Law Offices of Matthew S. Schultz, P.C.

Phoenix Arizona Family Law Blog

Fathers face challenges in the family court system

Parents in Arizona child custody cases may feel that they face unfair circumstances in family court. Mothers may be concerned that their meaningful concerns are not taken seriously while fathers may worry that they will face discrimination on the basis of their gender. Both parents may face the conflicts that come from attempting to maintain their careers while supporting their children at the same time. Even dedicated parents can run into difficulties when dealing with changing financial circumstances.

While some fathers may face judges with old-fashioned thinking about gender roles and child care, joint child custody is increasingly common across the country. Due to strong evidence that supports the involvement of both parents in a child's life, many family court judges have a preference for some form of shared custody. Fathers who actively seek custody are more likely to find a favorable outcome in court. While over 80 percent of custodial parents are women, most of these cases reflect situations in which the fathers did not seek a more active role.

What if I can’t afford my child support payments?

If you are a divorcing parent, you know the struggles are real. You have likely already gone through the wringer in your child custody battle. And, especially after dividing your property, you may have serious concerns about your future as you negotiate child support payments.

Once your divorce is final, you may need some time to heal and find your new normal. But, depending on how your life changes after your divorce, you may find your child support arrangement is inadequate. Or, a serious change in employment may make your child support payments unaffordable.

How parallel parenting can help children

Parenting after a divorce can be a challenge for those living in Arizona or anywhere else. This is because some people cannot get along with their former spouses after a marriage ends. However, it is more important that they get along with their children even if they can't make a relationship work with each other. A situation in which parents have relationships with their children while avoiding each other is called parallel parenting.

It is likely necessary for parents to communicate with each other on occasion after divorce. For those who truly can't communicate with each other, it may be best to create an agreement that they can rely on to answer questions or resolve disputes. At a minimum, parents should have respect for one another and make it a point to not interfere with the relationship that person has with a son or daughter.

Dividing a 401(k) in an Arizona divorce

When Arizona couples decide to end their marriage, their retirement funds are often among the largest assets that they own. Going through a divorce is often financially difficult, but people can take action to help protect their financial future and move forward after the split. While Arizona is a community property state, meaning that assets obtained during the marriage belong equally to both parties, judges do have discretion in some cases.

Community property does not involve assets from before the marriage, so a divorce after a short marriage with relatively few years of 401(k) contributions is far less financially rigorous. Ending a lengthy marriage, on the other hand, may mean essentially splitting a 401(k) fund in half, even if the account was accumulated only in one spouse's name.

Birdnesting and other ways to help children adjust after divorce

Some divorced parents in Arizona might choose a custody arrangement that is sometimes called "birdnesting." This means that the children remain at home while the parents take turns living there. The parents usually also take turns sharing a small apartment elsewhere. The main advantage of birdnesting is that it gives children a period of time where there is minimal upheaval in their lives, allowing them to better adjust to the divorce.

However, most experts say this is not an arrangement that is likely to work over the long term. Recommendations for an upper limit range from three to six months. One problem is that children may start to believe the arrangement means their parents are working on a reconciliation. Another is that even though parents may get along well, having to share both living spaces can eventually lead to conflict over large or small issues.

Joint child custody offers some benefits

If you would like to divorce your spouse and you share young children, child custody will no doubt be one of your biggest areas of focus. Will the children end up living with the other party? If so, will you have the opportunity to visit the children often? Or can you both share custody of your children?

For many couples in Arizona, joint custody seems like a viable option. However, there are two different types of joint custody to consider: true joint child custody versus joint legal child custody.

Family court challenges after a divorce

Many Arizona parents may face a difficult time during a divorce, often because the split nearly always means a reduction in time spent with the children. While some divorcing parents are able to reach an amicable conclusion that shares parenting time, others have a more difficult or volatile relationship that can devolve into a drawn-out custody battle in court. When the latter situation happens, both parents may feel as if they were treated unfairly in family court.

Some may feel as if their arguments weren't taken seriously, and some fathers may believe they are the victims of bias. It is true that up to 80 percent of child custody cases involve primary custody held by the mother. However, most of these situations don't involve custody battles with each parent seeking additional time; in most cases, the mother is the only parent actively seeking custody. In addition, shared or joint custody is increasingly the legal standard nationwide, even though some judges may retain unfair or traditional biases.

Child support payments don't last indefinitely

As a general rule, Arizona parents are required to provide financial assistance to their children. If parents get divorced, one will usually pay child support to the other even if no one has asked for it. There are also scenarios in which a parent may ask that support payments be stopped after an order is entered. This could occur if the custodial parent gets a raise at work or receives a large inheritance.

After receiving the financial boost, a custodial parent may not need any help from the other parent. In some cases, the noncustodial parent could experience a change in circumstance that makes it harder to make payments on time. Another scenario in which support payments may be stopped is if the child's parents get back together. When that happens, both parents are presumed to be helping provide for the child.

States address immigrant children whose parents are deported

With immigration arrests and deportations in Arizona and throughout the country on the rise, the number of children who remain in the United States after their parents are deported is also rising. Of children whose grandparents or other family members are raising them, 20 percent are in immigrant households.

Some states have taken steps to help parents appoint guardians in case they are deported. Usually, these guardianships are set up so they only take effect if what is called a "triggering event" related to immigration occurs. For example, a law was passed in Maryland that allows parents to set this up without relinquishing their parental rights. New Jersey and Pennsylvania have introduced similar laws. In New York, if parents are taken into custody on immigration-related charges, they can appoint a guardian. Legal guardians in the state can also appoint a standby guardian. All of these measures allow parents to ensure their children will be cared for without losing their rights.

How tax changes could complicate gray divorces

Couples in Arizona 50 and over who choose to end a marriage understandably have many concerns, but one of the most pressing ones is often retirement security and savings. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will change how certain assets are divided starting in 2019. The most noticeable adjustment to tax guidelines concerns alimony. Spousal support payments will no longer be deductible by the paying party or claimable as income by the recipient.

For older couples, a high-asset divorce can be more complicated. Part of the reason for this is because both parties may have contributed to retirement savings. Also, some soon-to-be-former-spouses still have several working years left, which means there are concerns about being able to build and maintain a sufficient nest egg individually. With high-asset couples divorcing after many years together, top assets typically include the marital home and retirement accounts. While it may be tempting for an older spouse to fight for the home, it may be a wiser move to sell it and put the money into a retirement investment account.

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