A Guide to Family Law in Arizona
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Originally Posted On : https://thevalleylawgroup.com/blog/az-family-law-guide/
It is beneficial to understand existing Arizona family law statutes to ensure your rights are protected no matter which Arizona family law case type you are facing. If you want to understand your rights before changing your current family dynamic, read on to learn more about Arizona family law.
Family law is a commonly used term that encompasses a wide range of legal proceedings that can have an enormous impact on individuals and members of their families. These issues include marriage, divorce, child custody and child support, and adoption.
Marriage and Divorce in Arizona
Arizona family law statutes clearly define and structure both marriage and divorce. If you are considering either, it is beneficial to understand your legal rights and the requirements you’ll face according to state law. This preparation can help to reduce stress and ensure you are completely aware of all expectations before seeking legal assistance.
Marriage is not only a testament to the love two people share, but it is also a legal commitment. That’s why Arizona has instituted legal requirements you must complete before your big day, including completing a marriage license application. Your marriage license must be issued before the ceremony takes place.
When you sign a marriage license, you are officially declaring that you and the other individual named will now be considered one – at least in many legal aspects. The license must be signed following the completion of the ceremony and must be returned by the officiator within 30 days of the ceremony. Persons under the age of 16 are not legally allowed to marry, and those that are 16-18 require additional information, such as an emancipation order or parental consent.
In addition to the marriage license, you may also consider drafting a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is a legal arrangement that addresses issues that could arise if divorce, disability, or death takes place during the course of the marriage. While these can be difficult topics to approach during the wedding planning stage, a prenuptial now can prevent a great deal of hassle later.
There are many reasons to consider a premarital agreement. This agreement can protect investments, assets, and financial gains from division during divorce. If a divorce were to take place, this agreement could also expedite the process and make the potential outcome much clearer from the beginning.
If you are already married, you can also consider a post-marital agreement. This is completed following the legal marriage but can cover the same issues as a premarital agreement.
Even though most people enter a marriage with the best intentions, a divorce can still become necessary. There are several reasons a couple or individual may seek a divorce. Before moving forward with the process, you should have a clear understanding of what that process is, as well as your rights.
In Arizona, divorce is termed a dissolution of marriage. While divorce may become necessary for many reasons, the only grounds for divorce necessary in the state are irreconcilable differences; in other words, the marriage is irretrievably broken. This means that it is not necessary to prove that someone is at fault for the court to proceed with dissolution. Only one person needs to desire a divorce for the court to hear divorce proceedings, provided they submit a Petition for Dissolution.
Suggested Reading: Grounds for Divorce in AZ
A Petition for Dissolution is a legal document used to initiate divorce proceedings. This document is initiated by one spouse, the petitioner, and served to the other, the respondent. The respondent has a right to respond to a petition within 20 days if they live in the state or 30 days if they live out of state.
When a petition is contested, a served spouse has filed a response with the court and does not agree with one or more of the terms of the divorce. This doesn’t mean that divorce can’t take place, but it does mean that the couple must either participate in negotiation or mediation outside court or litigate their differences in divorce court and await a judge’s decision regarding its terms.
When a divorce is uncontested, this means that no response is received. This can occur because the spouses agree regarding every aspect of the divorce and simply need to submit the agreement to the court for approval. This can also result in a default judgment if the respondent refuses or otherwise fails to respond.
In addition to the Petition for Dissolution, it is common to file a Preliminary Injunction. This legal document is used to prevent both spouses from selling or giving away any shared property. It also prevents individuals from taking children without consent.
This document is important in protecting both individuals as they move through the divorce process. Depending on the state of the relationship and the couple’s willingness to work together, the divorce process can be long, stressful, and full of intense emotions or a relatively simple legal proceeding.
When it comes to spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, there are several factors that are considered under Arizona law. Spousal maintenance is designed to assist a spouse in maintaining a certain standard of living and to aid in the transition from living as a unit to living as an individual.
Common reasons spousal maintenance is awarded to one spouse include:
- The ability to independently meet needs
- Inability to work due to young children
- Inability to make enough through employment
- Length of the marriage
- Length of time needed to acquire the education needed for employment
- Earning capacities
- Age of spouses
- Physical and emotional conditions
There are additional factors that may be considered in a court of law concerning alimony. Whether you are seeking spousal maintenance or looking to prevent it, it is important to have qualified legal representation to guide you through the process.
Property division is another hot topic during divorce proceedings. Arizona is known as a community property state. In general, this means that all property and debt acquired during the marriage belong equally to both parties and will be divided equally during a divorce. Fault and/or marital misconduct do not play a role in dividing property.
This means that if you seek a divorce, especially without a prenuptial agreement in place, property, assets, and finances will be separated as equally as possible. Properties owned individually, including property obtained before the marriage and property given as a gift or inheritance, will not be split.
Child Custody and Support in Arizona
Bringing children into this world is a huge commitment. As a parent, you want to make sure that you are providing your child with the best care and support possible. In certain circumstances, it becomes necessary to include the court of law to determine the care and support of a child. It is valuable to understand your rights as a parent when facing legal custody rulings.
In a child custody situation that arises due to the initial divorce of the parents, there is often a request for temporary orders regarding child custody. These orders are filed to help maintain where the children will live and how visitation will work before an official agreement is reached. This helps to reduce the impact that this process can have on the children.
When seeking a temporary order, the court will often determine what is in the best interest of the child or children. Temporary orders address where the child will live, visitation, custody, and support. They can also include some form of a restraining order if there is a risk of hostility or kidnapping. This temporary order can be modified or contested but often stays in place until an official decision of permanent custody can be achieved.
While child custody and support can be a significant topic during a divorce proceeding, these laws apply to anyone who has a child, regardless of relationship status. Whether you are amidst a divorce proceeding or establishing a legal parenting agreement outside of marriage, it is beneficial to understand how the court makes custody decisions.
In Arizona, child custody is determined by weighing several factors that are intended to anticipate the child’s best interests.
These considerations can include:
- The preference of the child
- The ability of the parent to provide a loving relationship
- Child’s attachment to home or school
- The mental or physical well-being of the child and parents
- Evidence of child abuse
- Evidence of domestic violence
- Use of unfair methods, coercion, or duress to obtain custody
- The primary childcare provider
- Any criminal convictions
In many situations, a Joint Parenting Plan is drafted by the parents and their respective child custody attorneys. This plan is designed to address custody issues and create a visitation schedule. In accordance with Arizona child custody law, the judge will determine if joint custody is feasible, though enabling both parents to maintain a relationship with their child is often understood to be the default goal of the court.
The court may assign parenting time (known in other states as physical custody) to both parents or only one and may grant the other parent visitation time. Similarly, one or both parents may hold legal decision-making rights (known in other states as legal custody) to determine where the child will attend school or worship, who may make medical decisions for the child and much more. No matter the situation, these decisions are always pursued with the goal of doing what is in the best interest of the child.
It is helpful to understand that custody orders can be modified or contested. Your Arizona child custody attorney can walk you through the process of petitioning for a modification. Legal representation will be crucial for gathering any evidence necessary to demonstrate your ability to care for the child.
Suggested Reading: Guide to Parenting Schedules in AZ
Child Support in Arizona
Child support is designed to provide necessary financial support that can be used towards housing, food, clothing, education, and other necessities.
There are several factors that are considered, including:
- Standard of living
- Medical, education, or mental health needs
- Financial resources and debts of parents
- Amount of time the child spends with each parent and related expenses
- Financial resources of the child
Child support is determined by specific Arizona Supreme Court guidelines that use mathematical formulas to consider various factors, including the income of both parents, parenting time, and more. Child support orders can be modified, especially if there is a change in circumstances for the paying parent. To request a modification, consult with a family law attorney. Learn More About Child Support Law in Arizona
Adoption and Guardianship in Arizona
Whether you are looking to become a legal guardian or adopt a child you already know, or you are looking to provide a loving home for a child currently unknown to you, experienced legal representation can ensure the process goes smoothly.
Adding a child to your home through adoption is a great way to grow your family. The process also provides a safe place for children in various stressful situations to call home. As with any legal proceeding, there are various requirements to consider as you pursue this path.
Meeting eligibility requirements is an essential first step. As mentioned, Arizona family law was developed to protect the best interests of the child.
You can begin establishing your eligibility by:
- Ensuring all potential parents are at least 18
- Owning or renting a home or apartment
- Passing an FBI and local criminal background chec
- Remaining or becoming a lawful resident of the US
- Obtaining a Level 1 fingerprint clearance card issued by Arizona’s Department of Public Safety
Before moving ahead with the adoption process, it is important to understand that there are four major types of child adoptions available in Arizona. They are private domestic adoption, foster care adoption, family adoption, and international adoption.
Private Domestic Adoption
Private domestic adoption is the most common route taken by families looking to adopt. In Arizona, private adoption is determined before the baby is born to ensure they can immediately be welcomed by their new family. This also allows birth parents to select prospective parents in Arizona.
Foster Care Adoption
Foster care adoption is another popular option in Arizona. Foster care typically has an end goal of reuniting the child with the parents once the parents have met the necessary qualifications. However, reunification isn’t always possible. When this happens, foster parents are eligible to adopt the child as a permanent part of the family.
Like foster care adoption, family members may assume responsibility for a child whose parents are unable to care for them. Family members are often the first individuals considered to take responsibility for a child and can be the best way to ensure the child retains contact with familiar loved ones. If reunification with the child’s biological parents is not possible, a family member like a grandparent, aunt, or uncle may petition for adoption.
In an adoption, the court formally removes parental rights from the birth parents and transfers them to the new adoptive parents. Guardianship is different in that the original parents still have many rights to the children while the guardian is also granted important rights.
Guardianship can be given to an individual who is interested in the welfare of a minor through Title 14. Guardianship allows a person to take over parental responsibilities and decision-making, such as housing, education, and medical care.
Hire the Top Rated Family Law Firm in Arizona
Family law is an essential area of legal practice in Arizona that sets clear guidelines and rules concerning some of the most fundamental aspects of personal and family life. Whether you are considering marriage, divorce, parental rights, or any aspect of these situations, an experienced family law attorney can guide you through the process. A family law attorney will advocate for your best interests and help you demonstrate your rights and evidence to the court.
Contact us today for a consultation or to request more information about our highly rated Divorce and Family Law Firm in Arizona.