One of the hardest parts of going through a divorce is the element of child custody. In many cases, too, the child custody issues don’t stop when the divorce is finalized. Our family lawyers understand this difficulty at Lazenby Law Firm. We also understand that you want what’s right for your children and to be a part of their lives.
We can help you navigate this challenging time and help you fight for your children. We understand the emotional stress that comes along with these circumstances and can help clarify what you are facing. Custody issues can be complex, but we are here to help parents who find themselves facing these situations.
When managing how the parent-child dynamic is handled through and after a separation or divorce, there are two categories that are typically used.
Custody refers to decisions about the child’s upbringing, whereas parenting time refers to the opportunity to spend time with both parents.
There are several different kinds of custody terms that can come up in the process of understanding how children’s custody will be decided.
These terms often work in tandem with each other to describe the custody order. For instance, joint legal custody would mean that both parents collaboratively make decisions for the child’s care and welfare. Joint physical custody refers to a situation where the children spend a roughly equal amount of time with both parents.
There are a few other forms of custody that, although less used, are worth knowing, including:
It’s important to recognize that a final custody decision will be made by the court. This doesn’t mean, though, that the divorcing parties will not influence the decision of the court, so parents will want to carefully consider how they approach the situation. However, it is the responsibility of the court to prioritize what is in the interests of the child with the custody order. So whatever the final custody decision is, the case must be made that it is right for the child.
Generally, it can be a little bit easier for all parties if the parents can come to an agreement themselves. Courts are typically willing to honor the agreement that parents have made so long as they can present why it is optimal for the child. If the parents wish to have joint legal custody, they will need to agree to a parenting plan and submit that to the court.
The parenting plan has some required components, but most parents add extra provisions. Parenting plans typically cover things like the custody dynamic, the roles and responsibilities of the parents for the kids and each other, plans for religious instruction, education, medical treatment, and more.
If the parents can’t come to an agreement on a custody plan, or if the court doesn’t think the plan is appropriate for the child, then the court will make an alternative decision. The parents may first be referred to an internal mediation process. However, if that fails to produce an agreement, the court will issue its own order. It’s important to recognize that the court’s order can contradict a parent’s wishes. For instance, even if a parent wishes for sole custody, the court may order joint custody if it is believed to be in the interests of the child.
Until a final custody order is decided upon, custody will be handled under temporary orders from the court. Those will be given out at special hearings early in the divorce process.
In determining what is in the interests of the child, the court is instructed by the law to take several factors into consideration.
The child’s wishes will be taken into consideration by the court. The state provides no specific age at which a child is able to decide which parent they would prefer to live with, so that is addressed on a case-by-case basis. Typically, children younger than 12 won’t be asked to testify in court. Whether or not an older child will testify is determined based on the child’s desire to do so, the mental and emotional effect the process may have, and if the judge believes an in-person testimony will be relevant to a final decision. In some circumstances, with parental consent, the child may be interviewed in the judge’s chambers with a recording that may be later sealed.
For children younger than 12, their preference may be discovered through a few different means. A custody evaluator may interview the child and then provide an assessment. The judge may choose to assign a lawyer who will act in the child’s interest. After interviewing the child, the lawyer will advocate for the child’s position. Lastly, the judge may appoint what is known as a guardian ad litem, who will see that the child’s interests are served, even if they don’t speak for the child directly, the way the attorney might.
The judge will also consider several other factors, including:
While the judge is required by law to use several factors in determining custody, a judge should not take the sex of the parent into consideration when making a custody decision. Similarly, Arizona law does not have a preference for custody outcome as the child’s interest is the guiding principle.
Child support will typically go to the parent who has custody, although that is not absolute. Joint custody also does not eliminate child support. All child support in Glendale, AZ is calculated according to state guidelines.
Usually, when the custody order is finalized, the court will also provide a child support order describing:
Child support is typically paid through two means and never directly to the payee. A Wage Assignment is given to the employer of the payor. The employer then sends the money to Support Payment Clearinghouse within two business days of the payor’s paycheck. The Clearinghouse records the payment and then sends a check to the payee. Alternatively, if the payor has not had a Wage Assignment take effect, is self-employed, or does not have a regular income, they are responsible for paying the Support Payment Clearinghouse directly, which will, again, record the payment and send a check to the payee.
Divorce and custody orders can be difficult for grandparents as well. Oftentimes, they are left wondering how their child’s custody standing might affect their ability to see their grandkids. For this reason, Arizona law allows grandparents to petition for visitation rights with their grandchildren. Grandparents cannot make such a petition until the divorce is at least three months past. In determining whether or not the grandparents will get visitation rights, the court will consider a few factors:
Navigating the process of seeking grandparents’ visitation rights can be complex. We can help grandparents with this process.
The child custody process is one of the most serious, difficult to navigate, and emotionally charged parts of a divorce. A good lawyer can help you with every part of that process, and that’s what we can do for you at Lazenby Law Firm. Divorce will never be an easy process, but our experience can help you and your family as you work through the process.
We understand that divorce often has many complexities and can be emotionally charged. Our lawyers know you need patience and understanding. We try to be more than cold-hearted legal machines and treat you with the compassion you need in these hard times. Just like you, we want to make sure your kids are treated fairly throughout the process. Our goal, like yours, is to get you what you want for your kids.
We understand, too, that sometimes divorce has come about as a result of things like abuse and violence. We can treat those situations with the sensitivity they deserve.
Putting together the strongest case for what you are seeking in terms of child custody depends upon the information we can use to make that case. Our team can help you gather what you need. We understand what makes a strong case and know the questions we need to ask to get the necessary information. The process can be a challenging one, but we understand that your children’s future is worth it to you, and we are ready to help.
Most divorcing parties attempt to negotiate an agreement around the dissolution of their marriage rather than let the court decide everything. The child custody agreement is often a part of the broader divorce agreement, though often the most important. We’ve been through the process before and know what to expect. More importantly, we can help you with what to expect. Our hope would be that we, along with the lawyers from the other party, could put together an agreement that would be acceptable to all parties and the judge. Based on our experience, we have a good idea of what that might look like. We are ready to guide you along the process and fight what things matter to you most.
A parenting plan is a critical part of a custody arrangement. This is especially the case if you want joint custody, as the court will assess the parenting plan before making a ruling on that matter. We can help you put together a parenting plan that can help you navigate a whole new parenting dynamic. A well-conceived parenting plan will include the required components and some additional provisions as needed. A more thorough plan can help decrease the likelihood of a disagreement causing a return to court.
A custody order can be modified and changed by the court. The process can be a difficult one and an extra expense. There are several restrictions about how and when a custody order can be modified, although the process can be expedited if the child is at risk. Any modification must be shown to be in the child’s interests. We can certainly help if you might need a modification of a custody order. However, it is better to try to avoid this altogether if we can, which is why we work so hard to help you with the original custody process and the parenting plan.
One of the most difficult things to deal with after custody orders have been given is if the custodial parent wants to move, particularly out of state. In general, any move of more than 100 miles requires a notice of 45 days. The other parent has 30 days to then legally challenge the move. Every case is so unique that you’ll need a diligent lawyer to help you with a relocation situation. That’s something we can certainly do. Relocation and moving details can also be something addressed ahead of time through the parenting plan.
For most parents, nothing is more important than protecting their kids. We understand that a divorce and custody process can be very difficult for parents. We know that you need to have someone you can trust with such an important issue, and we can be that team you can trust. We will make our goal the same as yours: what’s right for your children. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to address your kids’ custody, whether it’s a new divorce or you need to readdress prior court orders, then Lazenby Law Firm is here for you. Contact us today and find out how we can help in your situation.
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