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Phoenix Family Law And Estate Planning Law Blog

The right approach to child custody issues

In most family law and divorce cases, there are common issues: property division, alimony, child custody and child support. For many parents in Arizona who are going through a divorce, the primary concern is child custody. After all, every parent wants what is best for their children. Disagreements arise, however, over what, exactly, is best for the child in question.

The right approach to child custody issues is to focus on the child, rather than on the conflicting ideas between divorcing or separating couples. Yes, a divorce is going to sever a form of a relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, but you will be forever connected as parents of the child. Attempts to work out child custody arrangements that are beneficial and workable for all involved are encouraged in most cases.

Overview of premarital agreements in Arizona

Like other states, Arizona allows couples to enter into premarital agreements prior to getting married. These agreements are sometimes referred to as "prenuptial agreements" or simply as "prenups."

Premarital agreements may play an important role in a divorce or legal separation, as a couple can use them to specify how their property will get divided. Such is the case even if the court would otherwise have been compelled to divide the couple's assets and debts differently.

Facing divorce? Don’t wait to update your estate plan

The decision to divorce will change the course of your life forever. While it’s important to focus on the here and now, you must also consider the effect a divorce can have on you, your children and your finances in the future.

Once you decide to divorce, take the time to find and review every detail of your estate plan. When doing so, here are five questions to answer:

Review of special needs trusts

Many residents of Phoenix may have one or more loved ones with special needs. Oftentimes, those with special needs must rely on government benefits and other programs in order to be able to support themselves and receive proper care. These programs frequently have income and asset caps on eligibility, as they are intended for those of limited means. This can put Arizona residents in a bind since they want to give a gift or an inheritance to their family members, but doing so could ultimately harm the recipient financially if it disqualifies that person from important benefits.

The idea behind a special needs trust is that the inheritance or gift will be placed under control of the trustee, who can only distribute it either to or on behalf of the disabled person and in specified circumstances. The fact that the trustee retains the control over the property means that, in most cases, it will not factor into a person's eligibility for benefits. As a side bonus, the funds are also outside of the reach of the disabled person's creditors.

Do you anticipate a dispute at Christmas as a divorced parent?

The holidays are getting closer and, if you are a divorced parent, you know that the season isn't all about rest, relaxation and fun. It's supposed to be, but your child custody situation can actually make it one of the most stressful times of the year.

As a parent, you want to make it perfect for your children. However, what is "perfect" for one parent likely is not perfect for the other, and this leads to disputes where you and your ex each feel like you just cannot win. To illustrate this, here are three common disputes:

How can you discover hidden assets in a divorce case?

One would hope that during a divorce or legal separation, both members of a couple in Arizona would be willing to deal with their property division issues honestly and fairly. Unfortunately, whether out of fear or of spite, it happens all too often one party attempts to hide assets from the other party. This is against the law, but it does happen. People going through a divorce should be on the lookout for signs that their ex is trying to hide assets.

Hiding assets may not always literally mean moving property to another location. The idea behind hiding assets is always to keep that property "off the books" during a divorce so that it does not get divided or figured into child support calculations. After the divorce or separation is over, the person who hid the assets then has access to them.

Review of Arizona's community property laws

Like a handful of other states, which are mostly located in the Southwest, Arizona follows the principles of "community property" in divorce cases. While this doctrine affects divorces in this state, specifically when it comes to property division, it also can impact probate and factor into a Goodyear resident's overall estate plan, even if that individual is happily married.

Basically, when a couple in Arizona gets married, they form what in the eyes of the law is a "community," an entity which together holds property jointly and severally. At the time of a divorce, the court will divide any community property 50-50 between the spouses. On the other hand, so called "separate property" belongs to each individual spouse outright, and the other spouse ordinarily will have no claim over it. For the most part, separate property includes anything that a spouse held individually prior to the marriage or acquired after being served with paperwork for divorce or legal separation.

Review of Arizona prenuptial agreements

Many residents of Phoenix have probably heard about prenuptial agreements and may have even learned about them from previous posts here. For many people, including those who have no plans of divorcing or separating, these agreements can be an important legal document which they may need to strongly consider negotiating with their future spouse and signing.

In Arizona, prenuptial agreements, or "prenups," are legally referred to as premarital agreements. Like in most other states, premarital agreements are legally enforceable as long as they meet certain conditions. On a practical level, a premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. It is generally a good idea to also have language in the agreement stating that both parties either have discussed the agreement with their own attorneys or freely and voluntarily waive their opportunity to do so. Otherwise, a judge may set aside the agreement if the judge determines the agreement is unconscionable, that is, clearly unfair, and one of the people who signed the agreement did not have an accurate picture of the couple's assets and debts.

How you can ask for a prenuptial agreement without causing a stir

Divorce is the last thing you want to think about during the months leading up to your wedding. However, if you want to protect yourself, asking for a prenuptial agreement would be in your best interest.

With the help of a prenuptial agreement, you're able to outline everything from the assets you're bringing into the marriage to the inheritance rights of children from a past relationship.

Can you get a divorce from a detached spouse?

You and your spouse don’t see eye-to-eye. You disagree and argue with each other so much that it seems like you’ve given up on getting along. Maybe it’s even gotten to the point where you haven’t been in contact with your spouse for a few weeks or perhaps they have already moved out. You feel as though they’ve detached from the marriage. You know that you want a divorce, but things seem to be at a standstill. Can you kickstart a divorce on your own?

The answer is yes. You can obtain a divorce without the involvement of your spouse. This is called a default divorce. However, there are certain requirements.

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