncontested divorce works best if you and your spouse are willing to treat each other civilly and keep an open mind about each other’s wishes and needs. However, your interests may be best protected through litigation if your spouse was violent, abused alcohol or other substances, or if you feel intimidated by him or her. If you are at a significant disadvantage financially, taking your concerns to a judge may also be the better option.
These decisions are not ones to be taken lightly. It can help to speak with an Arizona divorce attorney about your situation so you can both come up with the divorce option that’s best for you.
There are 4 ways to legally establish paternity in Arizona:
- If a couple is married ten months prior to the birth or the marriage ends less than ten months before the child is born, then the husband is automatically considered to be the father of the child.
- If unmarried, but the man signs the birth certificate, he is considered to be the father of the child.
- If genetic test results in a 95% probability of paternity
- If both parents sign a notarized and witnessed statement acknowledging paternity.
There are several situations in which it is important to legally establish paternity:
Seeking Parental Rights– If you are unmarried at the time the child was born, it can be difficult for the father to secure parental rights if the relationship ended poorly. In order to secure court-protected rights, you will need to legally establish your paternity.
Seeking to avoid paying child support– In an Arizona marriage, the husband is presumed to be the father unless paternity testing proves otherwise. If you believe the parental rights and responsibilities of a child belong to another man, you will need to undergo paternity testing to confirm this. A.R.S. § 25-503(F) Section F explains that the court will not force a man, who has been proven not the biological father, to continue to pay child support. You may or may not be able to recover the child support you have paid in the past, based on what the court determines would be best for the child.
Simply to know the truth– If your relationships have involved multiple partners, there may be a legitimate question of whether you are the father of the child or not. If the mother is unwilling to consent to genetic testing, the courts do have the power to mandate a genetic test. In order for this to happen, you will have to file forms with the court that give a compelling reason for why you believe you are the father of the child. Remember that if you are proven to be the father of the child, you will typically become responsible for child support.
Whether you saw this coming over the course of years or whether it feels like a complete surprise, it is always a heart wrenching moment when your spouse tells you he or she wants a divorce. If you aren’t ready to give up on the marriage, you may feel trapped or pushed into it. You don’t want to get divorced, but you can’t force your spouse to stay- so what are your options?
As much as you may feel like now is the time to push for extra counseling, marriage retreats, and reading every “save your marriage” book out there, this might push your spouse even further away. Your spouse is clearly deeply unhappy with the situation, and will not feel “heard” if you continually try to force these kinds of solutions on him or her. You must acknowledge that your spouse has a legal right to pursue a divorce and you will need to attempt to understand why it has come to this point.
Consider using attorney represented mediation. The mediation process is different (and less adversarial) than going straight to court. During mediation, you will have the opportunity to work with an impartial third party whose goal is to create a post-marriage life plan that you and your spouse can both be happy with. During this process you and your spouse will both be able to express your needs and wants, and what it is about the marriage that is standing in the way of those needs. Unless the mediation process breaks down completely due to non-cooperation, then it isn’t over until both spouses are willing to accept the divorce agreement.
While the mediation process can be therapeutic and not all couples that begin the divorce proceedings will choose to finalize their divorce, it is important to understand that your spouse did not make the choice to pursue a divorce lightly. It has probably been a very difficult decision that was considered for months or years before he or she took action. Agreeing to the mediation process is a way to continue the dialogue and foster understanding, but do not mistake it for a counseling session. The purpose of mediation is still to end the marriage, but in a more amicable and communicative way. Even if your hope is to reconcile with your spouse, you should be prepared to protect your interests and ensure your future is secure. Consult with an experienced Scottsdale divorce attorney to make sure your rights are protected.
The Hope E. Fruchtman law firm has the experience and compassion you need in this difficult time. Whatever your end goals are, we’ll work hard to protect your rights and to help you through the process. Contact us today for a free consultation.
While many divorcing parents still think in terms of “sole custody” or “joint custody”, the terms used in Arizona law are actually “legal decision making power” and “parenting time”. This is not just a change of verbiage, but it is a shift in the way custody and parenting responsibilities are thought of by the court.
What’s the difference? Legal decision making power can either be granted to one parent or it can be split between the two parents. Split decision making power does not necessarily mean you will have to agree with your former spouse on all of these decisions; different parents may instead be granted different decision rights. The mother might be granted the legal decision making power when it comes to religion and education, but the father might be granted legal decision making power over all medical decisions.
While typically the child will mainly reside with one parent, called the custodial parent, there are many ways the court can divide “parenting time.” They may try for an equal split, but more often one parent will be the main home of the child and the other parent will have holidays, weekends, or some other visitation schedule.
The courts will consider what is in the best interests of the child, and also the current relationship of the parents and how well they are able to make decisions together. Generally, what the court will believe is in the best interest of the child is to still have both parents be active and important factors, as long as there are no safety or instability concerns with either parent.
If you are in the process of divorce, consider creating a parenting plan with your spouse before going to court. The court generally looks favorably on plans mutually created by parents through arbitration or mediation. Whether or not you attempt to make amicable parenting plans or whether you need to fight for your needs in the courtroom, you need an experienced Scottsdale family law attorney on your side, to make sure your rights are protected and you understand all the legal ramifications of your actions. Contact us today to consult on your case.
If you have remarried, you likely desire to make your new family complete by making sure your new spouse has full parental rights over your children. However, this is not a simple process. In order for a stepparent to adopt stepchildren, the other biological parent must either give their consent, or they must have lost their rights through a process called Parental Rights Termination.
Reasons to Consent to Step Parent Adoption:
While it may be hard to believe that anyone would consent to another man or woman adopting his or her biological children, it does happen. When a stepparent legally adopts their spouse’s children, they become financially responsible for those children, eliminating the need for child support and other financial obligations.
Parental Rights Termination Process:
If the other biological parent does not consent to the stepparent adoption, you will need legal help from Hope E. Fruchtman, an experienced Scottsdale family law attorney who knows how to fight for what is best for your children.
In order to secure a parental rights termination, you will need to prove not only that the change will be in the best interest of the child, but more importantly that the biological parent is unfit to parent. This can be proven in a variety of ways, most notably in showing that the biologic parent has abandoned and played no role in the child’s life for at least six months.
Remember, the courts respect biological parent rights and will seek to protect those rights except in the case where it is clearly demonstrated that the parent is unfit, or where the parent willingly relinquishes their parental rights. In either situation, you will need the legal counsel and assistance of an experienced attorney. The Law Office of Hope E. Fruchtman has served the Arizona community for over twenty years and is ready to assist you as well. Contact us today to discuss your case.
Do you act as a parental figure for a child, and believe it would be in the child’s best interests to live with you? This is a very serious matter, because Arizona courts strongly favor biologic parent rights. However, as a Scottsdale family law attorney team we know that there are times when it is necessary to place children with adults who can provide a better environment than the biologic parents can. Here are the factors to consider:
- Are you a Grandparent? Read about Grandparent’s Rights.
- Is the child in physical, emotional, psychological or moral danger by living with either biologic parent?
- Is one of the biologic parents deceased?
- Has a petition for divorce or dissolution of marriage been entered for the legal parents?
- Are the child’s parents not married to each other?
- Do you have compelling evidence that the child is not safe in his or her current environment?
- Has either legal parent been missing for at least three months?
- Has a new custody order been entered within the past year?
- Have you been acting in the role of parent for the child?
- Is there evidence that the legal parent’s decision making, in terms of the child, is detrimental to the child’s health and safety?
- Do you have the resources to provide for needs of the child?
While the Arizona courts do value the rights of the biologic parents, they will always seek to do what is in the best interests of the child. While the initial assumption is that it is in the best interests of the child to stay with the biologic parents, this can be successfully challenged in some cases. If this sounds like your situation, call the Law Office of Hope E. Fruchtman for a consultation on your case. She is a Scottsdale Family Law Attorney and has the expertise you need to fight for your rights.