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- Get an Annulment in Arizona
- Who gets Child Custody
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- Mediation and Your Divorce
- Modify existing Court Orders
- Parenting Classes
- Parenting Plans mandatory
- Property divided by Divorce
- Relocating your child out of state
- Alimony - Spousal Support
- Visitation for the non-custodial
- Child Support - who pays
- Court Locations
- Court Orders
- Arizona Divorce Forms
When a marriage ends, the court will make orders about assets and debt, financial support, and (for those that are parents) parenting time. Those orders can be a result of an agreement (settlement) by the parties, a resolution using mediation or collaboration, or by decision from the judge. In the final divorce decree, the court will resolve:
- Child Support
- Parenting Time (Visitation)
- Child Custody
- Spousal Support(Alimony)
Once an order for child support has been granted, the parent required to pay (usually the non-custodial parent) must adhere to the specifics of the order, and pay on time and in full until the child reaches the age of majority (18) or graduates from High School (whichever occurs later), or the court order is changed by any judge with appropriate jurisdiction. When a parent fails to pay, or falls significantly behind (Arizona considers significant to mean more than 30 days behind), the custodial parent may make a complaint to the local support enforcement unit in an attempt to enforce the order. The custodial parent may want to request of the noncustodial parent that s/he get caught up one last time before making the complaint, as there is always a delay in enforcement. Should that effort fail, then make the complaint. The complaint should be made to the Arizona Dept. of Economic Security or (602) 252-4045. They will contact the noncustodial parent and encourage him/her into compliance by taking away other privileges the owing parent enjoys. The following denials can occur (Note: parenting time cannot be denied, by law):
- wage assignment or garnishment
- income tax refund intercepts
- license suspensions and revocations – driver’s, professional, sporting, recreational
- liens against property
The noncustodial, non paying parent can also be charged with contempt by the court that issued the order, and can face fines, jail time and probation for non-compliance.
By law, the custodial parent may not alter the terms of a visitation schedule ordered by the court. There are no exceptions, except in an emergency situation that threatens the welfare of the custodial parent, the child, or the child’s siblings. These exceptions are usually tied to domestic violence and an imminent court order that will likely change the terms of the visitation. Enforcing Parenting Time can be problematic, and is more an exercise in close documentation of times and events that can be presented to a judge as a pattern of denial. If you are being denied parenting time, write everything down. Take careful notes. Include dates, times, what occurred, who said what, and what the result was. Judges frown on interference, and if it is serious enough, will revert primary (physical) custody to the other parent. In the end, if you are being denied visitation, you must take the other parent back to court, a cost you may or may not be able to recover from the other parent.
Parents must conform to the letter of the court order for custody. A final divorce order will contain a parenting plan (a schedule), indicating when the child will be with each parent, and for how long. Some parents abuse the schedule, keeping kids longer than approved, or attempt to disrupt the other parent’s life by making pick-ups and drop-offs more difficult. Custodial parents have been known to not be home when the other parent arrives for a pickup. The list is endless, and unfortunately, the parent suffering the game-playing must initiate a court action to bring the other parent into compliance. That means more cost aggravation and effort.
When one party fails to pay spousal support (alimony), it can become a burden to the receiving party. The recourse for the party suffering the delinquency is unfortunately similar to violations of visitation and custody; you must take the other party back to court and ask the judge to encourage compliance. The court has the ability to garnish (assign) wages of the non-payor, and have the deductions sent directly to the party due the money. Other remedies include seizure of property for sale, or jail time in extreme circumstances.
Custody and significant distance between parents
As time passes, lives change, and with those changes come living in more than one location. When addresses change of people parenting their children, challenges arise, and the courts attempt to proactively deal with those changes. Most courts include in the parenting plan provisions for when either parent wishes to relocate. When the custodial parent wishes to move the child’s residence, and the move is greater than 60 miles, the custodial parent must get either the other parent’s consent, or the approval of the court. In cases where the custodial parent has moved the child without consent of either, they are subject to sanctions by the jurisdiction they left. The fleeing custodian can be forced to return to where they left, and extreme case, lose primary custody. The custodial parent faces an uphill challenge, in that s/he remains a resident of the State s/he left until residency is established (usually 6 months). This presumes, of course, that the noncustodial parent goes to court to recover his/her child and parenting time.
A court of this state which does not have jurisdiction to modify a child custody determination, may issue a temporary order enforcing:
- A visitation schedule made by a court of another state
- The visitation provisions of a child custody determination of another state that does not provide for a specific visitation schedule, or
- The visitation provision of a child custody determination of another state by implementing makeup or substitute visitation.
In addition to enforcing custody and visitation (see custody and visitation sections), there are other common ways that divorce and separation decrees get violated, which include failure to pay debts, failure to divide retirement accounts, and failure to list property for sale.
To compel a former partner to carry out the court order they are charged with complying with, another court action is usually necessary. Contempt of Court can be a useful tool to have the order complied with. Both parties will be advised in writing as to their financial responsibilities with the following statement: [Arizona Statute 25-318]
- In your property settlement agreement or decree of dissolution or legal separation, the court may assign responsibility for certain community debts to one spouse or the other. Please be aware that a court order that does this is binding on the spouses only and does not necessarily relieve either of you from your responsibility for these community debts. These debts are matters of contract between both of you and your creditors (such as banks, credit unions, credit card issuers, finance companies, utility companies, medical providers and retailers).
- Since your creditors are not parties to this court case, they are not bound by court orders or any agreements you and your spouse reach in this case. On request, the court may impose a lien against the separate property of a spouse to secure payment of debts that the court orders that spouse to pay.
If a party fails to comply with an order to pay debts, the court may enter orders transferring property of that spouse to compensate the other party. If the court finds that a party is in contempt as to an order to pay community debts, the court may impose appropriate sanctions under the law. A party must bring an action to enforce an order to pay a debt within two years after the date in which the debt should have been paid in full.
See our section on Relocation above for more information
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