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Phoenix Family Law Blog

Wife's murder trial could delay husband's plan for divorce

A nationally compelling murder case has somehow managed to become an interesting family law case. Or at least it presents an interesting divorce predicament related to marital property. If a wife kills her children, should the husband/father have to pay for her defense?

In January, a 50-year-old Florida mother allegedly shot and killed her teenage children. At the time, the father and husband was abroad. He's a colonel in the military and came home from serving his country to find out that he lost his two kids and that his wife is likely the shooter.

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Determining Support Under the Arizona Child Support Guidelines

In every child custody case, there will a determination of child support. To get an idea of what is involved in establishing a monthly amount, we look squarely to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Although adjustments may be made to the parent's respective support obligation, the family court judges are not quick to deviate from the results of the guidelines. Understanding how the guidelines calculate support will help you anticipate each parents' financial obligation.

What purposes do the child support guidelines serve?

The guidelines serve four very important purposes, as follows:

A. To establish a standard of support for children consistent with [the] reasonable needs of children and the ability of parents to pay.
B. To make child support orders consistent for persons in similar circumstances.
C. To give parents and courts guidance in establishing child support orders and to promote settlements.
D. To comply with state law... and federal law...

Paternity test proves comic left behind more than comedic legacy

A friend of legendary stand-up star Sam Kinison has been greatly affected by the late star's 1992 death. Not only was Carl La Bove there when Kinison died in a car accident, but his life after the fact was a struggle due to financial hardship. How is Kinison related to his surviving friend's money problems?

According to reports, La Bove couldn't afford to make child support payments for a daughter who was never biologically his in the first place. In truth, La Bove was being targeted to make payments to a daughter who was Kinison's biological child.

Child Support Orders and the Disabled Adult Child

In our previous discussion, covering some basic questions about child support, we mentioned that child support typically ends when the child reaches age 18, or graduates from high school. There is another important circumstance, though, when the court may order child support to continue beyond the child's age of majority and into adulthood.

For the court to order such support, the adult-child must have a significant mental or physical disability that prevents him or her from living independently. The controlling Arizona statutory provision is found in A.R.S. § 25-320(E):

E. Even if a child is over the age of majority when a petition is filed or at the time of the final decree, the court may order support to continue past the age of majority if all of the following are true:
1. The court has considered the factors prescribed in subsection D of this section. [Court has applied the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.]
2. The child is severely mentally or physically disabled as demonstrated by the fact that the child is unable to live independently and be self-supporting.
3. The child's disability began before the child reached the age of majority.

Questions About Child Support -- Starting With the Basics

We thought a good place to begin this week's discussion on child support would be to answer some of our clients' most frequently asked questions. In later posts, we'll detail other child support matters raised in divorce, legal separation, and maternity or paternity establishment.

But first, let's answer some FAQs...

Does the parent with custody always receive child support payments?

In Arizona, every parent has a legal duty to support his or her offspring or adopted child. When the parents are unmarried, they are still obligated to provide for their children. Establishing parentage through maternity or paternity actions helps eliminate the problem of a child being left without family financial support. At its essence, the child support payments are in an amount calculated to meet the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance, taking into consideration the incomes, child care costs, health insurance costs, and so on, of each parent.

Future federal plan to protect soldiers from losing child custody

Military men and women put their lives on the line for us every day. They not only sacrifice their literal lives, but they sacrifice the aspects of their lives that make life worth living: marriage and children. According to reports, some service members have lost out on their parental rights due to their honorable service in the military.

According to Army Times, the federal government wants to better protect military mothers and fathers who lose custody of their kids due to their absences while serving. Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to enact legislation that would prohibit family law courts from making custody decisions based on parents' military service alone.

Maricopa County Spousal Maintenance Guidelines Are Discretionary, Not Mandatory

"[T]here are two significant and related problems associated with the setting of spousal support. The first is a lack of consistency resulting in a perception of unfairness. From this flows the second problem, which is an inability to accurately predict an outcome in any given case. This lack of consistency and predictability undermines confidence in the judicial system and further acts as an impediment to the settlement of cases because without a reliable method of prediction clients are in a quandary."
-- American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Considerations when Determining Alimony, Spousal Support or Maintenance (2007).

Earlier, we discussed the 13 factors the courts consider when deciding spousal maintenance under A.R.S. § 25-319(B). The factors provide a framework, but the generalized nature of the factors allows judicial application to be highly discretionary. In its analysis of the family law case, it could be an abuse of the court's discretion to neglect any of the 13 factors. However the court is not required to apply every factor in making a decision. Rainwater v. Rainwater, 177 Ariz. 500, 502, 869 P.2d 176, 178 (Ariz. App. 1993).

This broad discretionary brush can lead to rather unpredictable maintenance awards for Arizona couples. Unfortunately, the unpredictability of spousal support awards frustrates the parties and the efforts of their attorneys to resolve disputes through settlement in the divorce negotiations.

NBA star served child custody papers courtside

As Orlando Magic player Gilbert Arenas headed to the locker room at halftime of a Feb. 3 game against the Miami Heat, he got an unusual surprise. He was served with official court papers in his child custody and child support battle with his ex-fiancée.

The Washington Wizards traded Arenas to the Magic earlier this season, and his ex claims he cut off all support following their recent split and his move from Washington to Florida. The former University of Arizona player denies the claim, saying he has continued to send her $20,000 each month to help maintain the lifestyle they led.

Determining Eligibility for Spousal Maintenance in Arizona

Because Arizona is a "no-fault divorce" state, our courts cannot consider any acts of marital misconduct when deciding whether to award spousal maintenance (alimony). Even if there was considerable fault leading to the destruction of the marriage, those acts are not factored into an award of spousal support. And as we mentioned in part one of this series, which spouse filed the petition for dissolution of marriage also has no bearing on the court's decision to award maintenance.

Today, we'll discuss more specific requirements under the controlling Arizona statute -- A.R.S. § 25-319.

What's in a Name? Spousal Support, Alimony, and Spousal Maintenance

In a divorce or legal separation, spousal maintenance -- also known as spousal support or alimony -- is court-ordered financial support paid by one spouse or former spouse (the obligor) to the other spouse or former spouse.

Historical Basis for Alimony -- Times Have Changed.

There was a time in our history when marriages were entered into with the understanding and agreement that only death could terminate the bond. This was taken very seriously by society as a whole, and by the courts enforcing the laws of the day.

Grounds for Divorce. Because of the permanence of the marriage covenant, a divorce was only possible when there was evidence of marital misconduct, or fault. Before the arrival of our current no-fault divorce system, the court looked to punish the party who was guilty of destroying the marriage.

Need for Alimony. At a time when most wives did not work outside the home, a divorced woman had few opportunities for employment. Her chances of finding work sufficient to support herself, even marginally so, were not promising. Knowing this, the courts were unwilling to let a husband impoverish his wife when he was the one guilty of marital misconduct. This was a time when alimony was necessary for the wife who had kept her marriage vows, and punishment for the husband who had not.

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