Prenuptial agreements are contracts entered into by a couple preparing for marriage.
These agreements address property issues such as income, assets, and liabilities that may arise in the event of divorce or death. The agreements may also have provisions regarding spousal maintenance in the event of a dissolution or legal separation.
It is critical to ensure separate legal representation for each party to these agreements. We represent our clients in drafting these agreements by providing representation during the negotiation of such agreements, fully explaining to clients the legal significance of an agreement and the ramifications of either having or not having an agreement, and providing representation for individuals when disputes arise as to the enforcement of such agreements.
The dissolution of a marriage requires an understanding of the family relationships and financial intricacies that are a vital part of the marital relationship.
If you have children, custody is the most important issue to resolve. When parents are going through a divorce, they will go to great lengths to protect them. These cases can be hard on everyone involved, especially the children.
Child custody determinations occur in matters of divorce and go far beyond just where a child will physically spend time. In Arizona, we separate the concept of custody into two separate categories. First, we consider the residential “parenting time” agreement. In other words, the allocation of each parent’s time with his/her child. Second, we determine whether the rights and responsibilities to make major decisions concerning the child should be granted to one or to both parents. We call these rights “legal decision-making.” Such decisions include:
- Authorization for nonemergency health care
- Choice of school
- Choice of religious upbringing
- Consent to obtain a driver’s license
The determination of whether these decisions are made by one parent with sole legal decision-making or by both parents with joint legal decision-making is based on the best interest of the child. Most courts in Arizona will assume that joint legal decision making is in your child’s best interests. There are certain circumstances where joint legal decision making may not be in your child’s best interest. Such circumstances include, but are not limited to, significant domestic violence and drug or alcohol abuse
The other half of the process of divorce is to identify and value the marital property and debts. A key first step will be determining what property should be categorized as community property (in other words, property acquired during marriage or titled as community property) and what property is the separate property of one of the spouses from before the marriage or by gift or inheritance. Ultimately, the community property of the marriage will need to be equitably divided between the spouses.
Support issues are also an important matter to resolve during a divorce. Will one spouse need spousal maintenance (alimony) following the divorce? Do the parties have equal financial footing in order to ensure their representation during the divorce, or does one spouse need to pay some or all of the attorney’s fees of the other spouse? Are there children common to the parties, and if so, who will pay child support and in what amount?
We are strong legal advocates who can provide attentive counsel for the complex issues of divorce. We are also a small law firm that strives to create as comfortable of an environment for our clients as is possible while they go through this difficult process.
Post Decree Modifications
A dissolution of marriage decree remains in effect as it is written unless it is modified in a subsequent proceeding. To get a modification, one must petition the court for a modification of an existing decree of custody order.
Why Modify a Divorce Decree?
Whether it involves children growing older and no longer needing the arrangement they once had, or other living conditions that change, such as remarriage, modification is simply a part of the post-divorce process.
To prevent decrees from becoming ineffective and burdensome, it’s up to the parties involved to keep the court aware and up-to-date on current living circumstances.
What Changes Call for Modifcation?
Although there is a nearly unlimited number of reasons for modification, some of the most common examples include:
- Losing a job or losing significant work hours
- Losing health insurance and other benefits
- Becoming disabled or incompetent
Essentially, any major life change that affects the personal and financial stability of either party may affect the current arrangements.
What ca be Modified?
Any aspect of the dissolution of marriage decree can be modified, including:
- Child support, as long as there will be a change in the child support amount by at least 15%
- Spousal Maintenance: Many parties make agreements that their spousal maintenance is non-modifiable. You should have an experienced attorney review your Divorce Decree to determine if your spousal maintenance is modifiable.
- Legal decision-making
- Parenting time
Unless there is an emergency situation, legal decision-making and parenting time orders cannot be modified until they have been in place for at least a year. Even then you must prove that there has been a substantial and continuing change in the circumstances to warrant a modification. Again, you should consult with an experienced attorney about whether your situation would warrant a modification.
Modifications can also be made if a termination of support is necessary, which may be the case if a child has emancipated, or one party has entered into a new financial situation that does not require the other party to provide support.
Grandparents’ Rights in Arizona
Built into Arizona law, grandparents have certain rights toward their grandchildren.
If grandparents are being denied visitation with their grandchildren by one or both of the parents, they may be entitled to file for grandparent rights under A.R.S. § 25-409(A). If the grandchild or children’s parents are not able to provide for their needs or are subjecting them to abuse, neglect, or domestic violence, grandparents may even be able to seek full-time custody.
Grandparents whose children are involved in the dependency process (meaning they have been removed from their parents’ care by DCS/CPS) often find themselves left out of the process, discounted as possible placement, and unaware what rights they have regarding their grandchildren. Grandparents of children in dependency cases have a right to participate in hearings, to be offered visitation in some circumstances, and to be considered as placement for their grandchildren.
Court involvement can be difficult for those familiar with the system, and nearly impossible for those who are not. Our firm is committed to ensuring that grandparents are able to get the help they need to maintain contact with their grandchildren, and obtain placement or legal custody when necessary. We have significant experience in this area in both the family and juvenile courts.
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