Family Law

Trusted Family Law Attorneys

If you are facing the possibility of divorce or other related family matters, you are probably in need of guidance and assistance in answering the many questions that accompany these difficult issues.  Divorce, Custody, and Support


My many years of experience in this field will help you to obtain the result that is in your best interest and the best interest of your family.  I am very sensitive to the fact that divorce, custody and support matters can be emotionally and financially draining.  Although I will aggressively represent your interest, I will also try to resolve the case without unnecessary litigation.

I am available to make limited court appearances (court appearances for just one part of your case, i.e. one hearing) or to assist you with legal advice if you are going to act on your own behalf.  Whatever you decide to do and however you decide to proceed, I am there to help you.

I provide representation in the following areas:

  • Divorce
  • Legal separation
  • Paternity
  • Child custody (decision making)
  • Child Access (parenting time)
  • Child support
  • Modification or establishment (decision making, parenting time or support)
  • Spousal maintenance
  • Personal property/debt division

If you have questions, please contact my office at (480) 926-8600 ext. 3, to set up an appointment.  I look forward to assisting you.

Family Law FAQ’s

When I initially meet with clients who are or may be involved in divorce or legal separation actions,

I explain that many of these types of cases involve six (6) major areas, with multiple subparts.

The six (6) major areas are:

1. Child Custody (decision making)/Access (Parenting Time).

2. Child Support.

3. Spousal Maintenance/Alimony.

4. Division of Assets.

5. Division of Liabilities.

6. Attorneys’ Fees.

 

1. Child Custody(decision making)/Access (Parenting Time):

Child custody (decision making) and access (parenting time) issues are often the most hotly contested matters because emotions are usually running high. When I meet with you I review your and your spouse’s backgrounds, as well as the backgrounds of significant others (i.e. boyfriends, girlfriends, relatives, etc.). I am interested in knowing whether or not either party (or their significant others) have mental, physical, or emotional impairments that adversely impact the ability to parent. I am also interested in knowing whether or not either party suffers from addictions of any kind, has been charged with, committed, or been the victim of abuse and whether or not orders of protection are in place, etc. Finally, it is important for me to know what the historical child care arrangements have been when the parties were together, whether or not the parties can communicate in a civil manner with one another, and whether either party is denying the other access to a child or threatening to remove a child from the state.

All of these factors may be important to the court if it is required to make rulings on custody (decision making)/access (parenting time) issues. , A.R.S. § 25-403(A) entitle legal decision making; best interests of the child, states as follows:

The court shall determine custody, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance the best interests of the child. The court shall consider all relevant factors, including:

1.  The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.

2. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.

3. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.

4.  If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.

5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.

6. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. This paragraph does not apply if the court determines that a parent is acting in good faith to protect the child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.

7. Whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent.

8. Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to section 25-403.03.

9. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time.

10.  Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.      

11. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02. B. In a contested legal decision-making or parenting time case, the court shall make specific findings on the record about all relevant factors and the reasons for which the decision is in the best interests of the child.

          If the parties are unable to reach an agreement on their own I inform my client that he/she

has several choices to make:

         First, the parties may simply gather as much evidence as possible to support their

positions and go to trial or a hearing. This approach may entail having witnesses appear on the

parties’ behalf at a trial or hearing to testify regarding factors set forth above and/or obtaining

copies of police reports, drug test results, photographs/video tapes, audio recordings, etc. While

this approach may be less expensive than hiring a child custody expert, it may prove to be the

least desirable due to admissibility of evidence issues, “he said, she said problems,” and little or

no information from an unbiased third party regarding the children’s best interest.

         Second, the parties may attend a meeting with a counselor through Conciliation Services

to try to resolve their differences. This is a free service offered through the court whereby the

parties meet with a mediator who attempts to help the parties reach an agreement. Neither party

is required to agree to anything suggested by the mediator or the other party. However, if an

agreement is reached then the parties may be asked to sign a stipulation. While this is an effort

to try to bring about an inexpensive resolution of disputed decision making/parenting time issues

it has its problems. Due to the fact that attorneys are not usually allowed to be present it has

been suggested that the more dominant individual in the relationship between the parties may

have the upper hand. Thus, if the client does attend such a meeting I ask him/her to prepare an

outline of his/her desires and goals beforehand so that he/she does not lose sight of what he/she

is trying to accomplish.

         Third, pursuant to an agreement with the opposing party, the parties may hire a private

mediator to attempt to help them come to a resolution.  A private mediator may have legal,

social, or psychological training, or a combination of all three. The advantage of private

mediation is that the private mediator can meet the parties at a time convenient for everyone and

can assist the parties in making an informed decision about decision making and parenting time issues. Mediators

can often provide parties with information about decision making/parenting time arrangements that are in

their children’s best interests under the circumstances. Finally, as with the Conciliation

Services’ Counselor, the mediator will not force an agreement. If no voluntary agreement is

reached then the parties simply go their separate ways and either attempt some other method to

resolve their differences or go to trial. If an agreement is reached, then the mediator can help the

parties document their settlement. The downside is that private mediators will usually charge

each party at an hourly rate which may be an additional financial burden that neither party wants

to bear since the private mediators’ recommendations are not usually binding. The upside is that

the parties may be able to avoid a trial and will be more willing to follow an access plan that they

have agreed upon, rather than are forced upon them by the court.

          Fourth, if parties are willing they can stipulate to the appointment of a child custody

expert or either one of the parties can petition the court to appoint such an expert to perform a

child custody evaluation in the case. The child custody expert is a person (usually a psychologist

or psychiatrist) who has extensive experience in handling custody and access (parenting time)

disputes. These experts usually meet with both parties, their children and significant others

(boyfriends, girlfriends, relatives, co-employees, etc.) and review just about anything and

everything the parties can provide them, including documents, writings, reports, letters, video

tapes, audio tapes, etc. The child custody expert may also have the parties undergo certain

psychological tests to help the expert attempt to gain a better understanding of a party’s mental

and emotional condition. Unlike the Conciliation Court Counselor or mediator the child custody

expert’s task is not to try to help the parties amicably resolve their differences, but to prepare a

report for the court to set forth recommendations regarding the decision making and parenting time

arrangements that are the best interest of the child(ren). The judge usually gives great

weight to these reports. The biggest problem and the reason these type of experts are not

retained in every case is due to the cost. A custody evaluation usually costs between $3,500.00

to $7,500.00 or more.

Sole and joint legal decision-making and parenting time:

In awarding legal decision-making the court may order sole legal decision making or joint legal decision making, (see A.R.S. § 25-403(A)). The court will consider factors set forth in A.R.S. § 25-403(A) and A.R.S. § 403.01 (B) to determine the best interest of the child.

A. In awarding legal decision-making, the court may order sole legal decision-making or joint legal decision-making.

B. In determining the level of decision-making that is in the child’s best interests, the court shall consider the factors prescribed in section 25-403, subsection A and all of the following:

1. The agreement or lack of an agreement by the parents regarding joint legal decision-making.

2. Whether a parent’s lack of an agreement is unreasonable or is influenced by an issue not related to the child’s best interests.

3. The past, present and future abilities of the parents to cooperate in decision-making about the child to the extent required by the order of joint legal decision-making.

4. Whether the joint legal decision-making arrangement is logistically possible.

C. An order for sole legal decision-making does not allow the parent designated as sole legal decision-maker to alter unilaterally a court-ordered parenting time plan.

D. A parent who is not granted sole or joint legal decision-making is entitled to reasonable parenting time to ensure that the minor child has substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the parent unless the court finds, after a hearing, that parenting time would endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.

2. Child Support:

A. Question: Who pays child support?

Answer: In almost every case involving children an issue arises regarding the payment of child support. Arizona Courts “may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child, born to or adopted by the parents, to pay an amount reasonable and necessary for support of the child, without regard to marital misconduct.” See A.R.S. § 25-320(A). Thus, the parents together (such as in the case of a third party or the state having custody of a child) or one of the parents individually may be ordered to pay child support.

Private mediators are available to help parties to resolve all aspects of their case, not just parenting time/ decision making disputes. Mediators may also help in paternity, grandparent rights, child support, spousal maintenance/alimony, separation, and modification matters.

B. Question: What are the Child Support Guidelines?

Answer: The Supreme Court of the State of Arizona is charged with establishing guidelines for determining the amount of child support. In fact, Federal Law requires that each state adopt Uniform Guidelines for Child Support. The Arizona Supreme Court, through statute, was ordered to base the required

Guidelines and criteria for deviation from the Guidelines on certain relevant factors, including:

(1) The financial resources and needs of the child.

(2) The financial resources and needs of the custodial parent.

(3) The standard of living that the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not

been dissolved.

(4) The physical and emotional condition of the child and the child’s educational needs.

(5) The financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent.

(6) The medical support plan for the child.

(7) Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment, or fraudulent

disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.

(8) The duration of parenting time and related expenses.

In order to provide guidance and assistance to the general public and the legal profession the Supreme Court, through the assistance of various committees, adopted the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.

The purpose of the Guidelines has been stated to be:

(1) To establish a standard of support for children consistent with the reasonable needs of

children and the ability of parents to pay.

(2) To make child support orders consistent for persons in similar circumstances.

(3) To give parents and courts guidance in establishing child support orders and to

promote settlements.

(4) To comply with state and federal law and any amendments thereto.

These Guidelines set forth methods for determining the gross income of the parents, adjustments to gross income, adjusted gross income, the basic child support obligation,

each parent’s proportionate share of the total child support obligation, adjustments for costs

associated with parenting time, adjustments for other costs and the child support order. The

Guidelines also provide information on how child support is to be calculated in multiple

children/divided custody situations, when child support is assigned to the state, when traveling

expenses may be allocated, when deviations from the Guideline amounts are appropriate, and

when third-party caregivers are entitled to be paid.

The Arizona Child Support Guidelines can be found immediately following A.R.S. § 25-320 or online at: http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/superiorcourt/selfservicecenter/forms. If you have any questions on where to find the guidelines and/or child support calculations please feel free to call my office.

C. Question: What is a Parent’s Worksheet for Child Support Amount?

Answer: The Parent’s Worksheet for Child Support Amount is a form that enables the court or the parties to set forth calculations necessary to determine the amount of child support that the party or parties may be ordered to pay. In order to properly fill out this “Worksheet” a person will need to be familiar with the Arizona Child Support Guidelines and the Parent’s Worksheet Instructions.

In order to complete the Worksheet you will need to know:

(1) Your case number.

(2) Your monthly gross income and that of the other parent if possible. If you do not

have such information available to you, you may have to use your “best guess”

based upon your knowledge of that person’s earnings.

(3) The monthly cost of medical insurance for the minor children who are the subject

of this action.

(4) Monthly child care amounts paid to others.

(5) The number of days the minor child(ren) spends with the noncustodial parent.

(6) Monthly obligations of yourself and the other parent for child support or court-ordered

spousal maintenance/support.

D. Question: How is child support calculated?

Answer: Without getting overly complicated, child support is calculated by adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing the parties incomes (gross and adjusted) and taking into account such factors as spousal maintenance and child support (paid and received) and costs for medical/dental/vision insurance, child care, education expenses, and adjustments for costs associated with visitation. At first calculating child support may seem complicated, but if you follow the instructions and use the child support calculator offered by the court, the calculations are not that difficult. The Superior Court’s website for its online Child Support Calculator can be found at: www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/

E. Question: Are the child support calculations based on gross income or net income?

Answer: Child support calculations are based on the parties’ gross incomes. “Gross income” is not your “take-home pay.” It is the higher amount shown before any deductions are taken out of your paycheck. Gross income includes monies from:

Salaries Bonuses

Worker’s Compensation Benefits Wages

Dividends Disability Insurance (including social security disability)

Annuities Royalties

Commissions Capital Gains

Interest Self-Employment

Severance Pay Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Income from a business Pensions

Rental Income Prizes

Social Security Benefits Trust Income

Recurring Gifts Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)

Gross income does not include benefits from public assistance programs such as temporary assistance for needy families (TANF), supplemental social security (SSI), food stamps, and general assistance (GA); and it does not include child support payments received.

F. Question: What if my child is mentally/physically disabled?

Answer: Arizona Statutes are clear that under certain circumstances child support will be ordered to be paid even if the child is past the age of majority. A.R.S. § 25-320(E). The Court may order child support to continue past the age of majority (even if the child is over the age of majority when a petition is filed or at the time of the final decree) if all of the following are true:

(1) The court has considered the factors prescribed in A.R.S. § 25-320(D).

(2) The child is severely mentally or physically disabled as demonstrated by the fact that

the child is unable to live independently and be self-supporting.

(3) The child’s disability began before the child reached the age of majority.

G. Question: How long does child support last?

Answer: In a normal situation child support is only paid until the child reaches age 19 or graduates from high school, whichever event occurs earlier. A.R.S. § 25-320(F) states:

If a child reaches the age of majority while the child is attending high school or a certified high school equivalency program,support shall continue to be provided during the period in which the child is actually attending high school or the equivalencyprogram but only until the child reaches nineteen years of age unless the court enters an order [pertaining to a severely mentally or physically disabled child, which could result in the order being indefinite in duration]. The Arizona Child Support Guidelines makes it clear that the court may establish a presumptive date for the termination of current child support obligations. The Guidelines state: The presumptive termination date shall be the last day of the month of the 18th birthday of the youngest child included in the order unless the court finds that it is projected that the youngest child will not complete high school by age 18. In that event, the presumptive termination date shall be the last day of the month of the anticipated graduation date or age 19, whichever occurs first. The Statute refers to when a support obligation for each individual child can be terminated and the Guidelines make reference to when the entire child support order can be totally terminated. For example, if you have three children, as each child graduates from high school or turns 19, whichever occurs earlier, you will no longer be entitled to receive or obligated to pay child support for that child. However, a child support order remains in effect for the other two children and the child support amount will probably need to be modified. The Guidelines make reference to when the entire child support order terminates (i.e. when the last child graduates from high school or turns 19, whichever occurs first).

 

3. Spousal Maintenance/Alimony:

Question: Am I entitled to receive or obligated to pay alimony/spousal maintenance?

Answer: In Arizona either party may be ordered to pay or entitled to receive maintenance. The term alimony is no longer used and has been replaced by the term maintenance or “spousal maintenance” for clarification purposes.

A.R.S. § 25-319 sets forth a two-part test to help the parties and the court determine the spousal maintenance issue. The first part of the test is found in A.R.S. § 25-319(A). This subsection sets forth various factors, that if found to exist, will entitle the party seeking maintenance to be eligible to receive it. Not all of the factors need to be present for spousal maintenance to be awarded, but the greater the number of categories that apply the better the chance that spousal maintenance will be found to be necessary.

A.R.S. § 25-319(A) states that the court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse for any of the following reasons if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:

a. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs.

b. Is unable to be self-sufficient through a appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient.

c. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse.

d. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.

In the event the court finds that one of the four factors set forth in subsection 319(A) is

met, then the court must determine the amount and duration of the award pursuant to factors set

forth in subsection 319(B).

A.R.S. § 25-319(B) factors include:

a. The standard of living established during the marriage.

b. The duration of the marriage.

c. The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.

d. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.

e. The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.

f. The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.

g. The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.

h. The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.

i. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently.

j. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available.

k. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.

l. The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved.

m. All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim. Spousal maintenance can be agreed upon by the parties or ordered by the court. Spousal maintenance can be modifiable (meaning that the award can be changed as to the amount and duration (length of time the award will be paid)) or non-modifiable (meaning that the award cannot be changed as to the amount or duration). The award can only be non-modifiable if the parties so agree. Otherwise, the award will be modifiable. If an award is modifiable, then both the amount of the payment and the length of time payments are to be made can be changed depending upon such factors as the parties’ relative financial circumstances, health, etc. Modifiability of an award may be desirable if the parties anticipate a change in their circumstances before the award terminates. However, a nonmodifiable award may be more desirable if the parties want more definiteness in their future plans. The pros and cons of a non-modifiable provision are that no matter what circumstances change in the future spousal maintenance will have to be paid in the amount and for the period of time agreed upon. As stated above, the parties will have to agree upon the provision being nonmodifiable for it to be ordered by the court.

Spousal maintenance may also be ordered to be paid for a definite number of years or for an indefinite period of time. Usually the award is for a set number of years. However, the 10 longer the marriage and the older the party seeking maintenance the greater the chance the award will be indefinite.

Finally, be aware of A.R.S. § 25-327(B) which states:

Unless otherwise agreed in writing or expressly provided in the decree, the obligation to pay future maintenance is terminated on the death of either party or the remarriage of the party receiving maintenance.

Thus, unless a provision in your decree expressly states that spousal maintenance will not be terminated upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the party receiving maintenance, then spousal maintenance will be terminated upon the occurrence of any of those events whether or not it is modifiable. This comes as an unwelcome revelation to many people.

 

 

4. Division of Assets and Liabilities:

Contrary to many individuals understanding of the law, the court is not required to equally divide assets and liabilities. The court is only required to equitably divide the assets and liabilities. In A.R.S. § 25-318(A) the legislature made clear that in proceedings for dissolution of the marriage (divorce) or for legal separation “The court shall assign each spouse’s sole and separate property to such spouse. It shall also divide the community, joint tenancy and other property held in common equitably, though not necessarily in kind, without regard to marital misconduct.” [Emphasis added.] Subsection B of this statute makes clear that, “In dividing property, the court may consider all debts and obligations that are related to the property, including accrued or accruing taxes that would become due on the receipt, sale or other disposition of the property.”

The court may also consider “all actual damages and judgments from conduct that resulted in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or a child was the victim of excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.” Subsection C.

Property acquired by either spouse outside the State of Arizona shall be deemed to be community property if the property would have been community property if acquired in Arizona. Also, if there is no provision made in the decree regarding community, joint tenancy or other property held in common then such property shall be from the date of the decree held by the parties as tenants in common, each possessed of an undivided one-half interest. See Sections A and D.

With respect to liability issues, the parties need to be aware that their spouse has equal management, control and disposition rights over the parties’ community property and each party has equal power to bind the community. Either party may acquire, manage, control or dispose of community property or bind the community except that joinder of both spouses is required in any of the following cases:

a. Any transaction for the acquisition, disposition or encumbrance of an interest in real property, other than unpatented mining claim or a lease of less than one year;

b. Any transaction of guarantee, indemnity or suretyship; and

c. To bind the community after the service of a petition for dissolution of marriage, legal separation or annulment, if the petition results in a decree of dissolution of marriage, legal separation or annulment. See A.R.S. § 25-214.

Also, except as stated above, either party may contract debts and otherwise act for the benefit of the community. However, the separate property of a party shall not be liable for the separate debts or obligations of the other party, absent agreement of the property owner to the contrary. Moreover, the community property of the parties is liable for the pre-marital separate debts or other liabilities of a party, incurred after September 1, 1973, but only to the extent of the value of that spouse’s   contribution to the community property which would have been such party’s separate property if single. See A.R.S. § 25-215.

 

5. Attorneys’ Fees:

Neither party is guaranteed to have the other party pay all or a portion of their attorneys’ fees and court costs. In making a determination as to an award of fees and costs the court will review two separate issues:

a. The financial resources of both parties; and

b. The reasonableness of the positions each party has taken throughout the proceedings.

Thus, if one party makes significantly less money than the other party and all other things are equal, the court may order the party who earns more to assist the party who earns less in paying some of his or her attorneys’ fees and court costs. However, if the party earning less has taken unreasonable positions during the pendency of the case then the court may not financially assist the unreasonable party. Thus, it may pay to be reasonable. See A.R.S. § 25-324.

Important Definitions for Family Law Cases:

Alimony/Spousal Maintenance:

This is an award by court order or agreement whereby a husband or wife pays the other for maintenance either temporarily (pending a suit for divorce or separation) or for a set number of years or permanently following the issuance of a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation. This usually results in one party paying the other a set sum of money each month for a designated period of time. See A.R.S. § 25-319.

Annulment:

An annulment is a dissolution of a marriage wherein the court adjudges a marriage to be null and

void. If the grounds for an annulment exist the court shall divide the assets and liabilities of the

parties and establish the rights and obligations of the parties with respect to their child(ren).

A.R.S. §§ 25-301, 302.

Child Custody (Decision Making) Proceeding:

This is a proceeding whereby the court shall determine decision makings, either originally or on a Petition

for Modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child(ren). The court will consider

multiple factors in making this determination. These factors are set forth in A.R.S. § 25-403.

Community Property:

All property acquired by either husband or wife is the community property of the husband and

wife except for property that is acquired by gift, devise or descent, or acquired after service of a

Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Legal Separation, or Annulment if the Petition results in a

Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, Legal Separation or Annulment. See A.R.S. § 25-211.

Covenant Marriage:

In Arizona parties may enter into a covenant marriage by submitting certain documents to the

Clerk of the Superior Court or other official designated by the Clerk, a sworn statement and by

paying a fee. See A.R.S. § 25-901.

Divorce:

A divorce is the legal separation of a husband and wife by court order, judgment or decree of a

court. A divorce in Arizona dissolves the marriage relation between the husband and wife.

Divorces can be contested or uncontested. Contested divorces result whenever the parties have a

dispute regarding various issues which may include custody, access, support, division of assets

and liabilities, payment of attorney’s fees. Uncontested actions occur when the parties are in

agreement about how the time with their children will occur, how much support (whether it be

child support or alimony) will be paid, and how assets and liabilities will be divided. A.R.S. §25-312.

Grandparent Visitation:

Arizona Statutes allow grandparents and great grandparents of a child reasonable visitation rights

to the child during the child’s minority on a finding that the visitation rights would be in the best

interests of the child and that certain other factors are in existence. See A.R.S. § 25-409.

Joint Legal decision-making:

“Joint Legal decision-making” means both parents share decision making and neither parent’s rights or responsibilities are superior except with

respect to specified decisions as set forth by the court or the parents final judgement or order. See A.R.S. §25-401(2).

Legal decision-making:

“Legal decision-making” means the legal right and responsibility to make all non-emergency legal decisions for a child including those regarding

education, health care, religious training and personal care decisions. For the purposes of interpreting or applying any international treaty, federal

law, a uniform code or a statutes of other jurisdictions of the United States, legal decision-making means legal custody. See A.R.S. § 25-401(3).

 

Legal Separation:

A legal separation is a court order, judgment or decree that sets forth the circumstances under

which a married couple will live separately. All issues addressed in a Decree of Dissolution of

Marriage (i.e. custody, support, division of assets and liabilities, etc.) can be addressed in the

legal separation. A.R.S. § 25-313.

Maternity and Paternity Proceedings:

These are court actions to establish maternity or paternity of a mother or father usually for the

purposes of establishing support obligations, but sometimes to enable the father to have

custody/access rights. See A.R.S. § 25-801 et seq.

Modification of Custody Decree:

Provisions in a Divorce Decree or Court Order regarding custody of children may be modified.

However, a person shall not make a motion to modify a custody decree earlier than one year after

its date, unless the court permits it to be made on the basis of affidavits that there is reason to

believe the child’s present environment may seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental,

moral or emotional health. Additionally, six months after a joint custody order is entered, a

parent may petition the court for modification of the order based on the failure of the other parent

to comply with the provisions of the order. See A.R.S. § 25-411.

Modification of Maintenance/Support:

The provisions of any Decree respecting maintenance or support may be modified or terminated

only on a showing of changed circumstances that are substantial and continuing except as to any

amount that may have accrued as an arrearage before the date of notice of the motion or order to

show cause to modify or terminate. See A.R.S. § 25-327(A).

Modification of Property Dispositions:

The provisions in any Decree or Court Order as to property dispositions may not be revoked or

modified, unless the court finds the existence of conditions that justify the reopening of a

judgment under the laws of the State of Arizona. See A.R.S. § 25-327(A).

No Fault Divorce:

Arizona is a no fault divorce state. What this means is that the parties are not required to prove

fault or any grounds for the divorce other than allegations that the marriage is irretrievably

broken and that there is no prospect for reconciliation. The exception to this rule in Arizona is

when the parties have a covenant marriage. When such a marriage exists certain findings have to

be made by the court before the parties can obtain a divorce or legal separation. See A.R.S. § 25-901 et seq.

Parenting Time:

“Parenting time” means the schedule of time during which each parent has access to a child at specified times. Each parent during scheduled

parenting time is responsible for providing child with food, clothing and shelter and may make routine decisions concerning child’s care. See A.R.S.

§ 25-401(5).

Sole legal decision-making:

“Sole legal decision-making” means one parent has legal right and responsibility to make major decisions.

See A.R.S. § 25-401(6).

Sole and Separate Property:

A spouse’s real and personal property that is owned by that spouse before marriage and that is

acquired by that spouse during the marriage by gift, devise or descent (inheritances) and the

increase, rents, issues and profits of that property, is the separate property of that spouse.

Moreover, property that is acquired by a spouse after service of a Petition for Dissolution of

Marriage, Legal Separation, or Annulment is also the separate property of that spouse if the

Petition results in a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, Legal Separation or Annulment. SeeA.R.S. § 25-213.