Parents can share joint custody or one parent may have sole custody of children. Joint custody can mean joint legal or joint physical custody or both. Joint legal custody means that both parents make major decisions jointly and neither parent’s rights are superior. Joint physical custody means that the physical residence of the child is shared by the parents in a manner that assures the child has substantially equal contact with both parents. Joint legal custody is far more common than joint physical custody.
Sole custody means one parent makes the major decisions and the child primarily lives with that parent. The Court may order joint custody if both parents agree and submit a written parenting plan and the Court finds it to be in the best interests of the child. If the parents do not agree, the Court may still order joint custody if it determines that joint custody is in the child’s best interests. Joint custody will not be awarded if the Court finds there has been significant domestic violence.
Is there a mandatory education program parents must take?
If there is a minor child, each party must attend a court approved program educating the parties about the impact of dissolution on children. Unless the Court excuses participation, a non-participating spouse may not be able to obtain a dissolution without completing the program.
Who must pay child support?
It is the duty of both parents to support their minor children. Child support is ordered in accordance with Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Usually the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay child support. If the parents share equal time with the child and equal income, neither will be ordered to pay child support provided the parents share expenses equally. If the parents have equal custody, but unequal income, the parent with the greater income will be ordered to pay child support.
What if my spouse doesn’t pay the child support or spousal maintenance?
If a spouse does not pay child support or spousal maintenance that has been ordered by the Court, several remedies exist such as a wage assignment, garnishment of wages or execution on property. A Petition to Show Cause may be filed or an expedited hearing may be held to ask the Court to find the other person in contempt of court. Sanctions can range from fines to jail time to suspended drivers’ license and professional licenses.
A parent may be charged with a class 6 felony if the parent willfully fails to support their minor child. Child support must be paid before any other debts. If your spouse is self-employed and there are arrearages of ninety days or more, the Court can order your spouse to pay up to six month’s worth of support into a Court trust account. It is important to note that a party’s failure to pay child support does not give the other party the right to deny visitation rights.
How long does child support have to be paid?
Support for a child must be paid until the last day of the month in which the child is 18 years old, graduates from high school, becomes emancipated, or dies. If the child will be 18 during the school year, support will continue until the child graduates from high school or reaches age 19, whichever is first.
What is a wage assignment and how do I get one?
An assignment of wages is required for the payment of child support. The assignment requires an employer of a parent who is obligated by Court order to pay a certain amount of child support each month to withhold that amount from the wages or money owed to the parent (employee) and to send that amount directly to the Clearinghouse. Child support is then taken from the Clearinghouse and sent to the parent entitled to receive it. This type of assignment applies to salary, wages, commissions and any type of payments received by the parent ordered to pay support. Either person required to pay support or the person entitled to receive it can request an assignment order.
May I move from my residence with the child?
If both parents reside in this state, at least 60 days advance written notice by certified mail shall be provided to the other parent before a parent may relocate the child outside the state or more than 100 miles within the state. The non-moving parent can request a hearing to stop the move within 30 days after receipt of notice. After expiration of this time, any application to prevent relocation may be granted only upon a showing of good cause.
A parent with sole custody or a parent with joint legal custody and primary physical custody, who is required by circumstances of health or safety or employment of that parent or that parent’s spouse to relocate within less than 60 days, may temporarily relocate with the child before the hearing; otherwise, a parent my relocate temporarily only if both parties agree or there is a Court order.
The burden of proving whether a parent may relocate with the child is on the moving parent and is based on the child’s best interests in accordance with several factors listed in statutes. The parties may not agree to a future relocation of the child more than one year in advance.
Debt incurred during the marriage is presumed to be community debt. Generally the Court divides debt equally. Debt incurred by a spouse before the marriage remains the separate debt of that spouse. The Court may require parties to submit a debt distribution plan.
Will I receive/pay spousal maintenance (alimony)?
Spousal maintenance may be awarded in one of four situations: (1) a spouse lacks sufficient property to meet his or her reasonable needs; (2) a spouse can’t support him/herself by employment or must stay home with a young child; (3) a spouse supported his or her spouse’s education; or (4) the marriage was long and a spouse has little chance of employment.
If spousal maintenance is appropriate, the amount and duration are determined by the length of the marriage, each party’s age, health, and employment, the standard of living established during the marriage, the parties’ respective resources, a party’s deferment of career opportunities and assistance in the career opportunities of the other party, as well as other factors in deciding the amount and duration of spousal maintenance.
What can I do if my spouse is violent?
A Superior or City Court Judge or Justice of the Peace can issue an Order of Protection to prevent your spouse from harming you or the children. If a petition for Dissolution has already been filed, but not yet final, then the Order of Protection must come from the Superior Court. In addition to requiring the person to stay away from you, the Court may order this person to attend counseling to prevent further violence. When a Petition for Dissolution or Legal Separation is filed, a Preliminary Injunction is automatically issued against both spouses that prohibit them from harassing one another.