This past year has been tumultuous, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the globe. If you’re divorced and attempting to co-parent in the midst of the turmoil, the effort to maintain a sense of normalcy or consistency has likely been difficult, or even impossible.

In particular, schools have made a lot of changes, as children faced a new environment attending in person, online, or a hybrid of those. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines suggestion a distance of 3 to 6 feet between students, depending on the transmission level in a community, and many students are headed back to a physical school building. (For quick reference, check ABC15’s status list for Arizona school districts.)

As you figure out your children’s education plans with your co-parent, here are a few tips:

Communicate Openly

To keep things amicable, HelpGuide suggests co-parents practice good communication skills, including listening with the intent to understand, making requests rather than demands, showing restraint, committing to keeping in consistent contact with each other, and staying kid-focused during crucial conversations.

Update Your Custody Agreement, If Needed

With your children’s schooling schedule changing, you may have to head back to court to iron out a new custody arrangement. You can do this even with a permanent custody agreement, if one of you has had a substantial or material change in circumstances. An example of this can include a school changing from online to hybrid or in-person learning, or an employment change that affects your or your ex’s ability to care for your children.

It is generally less expensive and in everyone’s best interest to avoid a court hearing and, instead, use a mediator, especially if you’re concerned that a judge’s decision will leave both of you unhappy.

“Everyone has a different risk tolerance with COVID and this is a decision with no right answer,” according to the National Law Review. “ A mediator can provide feedback and suggestions and offer a safe environment for you and your ex to trade ideas and work out a custody plan that works for everyone.

Keep Agreements Above Board

Unofficial changes to your custody agreement can be tricky because anything that deviates from the original court order is not legally enforceable. That could be a problem if you disagree about your arrangement in the future.

As for legal adjustments, think carefully about what you want, as they can be time-consuming and difficult to revert if one spouse does not agree with a change. For example, changing custodial parents to take advantage of a school district with the type of learning option you want could backfire in the long run, if you were hoping to return to what you had after a few months.

“It can be argued that a precedent has been set for a permanent change to school and parenting time,” according to the National Law Review.

Recalculate Child Support

Whether your kids head to school full- or part-time or are still learning from home, you might need to pay for childcare. That cost may be reflected in child support payments paid by the non-custodial parent. The Arizona Courts website gives information about how child support is calculated and how much is based on childcare costs.

If you need legal help navigating co-parenting as your kids return to school, visit DeShonPullenLaw.com or call (602) 252-1968 for more information and to schedule a consultation with an expert family law attorney.

Preparing and filing taxes may feel especially overwhelming if you’ve recently gone through a divorce or are in the midst of one. You may be asking whether you should be doing your taxes alone or with your ex and what expenses you can claim.

These and other questions can have unique answers for divorced people working to disentangle their finances from each other. To help, here are answers to some questions for you to consider as you prepare to file your taxes.

Can I file a joint return with my ex?

The answer to this is simple and depends on your marital status as of Dec. 31 of the previous year. If you were still legally married that day, you can file a joint tax return for the year. If you prefer not to file a return with your ex, you can file separately but may need to communicate about income and deductions with each other.

If your divorce judgment was finalized on or before Dec. 31, you are considered divorced for the entire year — at least for tax purposes — and cannot file jointly.

How do I pay taxes on divided property?

With regards to property ownership, if you split what you owned between the two of you, there is nothing to be taxed. However, if you bought or sold property as part of the divorce, there could be tax consequences.

For example, if you sold property you owned as a couple and made money off the sale, you may need to pay capital gains tax. It can get complicated when you factor in how long you owned something and how much it was worth when you bought it, so check Internal Revenue Service rules to see what applies to your property.

Is alimony tax deductible?

Before 2019, spousal maintenance was tax deductible for the person paying it, which meant the person receiving it had to pay taxes on the amount. That is still the case for anyone with an agreement dated prior to 2019, according to the IRS.

However, if you were divorced in 2019 or later, or made a new agreement since that time, that policy has changed.

“Beginning on January 1, 2019, those paying spousal maintenance will no longer be eligible for a federal tax deduction on those payments,” according to local law firm DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC. “Recipients, meanwhile, will no longer be required to pay taxes on any spousal maintenance they receive.”

Is child support deductible?

In short, no. Just like married couples cannot deduct the money they spend on their children, divorced couples cannot deduct the money they spend on child support.

Who claims what money when it comes to taxes in a divorce situation?

It doesn’t matter who earned money while you were married, as both of you split that amount equally when filing taxes.

“In community property states like Arizona, the income earned by a couple is considered earned by both of them,” DeShon Laraye Pullen says. “Thus, one half of the income earned by a spouse while married is considered the income of the other, whether they file jointly or separately.

Are legal fees deductible?

For the most part, the answer is no, but there are a few exceptions. For example, if you received tax advice connected to your divorce or paid fees to figure out alimony, you can claim those as miscellaneous deductions. Your deductions can add up to no more than 2% of your adjusted gross income.

Navigating through the legal intricacies of divorce can be tricky, which is why an experienced attorney can be your lifeline. For more information and to schedule an appointment, visit DeShonPullenLaw.com or call (602) 252-1968.

Some couples have to divide their businesses during a divorce. This can be a complicated process, so doing your research, and using your knowledge can certainly help the situation. There are three options at your disposal to understand before choosing the best option for your situation. These three options are briefly described below:

1. Buy-Out Your Partner

Buying out the other partner is an option many couples prefer. As an example, you have a marital business worth one million dollars, and the divorce agreement has given your partner 60% of the business. In such a case, you pay your partner $600,000 (60% of $1,000,000) and retain full ownership of the business. Although the buyout option is popular, it can cause potential financial strain on one of the parties. Discover a couple circumstances to consider a buyout:

You Have the Financial Means to Support a Buyout

You must have the finances to buy out your partner. Depending on your agreement, you can pay your partner in a lump sum or periodic payments, or provide them assets of equivalent value. For example, you can exchange marital assets for your partner’s business share.

You Believe in the Business

You shouldn’t buy a business on the decline unless you are confident you will turn it around. Ideally, you should only buy out your partner if the business is strong – and you believe in its’ cause or purpose. Thus, you should have an intimate knowledge of the business which may include a professional audit and valuation. Please note that the court cannot order one partner to buy out the other. You must agree with your spouse on any arrangement.

2. Co-Own the Business

Your business relations with your spouse doesn’t have to end after the divorce. You have the option to continue to run the business together post-divorce and divide the proceeds as per the divorce agreement. Below are some circumstances that make co-ownership attractive.

You Want to Keep the Business in the Family

The best way to keep the business in the family is to co-own it. That way, you can eventually transfer it to your children, or other beneficiary, through the development of a trust or other formal documented process.

The Business Is Your Main Livelihood

You shouldn’t sell your main source of livelihood because of a divorce. For example, if you have a law firm that generates the majority of your marital revenue, your finances are at risk of decline if you sell the business.

The Business Is Difficult to Sell

You may continue to co-own the business if it is difficult to sell. Maybe the economy is in a downturn, or the business has numerous debts. There may be other factors impacting this solution as ideal.

4. Sell the Business

A third option, which is also popular, is to sell the business and divide the proceeds. For example, if the marital agreement has given each of you equal shares of the business, you can sell it and divide the proceeds equally. Below are some of the circumstances under which selling the business makes sense.

Your Divorce Is Acrimonious

Co-ownership will be difficult if you are not on good terms with your partner. In such a case, sell the business and disentangle completely from each other.

You Don’t Want to Run the Business

You should also sell the business if you don’t want to run it. Maybe your partner managed the day-to-day operations of the business, and you have no business experience or interest. You may not have the time affordable to manage the business which impacts your need to sell the business.

You Don’t Have the Financial Means

Selling the business may make sense if you cannot afford any dips in performance that may or may not come with the divorce and change in structure. If you don’t want to co-own the business with your partner, and/or your partner wants a lump sum payment for a buyout, you may need to consider selling.

A divorce attorney can walk you through the above options and their application to your circumstances. DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC has more than enough experience with complex divorce issues. Contact us as soon as possible to help you with business division or any other divorce issue.

During a divorce, the court will not automatically include private school costs in child support calculations. You have to convince the court of the need for private school. Below are some things you may need to prove to strengthen your case.

You Want to Maintain the Status Quo

You have a better chance of success if the child is already in a private school. Your divorce should have minimum impact on your kids. If the child is already in a private school, then you will disrupt their lives and education if you move them to a public school. The court may agree with you if the child has been in private schools since they started formal education.

The Child’s Religion Requires It

Another tip is to prove private school is necessary for the child’s religious upbringing. This argument may work if you can prove:

  • Both parents are members of the same religious organization
  • You agreed to bring up the child in the same religion

You have the best chance of success if you are a member of the same religion for a long time. However, you might not succeed if you recently joined the religion during your divorce.

You Are Involved in the Child’s Education

You may also need to prove your involvement in the child’s education. The court may believe your involvement if you prove:

  • You help the child with homework
  • You helped choose the current school
  • You attend parents meetings at the school
  • You help the child with school projects

The involvement may show the court you understand the educational needs of the child.

The Child Has Special Needs or Gifts

Some children have special needs or gifts that private schools are more equipped to handle than public schools. If you have such a child, then you need to prove how they will benefit from the private school. For example, your child may need a private school if:

  • Your child is a gifted artist and the private school has a great art program
  • Your child has a disability the private school can accommodate better than public schools

You need to prove both the special need or gift and how a private school can meet it better than a public school. For example, you can use an educational expert as a witness to help the court understand the issue better.

Your Older Children Attended Private School

Another tip is to show the court you have older children who attended private school. This can help you prove:

  • You have always valued private school
  • Affordability is not an issue (if your financial circumstances haven’t changed)
  • You want the same education for all your children

You may have an even stronger case if both of you also attended private schools. Parents often want the same (or better) education for their children they had.

The Noncustodial Parent Can Afford It

Lastly, you also need to prove the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay private school tuition. Their ability depends on various factors, such as:

Income

Include income from all sources. For example, you should include:

  • Salaries
  • Trust income
  • Commissions and benefits
  • Profit from businesses
  • Capital gains on properties

For a parent who is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed, the court may compute the income the parent should earned under normal circumstances.

Other Obligations

The court will also consider other financial obligations of the noncustodial parent. Other obligations include children from previous relationships and spousal support.

An experienced divorce lawyer can help you prove your case and get the best education for your child. DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC has a wealth of experience in family law issues. Contact us today so we can review your case and advise you on the best way forward.

Going through a divorce can be a challenging ordeal.  Not only is it extremely stressful trying to figure out who gets what, but when retirement benefits are at stake, the whole process becomes that much more tedious.

Trying to figure out what interest your spouse can acquire in your retirement benefits and how to protect those interests can be a complicated issue, especially when taking into account the specific laws and the numerous retirement plans available.

That is why, in this post, we will dive into the complexities of retirement benefits, how they are divided in a divorce, and how the law offices of DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC can help you.

Arizona Law and Community Property

Arizona is considered a community property state. This indicates that generally, spouses share equal ownership of anything that is purchased, acquired, earned, or paid for during their marriage.  So even if one spouse paid for some property, or it is only their name on a title, if it was acquired during the marriage, then most likely, both spouses own it equally.

According to these Arizona laws, retirement assets, including pensions, are treated the same way as other community property, meaning that in a divorce, they are divided equitably between the spouses. However, in order to figure out how it will be shared, you need first to figure out the type of retirement plan you have.

Types of Retirement Benefits

Even though there are many types of private pension plans, the two most common types of retirement accounts include a “defined benefit” plan or a “defined contribution” plan.

Defined Contribution Retirement Plan

This is a plan where you invest money that grows over time, such as a 401(k) or an IRA. It does not promise a specific dollar amount at retirement, but rather employees or employers can contribute to the plan, and those contributions are invested on behalf of the employee. These plans fall and rise based on the investment’s performance.

In Case of Divorce

In cases where you have a defined contribution retirement plan, if a divorce occurs, you are entitled only to the value of the account.

Defined Benefit Plan

A defined benefit plan is a system where you invest money into a program that will provide you with a specific benefit at a certain age, such as a pension. This benefit can be a dollar amount, or it can be based on a computation that takes into consideration your years of service and your salary.  Often, these defined benefit plans make up 10% of plans in which employees are enrolled in.

In Case of Divorce

If you have a defined benefit plan, you may be entitled to the value of the account in addition to or in place of any monthly pension payments. However, this will depend on the terms of the plan.

Division of Retirement Benefits

When a married couple divorces and one spouse is enrolled in a private pension plan, the spouse that is not enrolled can prepare a special order referred to as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to create a legal right into the retirement plan proceeds.

Even though state law usually governs divorce proceedings, retirement plans are governed by federal regulations known as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which sets up the requirements for a QDRO. And when these requirements are met, the QDRO will direct the plan administrator how to split up the community property portion of the retirement benefit accounts. Simply put, retirement plans must comply with federal laws, and even the judge in a divorce proceeding cannot order the plan administrator to do anything that is not allowed in the plan.

In the alternative, to avoid invading retirement plans, if both parties agree to it, the non-employee spouse can accept other assets that are equal in value to the retirement benefits they would have received. However, it is important to discuss all of these options with your attorney before proceeding with one course of action over another.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order

To have your benefits paid out, your Qualified Domestic Relations Order must meet all the requirements. At a minimum, these QDROs must include the following:

  • The name of the member and their last known mailing address
  • The name of each alternate payee covered by the Order and their last known mailing address
  • A method that determines the amount of the member’s severance, survivor, or retirement benefits to be paid by Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) to each payee covered by the Order
  • The period or the number of payments to which the Order applies.

During the divorce proceedings, both spouses will identify which assets they want to be divided, including the retirement benefits. If you are awarded part of your former spouse’s retirement account, the court will issue a QDRO, which will then be submitted directly to your former spouse’s retirement plan administrator. If the QDRO is accepted, the plan will let you know right away. If the plan rejects the QDRO, they will provide you with a clear explanation as to why and what steps you need to take to get it approved.

Other Retirement Plans

Qualified Domestic Relation Orders are specifically for private ERISA plans. If you have a government-sponsored retirement plan such as a Federal Employee Retirement Systems (FERS) or the ASRS, these are handled by a different process called the Court Order Acceptable for Processing (COAP).  That is why it is so crucial to discuss your retirement plans with an experienced attorney who understands the differences between each of them and which laws apply.

How Can a Family Law Attorney Help?

If you are heading towards a divorce, you need a knowledgeable lawyer on your side. Dividing retirement benefit accounts can be a very tedious and complicated process. Not only is it imperative to ensure that the special orders are filled out correctly, but that they are also in agreement with the numerous laws and plan requirements.

For these reasons, if you are looking into dividing your retirement benefits, do not wait any longer. Contact an experienced family law attorney today by calling the law offices of DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC at 602-252-1968. Let us provide you with the personalized legal representation that you need during this difficult time.

 

No definitive answer exists on whether you should date during the divorce process. If you’ve been living like roommates with your soon-to-be-ex or separated for some time, it’s natural for you to want to move on with your life and restore your faith in love and relationships. Yet, dating during the divorce process can have legal consequences, so you need all the information to make the best choice for your circumstances. We’ve developed this short guide to help you examine the potential consequences of dating before your divorce is finalized. We also provide some useful tips if you choose to date during the divorce process.

Child Custody

During the divorce process, your spouse will likely put everything you do related to parenting under the microscope if you have children. If you are struggling with agreeing on the terms of custody, including the amount of parenting time for each person, you can expect your spouse to use your new relationship against you. Whether it’s true or not, your spouse could argue that your children aren’t getting needed attention because you are spending too much time with your new partner.

As you are negotiating a custody arrangement, your new relationship might also factor into your parenting schedule. Sometimes, those going through a divorce make choices to give them more time with a new partner. If the new relationship doesn’t last longer than a few months or even a year, parents often regret using this relationship to guide decisions about parenting time.

Spousal Support

If your spouse finds out you are dating during the divorce process, you could suffer financially if you expect to be on the receiving end of spousal support payments. Courts typically view spousal support as a temporary action to give the lower-earning partner the time to rebuild their life and find solid financial ground. The ultimate goal of spousal support is to allow one enough time to get back on their feet to independently support themselves. If you begin dating a new person during your divorce, you risk the court ordering a lower amount of support. This is especially true if you choose to move in with a new partner prior to finalizing your divorce. In fact, your spouse might try to stop your spousal support payments completely.

If you earn the most income in your marriage and you have to pay spousal support, your ex might be hurt by your new relationship and want to punish you. In these cases, you can expect a hard fight for the maximum amount of support that the court will award.

Property Division

Part of the divorce process is dividing real estate, personal property, and financial assets between you and your spouse as you separate your lives. Dating during divorce could result in receiving fewer assets in the divorce. Many spouses assume that if their soon-to-be-ex is dating, he or she is also using marital assets. This could mean using money to take trips, go out to dinner, or buy expensive gifts.

In some cases, this means supporting a new partner financially, shopping, and spending more on health and beauty services. It doesn’t matter if these things are true or not. If you are dating and your spouse perceives them to be true, it can turn an amicable divorce into a nasty fight over marital assets. In many cases, couples come to the joint realization that it’s time to end their marriage. They work together to make a clean break. For example, you might offer to pay your spouse one lump sum of spousal support in exchange for keeping the house, or vice versa. A new relationship on either side can quickly take these friendly agreements off the table.

Emotional Considerations

Aside from the death of a loved one, divorce ranks near the top as one of the most difficult events that some people go through in life. Even when couples go through a divorce on the best terms possible, emotions run high. A new relationship on either side can trigger bigger emotions, leading to far more tension and conflict during your divorce. If you choose to date, your spouse might want to punish you in every way they can–by using kids, support, assets, and more. He or she might choose to speak out more during meetings. Not only can this make your divorce more emotionally draining, but the longer your divorce takes the more expensive it is, too.

Tips for Dating During a Divorce

Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, so no law prohibits you from dating during the divorce process. Ultimately, only you can make the decision about whether to date during the divorce process. If you know dating will set off your spouse, it’s probably in your best interest to wait until your divorce is finalized. On the other hand, if you’ve met someone so incredible and you choose to spend time together, you need to be cautious. In light of the above information, these tips can help you keep the divorce drama to a minimum if you choose to date:

  • Avoid public places with your new partner, especially those close to home or places you used to go with your spouse.
  • If you have children, keep them away from your new partner until your divorce is finalized to help ensure your spouse doesn’t learn about your relationship.
  • Take things slow and avoid moving in with your new partner until after you are divorced to prevent custody and support issues.

Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney Today

Divorce is an emotionally traumatic experience that prompts many to move on with life as soon as possible, even if that means dating before the papers are finalized. Dating during the divorce process sometimes impacts divorce agreements and creates more tension. Ensure you are making the right choice for your situation by consulting with an experienced divorce attorney. The skilled legal team at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC understands your desire to live, laugh, and love, and we are here to guide you through your divorce. Contact us today online or at 602-252-1968 to schedule a consultation to discuss your divorce.

Going through a divorce is trying for everyone involved, but worrying about losing a successful business throughout the process can make matters worse. Business owners risk losing everything they have built during a divorce because of Arizona’s community property laws or because an owner has to raise cash. Without a prenuptial agreement in place to protect your business, your spouse has a stake, even if he or she did not contribute the blood, sweat, and tears that made your business a success.

If you are having marital issues and suspect a divorce might be in your future, it’s imperative that you take action now to preserve your business. Below we provide some strategies you can employ.

Strategies to Preserve Your Business During a Divorce

If you are married and live in Arizona, your business is likely a joint asset, unless you have a prenuptial agreement that states otherwise. The following strategies can help you to minimize financial losses during a divorce:

Keep Impeccable Records

If you aren’t keeping detailed financial records and you haven’t been separating business and family finances, now is the time. Entanglement between business and family finances is a bad practice that becomes even more difficult when divorce is involved. Poor record keeping creates challenges when you are trying to accurately value your business and split assets during a divorce. You have no chance of buying your spouse out of the business or coming to a compromise when you cannot distinguish what is what. Additionally, accurate and detailed records support your case in front of a judge, if you cannot reach an agreement prior to your divorce hearing.

Pay Yourself Well

Often times business owners take a small salary and reinvest profits to build and grow their business. If you continue to pay yourself a low salary, you potentially give the court a reason to give more of your business’s profits to your spouse.

Arrange for an Independent Business Valuation

Whether you are planning to file for divorce or amidst proceedings, you need to know exactly what you are working with before you can make any concessions, compromises, or decisions. Hire a neutral valuation specialist to review your financial records and place a value on your business. You may be able to get a court-appointed specialist if one of you has already filed for divorce. Always get a second opinion before you agree on a particular value, so any decisions about distributing profits start from an agreed-upon number.

Reduce Your Spouse’s Role in the Business

The greater a role your spouse has in your business, the stronger case they may have against you to receive a share of the profits. The same applies if your spouse has worked at the business for a long time. Simply firing your spouse is not be the best course of action, so you should definitely consult with an experienced divorce lawyer.

Compromise with Other High-Value Assets

Sometimes divorces are so contentious, that one spouse will figuratively do everything to blow up assets, which hurts both and impacts the lives of children. If you are on reasonable terms and discuss an amicable situation, consider compromising other assets to avoid having to dissolve or lose your business. For example, you might offer your spouse your house, retirement accounts, a vacation home, or all the vehicles in exchange for complete ownership of the business. If your business continues to thrive, you can replace high-value assets more easily than rebuilding a business. Compromise doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can also compromise a portion of profits for a minimal amount of time to retain ownership. Before you proceed with potential compromise, you should consult an experienced lawyer.

Extend Your Payments to Your Spouse

If your divorce has been finalized and you owe your spouse a significant amount of business profits because of a buy-out, paying it all at once could mean financial catastrophe. At the very least, it could hinder growth. Instead, arrange to pay your ex for his or her share of the business over time. You can make monthly or quarterly payments from your business’s cash flow or if necessary, secure a business loan.

You Don’t Have to Lose Your Business, Contact a Divorce Attorney Today

Divorce is an unpleasant life event that can be devastating to business owners. Some couples who own businesses manage to succeed personally and professionally. Yet, in other cases, the marriage falls apart while the business thrives, forcing couples to figure out how to divide the business without dissolving it. Divorces involving businesses are especially complicated and expensive, especially if the case needs to go in front of a judge. The skilled divorce attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC understand the gravity of your situation, and we are here to help. Contact us today online or at 602-252-1968 to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your marital status, the particulars of your business, and potential strategies to help you avoid losing your business during a divorce.

Divorce is a major life event that results in a myriad of changes. A former spouse might get a new job, meet someone new, or simply want to leave Arizona to start a new life. When minor children are involved, moving out-of-state will drastically affect the current child custody arrangement. Some parents maintain an amicable relationship and work out the details when one wants to relocate. In other cases, parents need to look to the courts to come to a new custody arrangement. Below we provide more information about the factors that can impact your ability to relocate with your kids after divorce.

Relocating with Children After Divorce

If you want to relocate your kids from Phoenix to Scottsdale or from Gilbert to Mesa, you will not need to update your child custody arrangement. Arizona law considers relocation as a move that is at least 100 miles away or out-of-state. The parent who wishes to move has the legal duty to notify the other parent of their intentions via certified mail 45 days in advance of their move. The other parent then has the time to petition the court to prevent the move from occurring. Ultimately, the court will decide whether you can relocate with your kids.

If your former spouse petitions the court to stop you from moving, you will have to attend a hearing. Both of you will have an opportunity to present your case by providing testimony from family, friends, and others. Once the court has all the facts, the judge can make an informed decision about relocation.

Factors that Impact a Court’s Decision Concerning Relocation

Arizona courts do not make child custody decisions lightly, especially those involving moving with children. A judge will examine multiple factors, placing the best interest of the child as the top priority. They include:

Motivation

Courts favor some motivations for relocation more than others. A parent who wants to move to get a new job, especially one that offers more pay and more opportunities often has a better chance of relocating than a parent who simply wants to move to get a fresh start.

Child’s Quality of Life

The court will examine if relocation will lead to an improved quality of life for the child. What does improved mean? It varies from case to case, but some examples include:

  • Access to better schools
  • Access to more family
  • Access to better childcare
  • Ability to live in a more financially secure household

Parental Relationships

Judges closely evaluate a child’s relationship with each parent. Parents who don’t spend time with their children after divorce, regularly miss or give up their visitation time, or have unhealthy abusive relationships with their children will have a challenging time preventing relocation and likely cannot move with their child if they have full physical custody.

Sibling Relationships

Moving kids away from one or more siblings or half-siblings can be a traumatic life event. Judges carefully weigh relationships kids have with their siblings before modifying a custody arrangement that allows a parent to relocate with their kids. Additionally, the judge will look at how well the siblings who might be moving together get along. Will relocating place an older child in a caretaker role, perhaps impacting the one child in a negative way?

Impact of Less Visitation

One of the consequences of relocating with kids is that the other parent will have less visitation. If the relationship is strained, this may not impact the court’s decision. Yet, kids who spend regular or equal time with the other parent have some type of bond, potentially a strong one. The judge will carefully evaluate the potential emotional consequences a child can suffer as a result of not getting as much time with the non-moving parent.

Child’s Adjustment Period

Moving to a new home and a new community comes with an adjustment period for everyone involved. The adjustment period that a child goes through factors into a judge’s decision about relocation. Many children easily adapt to new situations, but not all do. The judge will consider how well and how quickly your child(ren) will adapt to their new life.

Child Preference

Once a child reaches a certain mix of age and maturity, their preference holds weight with the court. Children, even older ones, don’t always make choices in their best interest, so your child’s preference does not mean the judge will approve or deny relocation. Yet, the judge will carefully listen to your child’s preference and their reasons why and consider it with other factors, especially his or her best interest.

Other Factors

Listed above are the most common factors Arizona courts review when making decisions about relocation. Yet, these are not always the only factors. Each child custody case involving relocation is different. Relationships and underlying facts are different. The court might wish to examine other things that apply to a specific case. For example, a parent who wishes to relocate who has a criminal history or a history plagued with drug and/or alcohol use might find it difficult to move with kids. A history of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and instability can also prevent a judge from modifying a custody arrangement.

Once the court has examined all factors related to you relocating with your kids, he or she will make a ruling about whether you can move or not. If the judge decides you can relocate with your kids, your child support order will be adjusted accordingly.

Relocating with Kids? Contact Us Today to Learn About Your Rights

Co-parenting and dealing child custody matters after a divorce can be overwhelming and stressful for parents and children alike. If you are seeking to relocate out-of-state with your kids, or your former spouse wishes to relocate with your child, contact us today online or at 602-252-1968 to learn more about your rights and the process of modifying a child custody order. The experienced family law attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC can help.

Alimony, also known as maintenance, is one of several financial obligations that an individual may be required to pay to his or her former spouse after a divorce takes place. While this amount used to be almost always awarded to the wife in the divorce and could only stop under a few select circumstances, these days — given the rise in women in the workforce, changes in marital law, and rapidly changing financial circumstances — spousal maintenance is often a more temporary arrangement and may be received by either side when the marriage dissolves.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is a term used to describe court-ordered payments awarded to a spouse or former spouse in a separation or divorce agreement. This form of support is intended to maintain a spouse’s standard of living after a divorce until he or she has the opportunity to maintain that standard without the payments. Alimony is almost always awarded to the lower-earning individual in marriages that have lasted at least ten years. The amount of alimony that is awarded — and the duration for which it is received — depends on a number of factors, including how long the marriage lasted and the current or potential incomes of each partner in the marriage. Other factors that may impact who receives alimony and how much alimony is to be received include:

  • Each spouse’s age, health, and physical capabilities
  • The paying spouse’s ability to pay alimony
  • Each spouse’s comparative financial resources and earning ability
  • Contribution that the alimony-seeking spouse has made to the paying spouse’s earning ability
  • Any excessive spending, gambling, or destruction of marital property that has been committed by either spouse.

For the receiver of alimony, the payments are a form of taxable income. For the payer, they are a deductible expense. Alimony payments cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, and they are specifically meant to be used to meet the needs of the spouse or former spouse. Payments intended to be used for the couple’s child or children’s needs are considered child support, not alimony. For further explanation on the types of support that may be ordered in divorce cases in Arizona, trust DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC for accurate and complete information.

What Arizona Law Says About Alimony and Remarriage

According to Arizona law, there are only two situations outside of an agreement between spouses or express provisions in the divorce decree that can end the obligation to provide maintenance payments as ordered:

  • Death of either party.
  • Remarriage of the party receiving maintenance.

The law also provides the ability to suspend alimony and other types of support payments if the paying party suffers a mental or physical injury that prevents him or her from working for a period of time. In these circumstances, payments generally resume when the situation that caused the paying party to be unable to meet his or her financial obligations improves.

The obligation to pay maintenance automatically ends in cases of death or remarriage, though the paying party will need to file a motion to terminate the support and provide proof to the court of the remarriage. If the paying party continues to make his or her payments without being aware of the remarriage, he or she may be entitled to a refund of those payments that were made after the remarriage occurs. Once a payment has been terminated due to remarriage, that payment cannot be reinstated, even if the receiving party’s remarriage ends in annulment or divorce.

Alimony and Cohabitation

According to an article published in the Atlantic, more and more people — particularly younger adults — are choosing to cohabitate rather than getting married. While there are many reasons for this, the fear of the psychological, emotional, and economic implications of divorce are at the top of the list. To many of these individuals, cohabitation offers the benefits of marriage, including help in paying the bills as well as physical and emotional companionship, without the risks posed by divorce.

Arizona law is not clear on how cohabitation impacts the provision of spousal maintenance payments. However, the more closely the cohabitation resembles a marriage, the more likely the courts are to consider the change in the cohabitating individual’s income that may no longer necessitate alimony payments by a former spouse. In order for a paying spouse to have a judge consider the modification or termination of spousal support to a cohabitating spouse, he or she must file a motion for modification or termination with the court. Evidence relating to the economic nature of the cohabitation, including proof that the support-receiving spouse and his or her cohabitating partner are sharing expenses will be required in order to prove that the cohabitating spouse’s expenses and needs for support have experienced a significant and continuing change.

If you are interested in modifying or terminating spousal support due to cohabitation by your former spouse, the experienced attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC can explain the process in more detail.

What if the Paying Spouse Remarries?

Alimony payments cannot be modified due to the remarriage of the paying spouse. Even if the remarriage comes with new household expenses or there are children born into this new marriage, the obligation to the former spouse receiving maintenance payments will continue unless there is a significant and continuing change in income that results in the paying spouse being unable to pay. Often, even if the spouse is unable to pay, the order will only be suspended — not terminated — until the spouse is again able to meet his or her obligations.

Do You Need to Modify Your Agreement?

The courts in Arizona realize that there are changes that may significantly impact the ability to pay or the need to pay support and allow for support agreements to be modified as situations warrant. If your spouse is remarried, planning to remarry, or is cohabitating, we can help you understand the legal options that are available to you. For more information and a case evaluation, contact the experienced family law attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC online or by calling (602) 252-1968.

With a simple no-fault process and cities that were harder hit by the financial crisis a decade ago, the rate of divorce in Arizona has been higher than the national average for quite some time now. If you’re going through a divorce in this state, you can take heart in knowing you are not alone. More than 10 of every 1,000 men and women in the state were divorced in the last year. However, in spite of divorce being a common procedure in Arizona and beyond, there are some myths about the process that remain. One of those myths is the notion that if you avoid the service of divorce papers, your spouse can’t divorce you. Read on for more information about the service of process and how that affects the proceedings.

Methods of Service of Process

When filing for divorce in the state, you are required to serve your spouse with papers that announce your filing in the court and give your spouse the opportunity to respond to the filing. Among the documents that must be served are the petition for the dissolution of marriage and the summons. Once served, your spouse has 20 days inside the state to file a response with the court and 30 days if he or she lives outside of Arizona. You have 120 days after filing papers with the court to complete service of process. Failing to do so may result in dismissal of your case.

The Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure allow for the Service of Process in divorce cases to take place in a number of ways, including:

  • Service by acceptance: Through this method, you simply give the divorce papers to the other party, along with an “Acceptance of Service” form that your spouse signs in front of a notary and returns to you. The documents can be given in person as you file the documents with the clerk, in person in the presence of a notary, or through the mail. Most banks provide notary services and you can also find a notary by searching for this service in your area on the internet or in the local yellow pages.
  • Personal service by a sheriff or constable: With this method, you contact the sheriff’s department in the area where your spouse lives and arrange for them to serve the papers. It may take two to three weeks for the sheriff’s department or constable to perform service.
  • Personal service by a process server: You hire and pay a registered process server to serve the papers at work, home, or some other location.
  • Service by mail in which you send the papers with return receipt requested and a restricted delivery so that your spouse is the only one who can sign the receipt. Wait for the green receipt to be returned to you, indicating that your spouse has received the summons and petition. Remember that the clock starts ticking on your spouse’s response time to the service when he or she signs the receipt, not when the receipt is in your possession.
  • Service by publication, in which you publish a copy of the summons in the newspaper with a statement that informs your spouse as to how he or she can get a copy of your filed petition and other documents.

The experienced attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC can provide guidance on the method of service that might be the most practical in your case.

When Service By Publication Can Be Used

As explained by Pima County, service by publication can only be used when you are unable to find your spouse or your spouse is avoiding service of divorce papers, and this method can only be used to serve the petition for divorce and for legal decision-making and parenting time issues. Service by publication cannot be used for issues concerning child support, spousal maintenance, division of marital property and debts, or any other issue which requires personal jurisdiction.

Maricopa County Superior Court adds that this method of service is only to be used as a last resort, once you have exhausted other efforts of service. In order to use service by publication, you must obtain permission from the judge in your case to do so by filing a motion and showing that you have made reasonably diligent efforts to use other forms of service. Some reasonably diligent efforts that may be included in the affidavit to support service by publication are:

  • Verification that your spouse is not at any of his or her previous addresses.
  • Talking to family, friends, or former coworkers who may have your spouse’s current address.
  • Internet searches of the white pages, voter registration records, obituaries and other public information records for your spouse’s address.
  • Hiring a private detective to search for your spouse.
  • Proof that your spouse is intentionally avoiding service.

If you are permitted to serve your spouse by publication, you must have the summons published at least one a week for four consecutive weeks. Service is considered complete 30 days after the initial publication. The attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC can advise you of other requirements when using this method of service.

Other Alternate Methods of Service

If your spouse is intentionally avoiding service of divorce papers, the judge may approve alternate methods of service beyond publication in a newspaper. One of the methods that may be approved is securely posting the summons and petition on the door of your spouse’s residence while also mailing a copy to his or her last known residence or work address. It is important when determining an alternate method of service to seek permission from the court to to provide service in this manner as the service will not be valid without court approval.

Let Us Help

If your spouse is avoiding service of divorce papers, it may require more effort on your part to ensure that the process is completed, but it does not mean that you will be unable to proceed. The attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC can explore all of the options for service of process and help you to ensure that the process you are using is recognized as valid by the court. For more information or a case evaluation, contact us online or by calling 602-252-1968.

 

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