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Archive for March, 2013

Understanding Child Custody

Posted on: March 28th, 2013 by Scott Law

To understand your child custody options, you first need to familiarize yourself with legal terminology used by lawyers. According to Arizona child custody laws, there are two types of child custody one can have (1) physical custody, and (2) legal custody. Let us look at these in some detail.

Physical custody

This is also known as parenting time as it refers to the person who has the majority of the parenting time with the minor children. Physical custody can be further explained as follows:

Joint physical custody: This is also known as shared custody. Here, the children spend a certain number of days in a week (or year) with one parent and the remaining days with the other. The time can be divided almost equally between the parents.

Sole physical custody: In this situation, the child primarily resides with one parent. The other parent may have visitation rights, which can be supervised, unsupervised, and involve visits on a less frequent basis than in a joint or equal custody situation.

Bird’s nest custody: In this situation, the children do not move around to be with parents. Instead, the parents are expected to visit the children according to the time allotted to each of them. The mother may reside with children for the first few days and the father may then come in for the remaining days.  This allows the children to maintain a steady residence and enjoy the familiar surroundings with both parents.

Legal custody:

First, in Arizona, child custody is now referred to by the courts as “Legal Decision-Making.”  This deals with the legal authority that enables the parents to make decisions concerning their children such as education, non-emergency medical treatments, and religious upbringing. Legal custody is further classified as follows:

Sole legal custody: If one of the parents has the sole legal custody/sole legal decision-making authority, he/she becomes the only person who has the authority to make major decisions concerning the child.

Joint legal custody: Here both parents have the authority to make major decisions. A parent who has joint legal custody need not necessarily have joint physical custody.

It is wise to hire an expert attorney to decide between joint vs sole custody so that you can live with the decision comfortably both now and in the future.

Child Support Guidelines in Arizona

Posted on: March 28th, 2013 by Scott Law

In Arizona, child support is continued until the child turns 18.  However, if the child has turned 18 and has not yet graduated from high school, child support will extend until graduation or the child’s 19th birthday, whichever comes first. There are several criteria that determine a child support order during a support hearing. To tackle this efficiently, you would need a professional Arizona child support attorney. Below are some of the elements that are considered when a judge determines child support.

Income

Courts in Arizona calculate child support payments on an income share model. In other words, the child support is calculated based on what the child would have been entitled to if the parents were not divorced. The court considers salaries, wages, commissions, severance, bonuses, pension, retirement funds, disability payments, and gifts when determining a parent’s income.

Income-based factors

Arizona courts also factor in certain things, which determine the support, like the total number of children the parties have, whether the parties have children from prior relationships that they support with or without a court order, whether one of the parties will be receiving spousal maintenance or alimony.  The court essentially considers the standard of living the child would have enjoyed with the joint income had the parents not separated.

Non-income-based factors

Apart from income-based child support, parents may also be asked to include the child in the medical, vision and dental plans, contribute to any out-of-pocket medical expenses, and share in any child care expenses. The court will also consider any costs that the parents may have for any special needs or gifts that a child has.

To ensure that your child support payments are no greater than they should be under the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, hire an experienced Phoenix child support attorney.  Scott Law Offices offers free consultations for all child support matters.

The Difference between Legal Separation and Divorce

Posted on: March 15th, 2013 by Scott Law

For many, divorce vs legal separation is a decision that is hard to make but understanding the difference between them can make the decision easier. The primary difference between the two is that legal separation will not end the marriage, but will enable the couple to live separately.   During the time that a couple lives apart, they can have an order from the court that serves as a guide about the rights and responsibilities of each spouse.

The Main Reasons Why Couples Opt For Legal Separation

There are 3 major reasons why couples will opt for a legal separation rather than a divorce, which are:

  1. The religion of the couple prohibits them from getting a divorce.
  2. The couple has been married for less than 10 years and wishes to get social security benefits.
  3. The couple needs to remain married to be eligible for medical and health benefits under the insurance plan.

Issues Addressed Through Separation Agreement

Some of the issues that a couple can address in the legal separation agreement are: child custody / legal decision-making, division of assets and debts, child support, spousal maintenance, and parenting time schedules. A separation agreement can protect your interests until you arrive at the decision to file for divorce. In essence, it can set precedence for a divorce.

If you file for divorce, the judge may look to your separation agreement to make a final determination in the case. This is because the judge may find that where the separation agreement was agreeable to the couple for separation purposes, it should, therefore, be agreeable for divorce purposes too. It is vital that you find a divorce attorney in Glendale or other city in which you reside who can assist you in drafting a legal separation agreement that you can live with long-term.

For advice on legal separation or divorce contact Scott Law Offices to schedule a consultation.

A Judge’s Authority and Having the Advantage of An Experienced Family Law Attorney

Posted on: March 15th, 2013 by Scott Law

Limits of a Judge’s Authority

Divorce, in general, is referred to as dissolution of marriage in many states. The Superior Court judge is the only authority that can grant permission to dissolve a couple’s marital status. In addition to this, the judge is also authorized to do the following:

  1. Issue orders that pertain to the custody / legal decision-making, control and care of the couple’s children.
  2. Divide assets and debts.
  3. Issue orders relating to monetary support of the couple’s children.
  4. Issue orders to one of the parties to pay the legal fees incurred in the case by the other party.
  5. Issue orders for spousal support.

The Advantage of Having an Experience Family Law Attorney

Under Arizona divorce and child custody laws, the couple is encouraged and permitted to reach an agreement relating to all issues of divorce such as legal decision-making for the children, physical custody of children, alimony, division of debts and assets, etc. When using a divorce attorney Phoenix family law cases can often result in a partial or full settlement.  It is advisable to have a settlement agreement drafted after negotiation by an experienced attorney. The parting spouses are most often unable to customize all terms of settlement to suit their circumstances and needs, but an experienced divorce attorney can help to ensure that their agreement is as inclusive as possible.

There are also certain issues that court is not authorized to otherwise order but can be included as a provision that is enforceable in the divorce settlement agreement. In other words, you stand to gain rights through a well-drafted divorce settlement agreement, which a court may not otherwise provide you.

If you are in need of an experienced divorce attorney contact Scott Law Offices and make an appointment for your free consultation today.

Understanding Family Law and Choosing Your Lawyer

Posted on: March 15th, 2013 by Scott Law

In the past, attorneys in the field of family law were called matrimonial or divorce lawyers. The primary focus was on marital relationships and nothing more. Most of the domestic cases were basically limited to setting spousal maintenance, dividing marital property, and establishing child support and custody. But over the last few decades, the scope of family law has changed drastically.

Family Law Today

A family law practitioner today must be knowledgeable about adoption, prenuptial agreements, interests of the child, child support responsibilities, parenting time and visitation rights, tax consequences etc. There is also Arizona family law that governs payment of family support obligations and domestic violence committed by parents. It is therefore not surprising that the field is now known as family law as it pertains to various aspects affecting families.

 Choosing a Family Law Practitioner

Prior to hiring an attorney for family law in Phoenix, you need to take time to interview the person thoroughly to be sure that your goals and working styles for the case are in alignment. Ensuring that the attorney you hire understands your goals and provides you with realistic expectations can be the key to a positive experience.

Another aspect that should be discussed beforehand is whether your Arizona family lawyers work on a retainer or flat rate. If they work on a retainer, you must discuss the attorney’s hourly rate and what happens when the retainer runs out.  A flat rate can make it simpler to financially plan for your family law case. Finally, keep the expectations from the family lawyer clear and understand what is expected from you as a client.

If you have family law questions contact Scott Law Offices today for your free consultation.