Frequently Asked Questions

Lockdown and social distancing measures are currently affecting custodial rights.  Parents may need to make temporary changes to their custodial arrangements.  In crucial times like this, there is a need for compromise on either side.  Virtual communication arrangements can also be made to successfully navigate custodial duties during this period.  If there is an existing court order as to child visitation, failure to obey such order may ground criminal liability for contempt of court.  If the children are being placed in danger, the right course of action is to file an emergency motion to suspend parenting time if the parties cannot work out an alternative arrangement.  Parties should always try other alternatives before filing an emergency.  Please see the attached guidelines before taking an action with respect to parenting time.  (see https://go.aws/2W7NhQe and https://go.aws/3drA0HN )

Yes, you can.  Choosing to proceed with a divorce is your personal decision.  However, we would advise that you take some factors into consideration like living arrangements, finances, child custody, etc.  You may also resort to uncontested divorce under Arizona Laws.   If the parties have reached full agreements regarding the filing of dissolution of marriage, the parties can utilize the Summary Divorce Process which can greatly simplify the dissolution process.  The parties may also utilize the standard dissolution process and enter a consent decree of dissolution of marriage that is applicable once  you and your spouse agree on required terms as would be communicated to you by your attorney.  It is a much faster way of obtaining a divorce order.  If a trial is required, parties should note that there may be delays due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, but the courts are using alternative means such as video and telephonic hearings to proceed on cases.

Parties should attempt to work out alternative arrangements, if necessary, during the COVID 19 period.  That said, parties are required to abide by all terms of a custody/parenting time order unless it is modified.  If a child is being placed in an unhealthy or dangerous circumstance, or there is some other factor affecting legal decision making and parenting time orders, the Courts are still available for modifications as needed.  Movement is still allowed to give effect to custodial arrangements.  According to the guidelines by the governor, there is no need to show any documentation.  (see https://go.aws/2W7NhQe and https://go.aws/3drA0HN )

Yes, you can.  Law firms, like the courts, have been designated as essential service providers and may open for consultations.  Due to safety concerns and restrictions on movement, it may be difficult but not impossible to meet with your divorce attorney physically.  You may, however, explore possible alternatives by meeting with your attorney through virtual communication measures like video conferencing applications.  Online or telephony consultations are now made available for most law firms.

Yes, you can.  Navigating custodial duties across state lines is difficult in ordinary circumstances.  The restrictions on movement in this present time makes it even more difficult and almost impracticable.  Ordinarily, we would advise that both parents make necessary modifications to their previous arrangement to give makeup time to out of state parent.  However, under the present laws and regulations in Arizona, you are allowed to exercise time with your kids with some restrictions.  We would advise the adoption of technological measures like video conferencing to maintain interaction.

Yes, you can.  Despite the statewide lockdown on public institutions, courts are still open for limited hearings.    All four of the Superior Court facilities are currently accepting filings and the dropping off of necessary documents.  While there may be some delays, early filing may put you at advantage of getting heard on time.  This is because the available courts are busy and a divorce filed now may not go to trial until the start of next year.

Yes, you can.  Courts are still open to limited hearings as they have been deemed to be essential service providers.  If you have already filed your petition, and a trial date is already set, the Court’s are using a video platform to conduct trials.  It is in the Judge’s discretion, however, to move your hearing until in-person hearings can take place.  In that case, your case will likely go to trial in the fall or winter.  So if you intend to get started on your divorce shortly, you should contact an Arizona divorce attorney as soon as possible.

Yes.  It may be difficult to schedule physical mediation meetings due to lockdown and restriction of movement.  With safety concerns due to the continued spread of the virus and institutional lockdowns, physical mediations are almost impossible at this present time.  However, Online Mediation services are in full gear, and statistics show it is just as effective as physical mediation.  Adopting the online service helps you save up on traveling costs, stay on the right side of the law, and maintain your safety.

Yes, Courts are still open to emergency cases.  You may be able to seek emergency reliefs, especially about domestic violence and child protective services.  In such instances, you may apply to the court for the appropriate reliefs.  What constitutes an emergency or urgent situation depends on the particular facts of your case.  Courts may not be readily disposed to considering child endangerment by exposure to COVID-19 urgent enough to warrant a hearing.  You must consult with an attorney to determine the most applicable course of action in your case.

Yes, until you get the order modified.  The position of the law in Arizona is that you must pay child support even if you lose your job.  Failure to comply may result in dire consequences.  However, you may exercise the option of applying to the court for a modification of the order.  The court will consider your application and may alter the amount to be paid going forward.  You must show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the order was made.  Courts may not be easily given to modifying the order if it appears that you can get another job in a reasonable time.

There is no hard and fast rule to dividing stimulus checks between divorced spouses.  Under the CAREs Act recently signed by the President, the one-time financial assistance may be provided to individuals and families.  It is advisable to contact an attorney concerning the division of the stimulus check.  You may have to schedule a mediation if an amicable arrangement is not reached.  There is no specific provision on this in the recently released guideline as to who gets the portion allocated to children (if any).  However, the language implies that the extent of involvement in co-parenting should be proportional to the amount each parent gets.

No, you do not have to follow a pre-existing arrangement if you agree between yourselves to a new arrangement suiting the present time.  The recently released Arizona Supreme Court guidelines allow for alterations to be made to visitation plans.  However, it is best to have a written and signed description to that effect.  If you cannot agree on the modified parenting plan then the right course of action is to file a temporary modification with the court.

There is no straight answer to this.  If it is consequent upon a court order then it is still in effect.  Failure to comply may render you liable for civil contempt of court.  However, a private arrangement with your co-parent can be renegotiated to suit the present time.  (this misstates the requirement)  The current guidelines allow suspension for up to 14 days if there is a COVID diagnosis for the other parent or a person in that parents home, if a government official has notified the parent, or someone in the parent’s household of exposure to COVID, or has travelled internationally in the last 14 days.

The position of law as contained in the Arizona Supreme Court Guidelines is to the effect that normal custodial arrangements should be maintained.  It states clearly that school closures are not valid justifications for an alteration of existing parenting schedules.  This means your existing arrangement should still be followed as though schools were in session.  If either parent requires a temporary modification, then such can be made on agreement.  A written and signed description of the new arrangement should also be made.

No, she cannot.  Under Arizona laws, no modification can be made to the parenting plan unilaterally.  The recently released guidelines also provide that the contagion is not a valid reason to deny parenting time.  If there should be any modification, it must be made by both parents.  It would be a different case if she had applied to the court for a temporary modification.  We advise that the safety of the child and lawful restrictions should be taken into consideration by parents.

We understand that older people form the greater part of the demographic at risk and may be asymptomatic carriers.  Despite these safety concerns, it is not advisable to violate court orders as you may be held criminally liable.  The Arizona Supreme Court Guidelines state that third party visitations orders remain in effect unless modified by the court.  It is advisable to have a discussion with the grandparents as to safety concerns or requests for a suspension.