Filing for Sole Custody in Arizona

How To File for Sole Custody in Arizona

Divorce can be stressful, but there are several related matters that must be addressed in a professional manner to ensure its success for all parties involved. If you have children, the children’s needs should come first, and the legal system will prioritize these over anything else. In particular, one divorce-related matter Arizona family court must contend with is child custody.

While most Arizona parents share parenting time and decision-making rights, in some instances, one parent may seek sole custody of their child. This mainly applies to cases where the other parent has a history of domestic violence, neglect, or another similar issue. If you want to file for sole custody in Arizona, you’ll need to follow a few specific steps and ensure you submit correctly completed documents in a timely manner.

It is imperative you complete custody-related documents accurately, as failure to do so could lengthen the legal process or prevent you from obtaining the sole custody you are pursuing. While you might consider hiring a family law attorney to represent you in your case, Draft My Legal Docs can draft custody paperwork and help you complete this quickly, accurately, and at a much lower cost. To help, we have put together a step-by-step guide to filing for sole custody.

Understanding Sole Custody

Parents who want to file for sole parenting time and decision-making rights must learn how to file for full custody in Arizona, which is considered the same thing. While other states refer to these aspects of custody as physical and legal custody, Arizona designates parenting time and decision-making rights.

In Arizona, there are no circumstances where one parent is favored over the other. Most of the time, the court prefers that both parents should parent and make decisions for their children, meaning both parents share responsibility for their children. However, this could be problematic for some divorced couples, especially if one parent is not capable of upholding such a responsibility. For this reason, some people never consider how to file for joint custody in Arizona, as they feel full custody is more appropriate.

Depending on your situation, sole custody may be appropriate. If your soon-to-be-ex-spouse has a criminal past, abuses drugs or alcohol, or has a pattern of domestic violence, the court may grant you both sole parenting time and decision-making rights. However, it will be necessary to prove to the court that you deserve sole custody. Once you’ve presented your case, the court can decide what the best interests of the child are and make their decision to support those interests.

How To File for Full Custody in Arizona

How To File for Sole Custody in AZ

Not every step of our following guide will apply to you, depending on your scenario. However, we’d like to outline the process for filing for sole parenting time and decision-making rights so you can be prepared when the time comes.

Complete and file the Required Paperwork

The beginning of this process can be tedious, but it’s a necessary step to take. You must complete various required documents and file them so the court can begin evaluating your case.

These forms are contained in a packet known as a Petition to Establish Legal Decision-Making, Parenting Time and Child Support and include:

  • Sensitive Data Cover Sheet with Children
  • Summons to Respond or Appear in Court.
  • Petitions to Establish Paternity, Request Child Support, Evaluate Child Custody, and more
  • Notice of Appearance
The Sensitive Data Cover Sheet contains sensitive information such as social security numbers, birth dates, and more. The court will keep this information safe and it cannot be shared with other parties. You may not need to submit a cover sheet depending on your county of residence. A notice of appearance may only be required if you have a lawyer representing you from the start of the case. All petitions are essential to the successful completion of your filing.

You are also required to submit a fee to file this paperwork, currently around $200. This depends on the county you file in.

Serve Your Papers

You must notify the other parent about your sole custody case by officially serving them copies of your filed paperwork. One of the best ways to do this is by using certified mail with restricted delivery and a return receipt. This costs somewhere between ten and fifteen dollars, depending on how many documents are involved.

If the other party does not sign for the certified mail within 25 days, you’ll likely need to hire a process server to help. A process server will officially serve the documents to the other party and typically costs between $75 and $100, depending on what work has to be done to find the person. If you cannot serve your papers after attempting every possible solution, you can try asking your court for alternate methods, including service by publication, county sheriff, and more.

This process can sometimes be frustrating, especially if the other parent is uncooperative. No matter your situation, we can help you draft your documents and find the most effective way of serving your documents.

Attend Parenting Classes

Parenting Classes in Arizona

Every Arizona parent who files for sole custody is responsible for attending parenting classes as required by the state. Once the respondent has been served the documents, you must take a certified parenting course within 45 days. This costs $50, and you can either schedule your course online or by calling Family Court Conciliation Services.

Wait for a Response

After you’ve served the other parent their documents, they have 20 days to respond if they are in-state or 30 days if out-of-state. This does not include the day that the other party was served, but it does include holidays and weekends. However, if the last day of this period falls on a weekend or holiday, their last day is considered the next business day.

Request a Default Judgment

It can be distressing when the other party doesn’t respond in a timely manner or at all. Fortunately, there are regulations in place that keep your case moving despite a failure to respond.

If the other party doesn’t respond at all after being served, you can file for a default judgment. This process requires another form we can draft for you. The form requests that the court begin their default proceedings as the other party has failed to respond. The other party will then receive a ten-day grace period, which is their last chance to respond without facing penalties. If they still refuse to respond, you can file a final request for default judgment alongside a default decree.

As long as the sole custody arrangement you initially asked for is reasonable, the judge is likely to grant it by default. However, the judge won’t immediately sign off on your petition, as there is a 90-day waiting period.

Wait to Submit a Consent Decree

If you and the respondent agree on the child custody arrangements after filing your initial paperwork, you must then wait to file a consent decree that you’ll both sign. You’ll have to wait 60 days after the date you serve the papers, as well as the time it takes for the judge to sign the decree. Even if both parties agree to sole custody, you may still have to attend a court hearing over the matter, but this is up to the judge. While the law technically states that you must go to a court hearing if there are children involved, judges may not ask you to do this.

Attend Cour

If the other party responds to the petition and either agrees or requests an alternative solution, the case will be referred to the assigned judge’s division. The judge’s assistant then organizes a preliminary hearing, also called a Resolution Management Conference. This meeting allows a judge to hear from both sides regarding the petition’s terms. If any agreements have been made, the judge will ask you to elaborate before finalizing a decree. If there are still terms to be addressed, you may be referred to the Conciliation Court, where a mediator is brought in to help sort out custody matters.

If mediation is ineffective or a full agreement isn’t created, the court will set a hearing date for you to attend. It is not recommended that you attend on your own, as a lawyer can help you navigate this tricky process. You’ll also need to provide evidence supporting your claim that you should have sole custody.

You’ll need evidence to demonstrate:

  • Your child’s needs and best interests
  • Documentation of any abusive behavior, neglect, or substance abuse, including photos, videos, police reports, and more
  • Documentation of any violence or criminal behavior

Why Use Draft My Legal Docs?

As you can see, the process for filing for full custody in Arizona requires several carefully drafted legal documents. Each petition should be free of errors and submitted on time and in full. If documentation is inadequate, poorly completed, or late, your case will take longer to complete. Like anything involving the Arizona legal system, it’s risky to navigate this process on your own.

Draft My Legal Docs is a legal document preparation service operated by skilled Arizona family attorneys. Because every case is unique, attention to thorough detail is crucial, especially when it comes to matters such as divorce and child custody. Our family law services can help you complete all the documents you need for your case. Or, we can determine which documents you need after you fill out our questionnaire.

File For Sole Custody in Arizona

Filing for Sole Custody in AZ

The legal system in Arizona can be complex, especially when it comes to family court cases involving children. Matters of custody affect all aspects of a child’s life, including where they live, attend school, their religious upbringing, their healthcare, their physical and mental health, and even their safety. If you believe that having sole custody of your children is imperative to fulfilling their best interests, filing for sole parenting time and decision-making rights is a critical step.

Begin by filing the required documents with the help of Draft My Legal Docs. You’ll ensure that each document is filed in full, on-time, and in accordance with Arizona regulations. then you’ll need to file the right documents with the right information. Visit our divorce and child custody document section for more information, or contact us directly with any questions or concerns you may have.

How Is Paternity Established in Arizona?

Establishment of Paternity in AZ

If you are a father who has recently had a child in Arizona, it is essential you understand the legalities of paternity in Arizona to ensure you are extended the legal rights you deserve. By contrast, if you have been told you are a father in Arizona, it is critical to ensure this is the case, as you are expected to fulfill a number of legal obligations in the state. Similarly, if you are a mother, you must often establish paternity in Arizona so the state can ensure your child’s father fulfills his obligations.

Arizona so the state can ensure your child’s father fulfills his obligations. Since paternity cases often require some rather complex documentation, it is essential to ensure you are as prepared as possible for what awaits you. While many people choose to hire an attorney with experience in Arizona Family Law, representation can be expensive. Understanding the process of paternity establishment and securing professional paternity documents from Draft My Legal Docs can help you successfully complete your own paternity case in Arizona.

What Is Paternity in AZ?

In the state of Arizona, establishing paternity is the legal process to determine and name the biological father of a child. While most biological fathers are assumed solely due to their relationship with the child’s mother, it can be incredibly important in other cases to establish paternity legally. For example, if a couple is unmarried, establishing paternity is an important first step in claiming parental rights for the child in question.

Without the establishment of paternity in Arizona, the father has no claim on parental rights, and the mother of the child has the power to withhold visitation if she wishes.

What Are the Benefits of Establishing Paternity?

Establishing paternity can have major benefits in the state of Arizona for both the child’s parents. Without the establishment of paternity, the parental rights afforded to both legal parents are forfeit. That typically means that no visitation or physical custody can be enforced, both components of what Arizona calls “parenting time.”

If there is no legal paternity established, the father also has no part in decisions about the child’s upbringing, including decisions about education and the child’s health. The father is not afforded access to healthcare records or allowed to participate in decisions regarding how healthcare should be handled, including mental health. These are all components of legal custody, or what Arizona calls “legal decision-making” rights.

Additionally, without the establishment of paternity, a child may not have access to any health insurance or life insurance benefits, father-linked social security or government programs, or father-linked survivor’s benefits. Without establishing paternity, the state also may not be able to assess child support payments.

How Is Paternity Established in Arizona?

How Is Paternity Established in Arizona

Establishing paternity can happen in three different ways—presumptive paternity, voluntary acknowledgment, and adjudication.

Presumptive Paternity

Presumptive paternity simply means that a particular man is presumed to be the father.

In the state of Arizona, this can be the case for four distinct reasons:

  1. The father was married to the mother, or the child was born within ten months surrounding a marriage, even if it ended in divorce, annulment, or death
  2. The couple is unmarried, but the birth certificate is signed by both
  3. The couple is unmarried, but both voluntarily sign a document to acknowledge the paternity
  4. A DNA test conducted during pregnancy has previously asserted that the probability of paternity is at least 95%

Voluntarily Acknowledged Paternity

In this situation, none of the above documentation was in place during the pregnancy or at the time of the child’s birth, but both parents acknowledged the child’s paternity soon thereafter. This means that both voluntarily sign a formal acknowledgment of the paternity document, which must then be either notarized or witnessed to become valid. This form must be filed with the courts, as well as the DES (Department of Economic Security) and the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services). Such a form can also be used to negate the presumptive paternity of the married party if the mother is married, but the father of the child is not the mother’s husband.

Adjudicated Paternity

This option is utilized when the court has ordered an establishment of paternity in Arizona. This is otherwise known as a paternity lawsuit. A default judgment can be ordered if the presumed father either fails to respond or fails to file the appropriate paperwork in a timely manner. After the court’s judgment, child support will likely be ordered retroactively. Presumed fathers can also rebut the presumed paternity by filing a legal request with the court.

How Much Time Does a Parent Have to Establish Paternity?

It’s important to understand that there is a timeframe in place for establishing paternity as it pertains to child support. It can be filed or claimed either before or after the birth of the child. However, in order for the state to assess current or retroactive child support payments, paternity must be established before the child turns 18 years of age. Other than child support, other kinds of benefits like survivor’s benefits or life insurance benefits may have their own requirements for establishing paternity.

Mothers, however, have one year after the birth of the child to establish paternity via a paternity suit. However, if other factors are in place, as they often are in paternity and child support cases, this statute of limitations may be extended.

What Do You Need to Establish Paternity in Arizona?

In order to establish paternity without presumed paternity or a written acknowledgment of paternity, information about the putative father must be provided.

For example, for a mother to begin establishing paternity, she’ll likely need the following information:

  • Name, social security number, date of birth, and address of the father
  • Address and name of either a recent or current employer of the father
  • Names of friends, family members, or any organizations that the father has or does belong to
  • A photograph or a detailed physical description of the father
  • Written letters or other kinds of statements in which the father has alleged or suggested that he may be the father

Whether you are a father requesting parenting time, visitation, or legal decision-making rights or a mother requesting adjudication of paternity for child support purposes, you must ensure that:

  • The child has resided in Arizona for six months (or since birth)
  • You (or the assumed father) are an Arizona resident, you agree to have the case heard in Arizona, you lived with the child in the state, you provided funds for the child’s birth, or you informally acknowledged potential paternity in the state
  • You file a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity with DCSS, or
  • You file a petition to establish paternity with Arizona Family Court

How Does the Court Conduct a Paternity Hearing?

After either parent files a petition to establish paternity, the court will hold a hearing meant primarily to give the parties an opportunity to agree on the paternity of the child. If such an agreement occurs, legal paternity is established, and the process ends. If either party does not appear or there is no agreement, the court will schedule an evidentiary hearing.

At the evidentiary hearing, the putative father, the mother, and the child must submit DNA samples, typically obtained before the hearing via a cheek swab. Again, if the father fails to respond to the request for DNA or fails to appear, he may be subject to a default judgment and the assumption that he is, in fact, the father. DNA will establish with 95-99% certainty whether or not the man is the father of the child.

What Are the Next Steps After Paternity is Established?

After paternity is established, a child custody hearing can take place to resolve both child support and child custody matters. At this point, the father may be granted parenting time by the courts and thus be able to participate in decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. However, until paternity is established, custody cannot be enforced.

In other words, in many cases, paternity must be established for the father to participate in the child’s life and pay child support. After paternity is established, the parents can create a parenting plan that can be approved by the court. Without an establishment of paternity, child support, parenting time, and decision-making rights are informal only and cannot be enforced by the court.

Informal Parenting Agreement Vs. Court Ordered Parenting

An informal agreement between two parents can work in the short term. However, it can get complicated quickly and is not typically suitable for long-term arrangements. When there is a conflict, a court cannot enforce the terms of an informal parenting plan.

For example, a father can be at the mercy of the mother in terms of visitation and decisions regarding the child’s upbringing without a court-ordered agreement in place. It may also be the case that the father refuses to honor the informal agreement and won’t return the child to the mother after his parenting time is over. One parent may even be able to leave the state without permission from the other parent without a legally established custody or parenting time agreement.

With a court-ordered parenting agreement, a parenting plan can be stable over the long term and enforced by the court. This kind of arrangement benefits both mother and father, but it especially benefits the child. With a court-ordered parenting agreement, time and expectations are established, so all know what to expect.

Arizona Paternity FAQ

Arizona Paternity FAQ

Q: Who Can Establish Paternity in Arizona?

A: The mother, father, guardian, and even a conservator may file a petition with the courts in Arizona to establish paternity. Additionally, the state or a public welfare agency may also file a petition to establish paternity. This petition can be filed before the child is even born, but it may also be filed after the birth of the child

Q: How Can Paternity Be Challenged in Arizona?

A: In the state of Arizona, it’s possible for not only the mother or father to contest the acknowledgment of paternity but also the child. However, it’s important to note that the grounds for challenging paternity are limited to duress, fraud, or a mistake of material fact. The person who is contesting must also provide proof there are grounds for such a case.

Q: What Are the Consequences of Establishing Paternity?

A: While establishing paternity isn’t necessarily a negative situation as the term consequence may imply, one major concern could be child support payments. However, if a mother wishes to establish paternity to gain access to child support benefits, she will likely also have to relinquish not only time with the child but also some legal control over the various aspects of the child’s upbringing. Potential consequences can differ depending on the unique circumstances involved.

Q: How Does Establishing Paternity Affect the Child?

A: Establishing paternity can affect the child in a number of ways. By establishing paternity, a child may gain access to benefits that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to claim. Additionally, knowing who their father is affords the child access to medical family history or a better understanding of any potential health concerns. Establishing paternity allows the child to build and benefit from a relationship with their father and helps them learn more about themselves through the bond with their second parent.

Beginning the Arizona Paternity Process

Begin the Paternity Process

Paternity cases can be exceedingly difficult for everyone involved, but they can also help to answer many questions and provide essential rights and benefits for parents and children alike. Fortunately, establishing paternity can be achieved without hiring a specialized attorney. Draft My Legal Docs is here to help you with the forms to establish paternity in Arizona.

All our documents are drafted and approved by licensed attorneys, and we work to save you time and money by providing the accurate documentation you need for your paternity case. Contact us today to get started.

Parenting Plan AZ

Tips For Forming a Parenting Plan in AZ

Parents can create an environment where children feel less stressed with the new changes if they work to co-parent with their child’s needs at the forefront. Establishing a parenting plan as an agreement that helps both parents get on the same page and work together is the number one way you can ease the stress on your child. In addition, drafting a parenting plan is one of several proactive ways parents can outline critical issues ahead of time to avoid conflict later.

Steps To Creating a Successful Parenting Plan in AZ

Here we will outline the most important steps to take while creating a parenting plan. Keeping these key points in mind helps you create a parenting plan that encompasses all the needs of the family and prepares you to handle critical issues before they arise.

1. Work Towards the Best Interests of the Child

When children are involved, the first step of creating any parenting plan should involve both parents making an agreement to work together for the children’s benefit. It is essential for both parents to discuss these critical aspects of the children’s lives, including physical and emotional well-being.

When relationships end, children need extra special care to adapt successfully to the new situation, and parents need to facilitate an environment that allows children to ask questions and feel supported on both ends. If you have decided to have a parenting plan, it is safe to assume that you wish for your children to have a smooth transition into this new dynamic and will make every effort to be there for them.

This involves creating a parenting plan that considers your child’s physical needs, such as shelter, medical care, diet, recreation and activities, and physical safety. Your child’s emotional needs such as mental health, education, close relationships, and socializing should also be discussed while making the plan. Covering both the physical and emotional needs of children helps parents evaluate which life aspects will have to be adjusted and which life aspects should be preserved to maintain a sense of stability for the child.

2. Create a Parenting Schedule That Works for Both Parties

The parenting schedule refers to the amount of time each parent will spend physically caring for the children and how much time the child will spend with each parent. Again, the details of the schedule will vary depending on the needs of the family members, but the goal should be to create a schedule that works for all involved.

Create a Parenting Schedule That Works for Both Parties

Another thing to remember about parenting plans is that life happens, and when it does, plans must change to accommodate new needs. For this reason, flexibility will be crucial for maintaining a parenting plan that works long-term. For some families, this means parents will work to maintain a 50/50 schedule where they aim to share an equal amount of time with the child. For others, a 50/50 arrangement may not be possible, so they will create a schedule that allows optimal parenting time without interrupting work schedules or disrupting the children’s lives.

Some examples of common parenting schedules include:

  • A biweekly rotation schedule where the child spends one week with the mother and the next week with the father.
  • A 2-2-5-5 rotation schedule where the child has two (2) days with the mother, two (2) days with the father, then five (5) consecutive days with the mother, and five (5) consecutive days with the father.
  • A 3-3-4-4 rotation schedule where the setup is like the 2-2-5-5 schedule, but the splits are 3-4 days per parent.
  • In the 2-2-3 rotation schedule, a child would spend two days in the home of the first parent, the next two days in the home of the second parent, and a three-day weekend with the first parent. In this schedule, the rotation would cycle back and forth between parents, allowing for weekdays and weekends to be shared with the children.

Remember: your parenting schedule should suit your and your co-parent’s abilities to be present for the child, so don’t force an arrangement that is unreasonable for either of you to honor consistently.

3. Be Sure to Consider Your Child’s Age and Development

How much time a child spends with each parent and the timing required to fill out the schedule will likely change as your child ages. Children have different needs as they grow and develop, especially when it comes to their parents. Consider these age and development-related considerations:

0 to 2 Years

Babies and young toddlers are still learning to trust their caregivers. They require constant care, a consistent schedule, and extremely specific feeding guidelines. Babies can become attached to a particular caregiver, especially if one parent is breastfeeding. Later, toddlers can push boundaries. At this age, it is important to consider whether both parents can care for the child overnight, whether the child has developed a bond with both parents, and which parent or parents can maintain the schedule the child has become accustomed to.

2 to 5 Years

At this age, children often experience a stronger bond with one caregiver over others. They are also learning to assert their independence and may become resistant to moving between homes; many will feel anxious about being separated from their primary caregiver. Parents can help soothe this anxiety by continuing to follow a consistent schedule and avoiding negativity or hostility at exchanges. Also, consider keeping holidays and birthdays consistent and inform children in advance, so they know what to expect.

Elementary Aged Children

During elementary school (often ages 6 to 10), children are building more independence from their parents and may be more accepting of long periods away from each other. As a result, their worry often shifts from separation anxiety to concern over losing one parent. Some even feel responsible for their parents’ separation. At this age, parents can consider creating an equal parenting plan to provide the child with the opportunity to bond with both parents and reassure them that their parents will continue to love and care for them.

Middle School-Aged Children

During the middle school years (typically ages 11, 12, and 13), children are more likely to be embarrassed or upset that their parents’ marriage is ending. They may also feel resentful at having to shift from household to household. Some even side with one parent. During this time, parents should be careful not to vent frustrations about the other parent in front of the child and be cautious about creating distance between the child and one parent. Consider involving the child in the decisions regarding where they will live and when and be sure to incorporate the child’s extracurricular activities in schedule decisions.

High School-Aged Children

High School-Aged Children

Teenagers are not only asserting their independence like never before, but are also experiencing dramatic shifts in hormones, emotions, friend groups, school life, and more. Parents should be careful to avoid involving their teenager in parenting conflicts, but also cognizant of ensuring their child knows they care about how the divorce is affecting them. While teens need plenty of time with both parents, many benefit from establishing a home base of sorts to keep things consistent for friends, school, and activities, then spending weekends and holidays with the other parent. Many teens enjoy the option of providing input on their living situation.

4. Decide How You Will Communicate

This step may seem simple, but it is just as important as the other steps in your parenting plan. You may decide to speak over the phone, via text, email, in person, or a combination of these methods. Whichever form of communication you choose, you must be consistent and respectful of each other’s needs as co-parents for your parenting plan to proceed smoothly. Healthy and consistent communication between co-parents will be another key component to maintaining harmony and helping all parties feel supported in the new family dynamic.

5. Handle Major Decisions About Childcare

If you and your co-parent both have legal decision-making authority for your child, you will need to discuss how you will make important decisions for them in your parenting plan. Take time to discuss how both parties will address issues such as education, religious practices, cultural practices, and more.

It is fine not to have all the answers up front as long as both parties agree to discuss these life areas moving forward. In addition, all must agree to keep the lines of communication open. When the time comes to make crucial decisions, remember the parenting plan, agree to compromise when possible and keep the child’s needs at the forefront of any final decisions.

6. Hash Out Childcare-Related Expenses

While legal and physical custody typically depends on the financial resources and availability of the parents, both parties are expected to be financially responsible for the child. Child support payments are often mandated in these cases to serve to cover a child’s essential living expenses.

While many of your child’s expenses may be covered with child support, it is also important for parents to discuss how any additional costs like emergencies or travel will be divided. If you need help working through these details, your attorney can assist you with documentation for financial contributions and help you create a system to keep track of the agreement.

7. Maintain the Goals Set in the Parenting Plan

For this step, we recommend that you and your co-parent keep the successful upbringing of your children as your only priority once your parenting plan is set. Ending your relationship or marriage is not ideal, but you can continue to work together to raise happy, healthy children once the union ends.

Parenting as a united front will provide a sense of stability in your child’s upbringing and help them understand that you both still have their best interests at heart. In the long run, your parenting plan will prove successful because you both decided to keep the lines of communication open, stick to a schedule you can both honor, work together to make necessary decisions, and utilize flexibility when needed.

Long Distance Parenting

Of course, it isn’t always possible for both parents to remain in the same city, state, or even region. However, if you are planning on one parent becoming a long-distance parent or moving with a child, you must have the relocation approved by a judge if there will be over 100 miles or a state line between the two homes. According to ARS § 25‐408, any move must be in the best interests of the child and consider the child’s education, friends, family ties, developmental needs, and unique needs. You will also need to make provisions regarding which parent will pay for the child’s travel expenses. Often, this is done in proportion to each parent’s earning power, but if one parent is choosing to move, they typically pay a greater portion of the costs.

Long Distance Parenting

If only a parent is moving a considerable distance away, it is important to consider the many ways this can weaken the long-distance parent’s relationship with the child. Limited physical contact and large gaps of time between visits can make it challenging to maintain a healthy relationship. If you are planning to become a long-distance parent, it is essential to create a parenting plan that outlines at least four blocks of parenting time, preferably over school breaks. In addition, be flexible and make arrangements that allow both parents the opportunity to enjoy important holidays and other special occasions with their children.

Required Parenting Provisions

Once you’ve created an outline that dictates how you will divide your parenting time, it’s time to create a parenting agreement for AZ family court that describes the decisions you’ve made.

In the state of Arizona, a parenting agreement must contain these provisions:

  • Legal Decision-Making—Often referred to as legal custody in other states, Arizona’s legal decision-making provisions will outline which parent or parents have the authority to make final decisions regarding the child’s care. Decisions can be made by one parent (sole decision-making authority) or both parents (joint decision-making authority.
  • Medical Care—Parents must provide provisions for medical care for any children with special needs. It is also required to specify who must provide insurance and whether each parent can seek medical or dental care for the children in an emergency despite the legal decision-making provision.
  • Education—Parents must create a provision describing where and how the child will attend school and participate in activities, parent-teacher conferences, and more.
  • Religion—Any religious education, or a lack thereof, must be described in the parenting plan.

You may also want to create provisions to establish guidelines for:

  • Child discipline
  • New partners
  • Communication between co-parents and between parents and children
  • Child safety
  • Resolving disagreements
  • Any anticipated changes as children age

Additional Required Statements

In addition to parent responsibilities, decision-making authority, and parenting time, you must also include several statements in the text of your parenting plan. These statements recognize that certain Arizona statutes exist and certify that you will abide by them.

Here are the required co-parenting statements your parenting plan must include a statement that:

  • Acknowledges ARS §25-403.05 (B) – certifies you and your co-parent will notify one another immediately if someone convicted of a sex crime has access to your child.
  • Acknowledges ARS §25-403.06 – certifies both you and your co-parent will have access to the child’s school, medical, and legal records unless the court orders otherwise.
  • Certifies both parents will follow the established parenting plan during any dispute until the dispute is settled.
  • Certifies both parents can petition the court to enforce any violations of the parenting time plan.
  • Outlines any history of domestic violence, including allegations of domestic violence.
  • Makes the court aware of any domestic violence allegations, DUI, or substance use within the last twelve months and outlines both parents’ reasoning why the court should determine shared custody is in the best interests of the child.

Help with Your Parenting Plan in Arizona

Drafting a coherent and cohesive parenting plan in Arizona can seem daunting if you do not have experience with the law. Trust Draft My Legal Docs to assist you with the process and remove the stress from your planning. We specialize in helping families create and draft documents that outline the implementation of cooperative parenting dynamics for Arizona court and mediation.

Our licensed attorneys can help you develop a parenting plan that works, support you with any legal issues that may arise during the filing process, and ensure your parenting plan includes the necessary components. Don’t take on the task of drafting your parenting plan alone. Let our team of experts walk you through the process and provide sound guidance you can trust.


Avoid Child Conflict During Divorce

How You Can Prevent Split Child Loyalty in Divorce

The emotional effect of a divorce on a couple’s children, both short term and long term, is a very serious matter. However, as a parent encountering a divorce or its aftermath, there are things you can do to reduce the negative impact on your children. Efforts like ensuring that interactions between you and your ex-partner are more pleasant and preventing disagreements from affecting your children can be great steps towards maintaining a stable environment.

How Do Your Actions Impact the Way Children Understand Divorce?

During divorce, it’s your responsibility to allow your children to maintain a healthy relationship with the other parent, which will allow the difficult process to go more smoothly for them. If your ex-partner is the one being uncooperative, it’s important to work towards acceptance within yourself and your children, and understand that you cannot control your ex-partner’s behavior. It’s important to focus on your own actions and how they affect the needs of your children.

Your actions during this time can forever affect the relationship between you and your children. In order to support your kids during this hard time, you must take control over the aspects you can, and practice compassion regarding how others’ actions affect their lives. No one has ever called divorce easy. If all parties, including both parents and children, are to move on and adjust in a healthy way, it’s important to work together. You and your ex-partner must be willing to forge this new type of family.

So, What Age Is the Hardest on a Child During Divorce?

Though younger children may be less aware of the intricacies of divorce and therefore less troubled by the events of divorce, this is not always the case. Young children may also be confused in the long run, or be unable to reconcile earlier happy memories with the potential turmoil of divorce.

Studies show that older children are more likely to be affected by the emotions of a divorce. However, this study focuses on participants’ immediate reaction to a divorce, and the long term impacts may be more or less severe depending on the child and your unique situation. In general, it’s important to accept that divorce will have an impact on your children, and it’s your responsibility to reduce the negative effects as much as you can.

What Are Things That Influence a Child’s Reaction to Divorce?

Psychological impact of divorce on childDivorce can cause a variety of psychological and emotional impacts on children. These impacts can include growing mistrust, a loss of security, and confusion. Conflicts between parents can worsen these impacts, and leave children feeling like the mediator between their parents. Divorce forces children to give up their control over their own family situation. The decisions being made by their parents and family court are fully outside their control, which can leave children feeling powerless and insecure.

After a divorce, children are once again forced to accept many choices that make them feel less safe, secure, or stable. In many cases, the choices available to children can be conflicting and function to worsen these feelings. For example, if parents are on bad terms, then simply deciding where to have a birthday party or which parent to spend special events with could have serious impacts on their sense of loyalty and even their relationship with both parents.

What Are Child Loyalty Conflicts?

Sometimes, one spouse may even use their children as a way to inflict pain or exact revenge on their ex-partner, or as a way to attempt to force their ex-partner to meet their needs and wishes in divorce. This need for revenge or to secure resources can stem from anger over many issues, including child support, alimony, or issues during the relationship. For example, if one parent is required by the court to remit child support and resents the court’s decision, they may attempt to influence the child’s relationship with the other parent.

However, none of this resentment, anger, or need for revenge will make your divorce easier or help build your relationship with your children. In fact, it will only complicate your divorce and harm your relationship with them, their mental and emotional well-being, and their long-term healing from the divorce. In the aftermath of a divorce, your children should not feel burdened with the issues between you and your ex-spouse, and they should never feel as if they must choose between one parent and the other.

How Do Divorce and Loyalty Conflicts Affect a Child’s Personality?

Divorces that include conflict between parents can severely affect the personality development in children. Divorce and its aftermath are very difficult periods for children, who likely have never imagined their family disbanding.

Shared custody can help during this difficult time. Children who are given ample time to spend with both parents can continue to feel like they’re valuing their parents, and that they’re allotting love for their parents equally. However, unequal custody and custody conflicts can make children feel like they must place value on one parent over the other. This can force a loyalty conflict.

How Long Does it Take Children to Adjust After Divorce?

In low-conflict divorces, it can take over two years after divorce for children to become adjusted once again. However, continuous parental disagreements and high-conflict divorce will increase the emotional and psychological damage on children. This can mean it takes children even longer to feel well-adjusted again after your divorce is complete.

Children also experience the effects of a divorce for a longer period when the major changes of divorce happen quickly. Sudden change can be difficult for children to accept and deal with. It’s important to maintain clear communication and help children understand what’s going on well in advance of any major changes to improve your child’s chances at recovering from divorce smoothly and quickly.

How to Prevent Child Loyalty Conflict During Divorce

There are several steps you can take to prevent loyalty conflict during your upcoming divorce, and in the weeks and months that follow.

  • Have adult friends or a therapist you can vent to regarding your issues with your ex-partner. By confiding in your children, you force them to choose sides.
  • Prioritize your children’s happiness over any other issue in your divorce.
  • Be sure that your children don’t overhear negative comments about their other parent.
  • Recognize that your ex-spouse deserves respect for being your child’s parent, and communicate this to your children.
  • Share with your children about good qualities they get from their other parent.
  • Be genuinely interested in the time your child spends with their other parent.
  • Encourage your child to spend time with their other parent.
  • If you’re experiencing arguments with your ex-spouse, be the bigger person and don’t let the situation deteriorate further.
  • Involve your child’s other parent when communicating with your children about upcoming changes.

You Can Avoid Divided Loyalty and Child Distress During Divorce

Parent Comforting Child in Divorce

Keeping a healthy dialogue between you and your children regarding the divorce can help ensure they feel they can be open with you about all their feelings. Similarly, keeping any conflict you have with your ex-spouse away from your children, allows them to continue to interact comfortably with you both. Maintaining relationships with both parents allows your children to adjust and heal from the impacts of divorce.

Be sure to remind them that the situation isn’t their fault. By providing your kids with love, care, and encouragement, and keeping their best interests in mind, you can help them stay strong and heal. If you feel your child isn’t adjusting well, talking with a therapist can help.


*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published Apr 6, 2018 and has been updated October 17, 2022.

Tips for Protecting Children From Conflict During Divorce in AZ

Tips for Protecting Children From Conflict During Divorce in AZ

It’s no secret that divorce can be a difficult time for children. From feeling caught in the middle of their parents’ arguments to dealing with the stress and anxiety of change, kids often struggle when their parents split up. However, parents can do things to help make the transition easier for their kids while they deal with their own emotions. By working together to keep conflict to a minimum, communicating openly with their children, and seeking outside support when needed, divorcing parents can help their kids adjust to this new chapter in their lives.

Remove the Cause of Conflict

The first step to protecting children from conflict during divorce is to remove the cause of the conflict. The specific cause will be different in every situation, but some common examples include financial stress, infidelity, or constant arguing.

If the cause of the conflict is not removed, the impact this can have on children can be significant. They may feel stuck in the middle of their parents’ arguments. They might also worry that the divorce means one parent will leave them, or they may feel like they need to choose sides.

All these scenarios can lead to anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues in children. These are very personal decisions that need to be made on a case-by-case basis, but if parents can find a way to remove the cause of conflict, it can go a long way in protecting their children from unnecessary details about the divorce.

Learn New Skills for Dealing With Conflict

Learn New Skills for Dealing With Conflict

The next step is to learn new skills for dealing with conflict. This can be done through therapy, support groups, or books. Some skills divorcing parents can learn include:

  1. Active Listening

    This is a strategic form of listening that involves giving your full attention to the person speaking, paraphrasing what they say, and making sure you understand their perspective. 1

  2. Assertiveness

    This is the ability to state your needs in a clear and respectful way that doesn’t involve putting down the other person.

  3. Compromise

    Compromising means reaching an agreement that is acceptable to both parties, often by giving up something important to you in return for something that is important to the other person.

  4. Empathy

    This involves the ability to deeply understand and share the feelings of another person by putting yourself in their shoes.

  5. Conflict Resolution

    This is the process of coming to an agreement when there is a disagreement. From identifying the problem and brainstorming solutions to implementing the agreed-upon solution, conflict resolution skills can help divorcing parents reach a resolution that is in the best interest of their children.

Keep Children Out of the Middle

Another important step is to keep children out of the middle. This means parents should avoid talking about the divorce in front of their children. They should not use their children as messengers to communicate with the other parent, and they should not ask their children to take sides. 2

While it may be tempting to use children to get information from the other parent or to vent about the divorce, it is important to remember that this puts a lot of pressure on children. They did not ask for this divorce and they should not be put in the position of feeling like they need to choose sides. This can lead to a lot of guilt and confusion for children, which can impact their mental and emotional health.

If parents can find a way to communicate with each other without involving their child, it can go a long way to protect the child from the stress and anxiety that can come with being caught in the middle.

Control Your Emotions to the Best of Your Ability

It is also important for parents to try to control their emotions to the best of their ability. 3This means avoiding yelling, name-calling, and put-downs. It also means avoiding making threats or ultimatums.

When emotions are running high, it can be difficult to control what you say. But it is important to remember that your words can have a big impact on your children. They are likely already feeling scared and confused, and they don’t need to see their parents fighting.

If you find you are having trouble controlling your emotions, it may be helpful to step away from the situation and take some time to calm down. Once you have had a chance to cool off, you can then approach the situation in a more constructive way.

Prepare for Long-Term Conflict

While it is important to try to resolve conflict in a positive way, it is also important to prepare for the possibility of long-term conflict. This means having a plan in place for how you will deal with conflict if it arises.

Not all conflicts can be resolved. In some cases, you may need to agree to disagree. This doesn’t mean you can’t still be civil to each other, but it does mean that you may need to find a way to co-parent without agreeing on everything. Reminding each other of your mutual goal of what is best for your children can help you stay focused on what is important, even when you don’t see eye to eye.

If you are preparing for a divorce, it is important to talk to a lawyer about your rights and responsibilities. They can help you understand the legal process and what you can expect. The long-term conflict may not always be avoidable but having a plan in place can help you deal with it in a more constructive way. It is also beneficial to seek out support from adult friends and family. They can provide you with a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.

No matter what, remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you through this difficult time and be best prepared for the future.

Divorce Resources

Contain Any Anger or Frustration

Feelings of anger and frustration are common emotions during and after a divorce. However, it is important to try to contain these emotions as much as possible, especially when around your children.

Active displays of anger, such as yelling or name-calling, can be very scary for children. They may not understand what is happening, and they may feel like they are to blame.

It is okay to feel angry and frustrated, but it is crucial to find healthy ways to deal with these emotions. This may mean talking to a friend or therapist, going for a run, or writing in a journal.

Avoid Fostering Any Loyalty Conflicts

During and after a divorce, it is common for children to feel loyal to both parents. They may love both parents and want them to be happy, even if they are no longer together. This can lead to conflict if children feel like they have to choose between their parents.

Some examples of loyalty conflict include:

  • A child may feel like they must choose which parent to spend holidays with.
  • A child may feel torn between parents if they have different rules or expectations.
  • A child may feel like they need to keep secrets from one parent to avoid upsetting the other.

To avoid this, it is important to try not to put your children in the middle of any conflict. This means avoid talking about your ex in a negative way, asking your children to take sides, or using them as a sounding board for your own emotions. It is also important to be respectful of your co-parent in front of your children. This means avoiding talking badly about them, arguing with them, or trying to undermine their authority.

If you find yourself having conflicting emotions about your loyalty to your ex, it is important to talk to a therapist or counselor. They can help you work through these emotions in a constructive way.

Focus on Constructive Arguments

It is normal for divorced parents to disagree with each other from time to time. However, it is important to try to keep these disagreements constructive. This means avoiding arguing in front of your children, name-calling, or making personal attacks.

If you find yourself disagreeing with your co-parent, try to remain calm and respectful. Listen to their point of view, even if you do not agree with it. It is also important to avoid getting defensive and try to see their side of the issue.

In some cases, it may be helpful to take a break from the conversation if you feel like it is getting too heated. This means walking away or agreeing to disagree. Once you have both had time to calm down, you can try to resume the discussion in a more constructive way. This can protect your children from being caught in the middle of a heated argument that they have no control over.

Never Deny Parenting Time

Never Deny Parenting Time

It is important to remember that even though you are divorced, your children still have two parents. This means they should have the opportunity to spend time with both parents, even if it is not equal. 4

To avoid conflict, it is important to never deny parenting time to your co-parent. This means if they have scheduled visitation, try to keep it as scheduled. If there is a legitimate reason why the visitation must be changed, work with your co-parent to find a solution that works for both of you. When this happens, openly communicate with your children about exactly why this change is happening. If they can follow the logic behind the decision, it will be less likely to cause conflict.

Keep in mind that your children may not always want to spend time with both parents. This is normal and should not be seen as a sign of loyalty conflict. It is important to encourage your children to spend time with both parents, but ultimately, the decision should be up to them. They may already be feeling pulled in different directions and may need some time to adjust to the new family dynamic. Children feel a lack of control when parents go through a divorce, so it is important to try to give them some control back when it comes to decisions about parenting time.

Focus on Positive Affirmations About the Other Parent

To help reduce loyalty conflict or combat negative feelings, be sure to focus on the positive aspects of the other parent. This means looking for things that you appreciate about them as a person or as a parent and ensuring your children hear the same message. 5

It is also crucial to avoid speaking negatively about the other parent in front of your children. This can be difficult, especially if you are still angry about the divorce or have a difficult relationship with your ex. However, remember that your children love both of their parents, and hearing negative things about either one can be very confusing and upsetting.

If you find yourself struggling to say anything positive about the other parent, it may be helpful to take some time to reflect on why you feel that way. If there are legitimate concerns, address them in a constructive way. This means communicating directly with the other parent or, if necessary, involving a third party such as a therapist or mediator.

When Children Are a Cause of Conflict

In some cases, children can be a cause of conflict between parents. Common emotional or behavioral problems, such as acting out or not listening, can be frustrating for parents. As these issues progress and do not resolve, they can lead to more serious conflict between both parents. A lack of communication about how to discipline the child or how to handle the behavioral issue can further divide the parents.

If you find yourself in this situation, try to remain calm and constructive. It can be helpful to talk to your co-parent about your concerns and see if you can mutually deal with the issue. If you cannot reach an agreement, you may need to seek out the help of a mediator or counselor. Remember, you are not alone. Many parents find themselves in this situation, and there is no shame in seeking help.

It is also important to remember children are not to blame for conflict between parents. In some cases, conflict may be due to differences in parenting styles or values. If this is the case, you’ll want to try to find a way to respect differences and work together for the sake of your children. Remember that children are not purposely trying to cause conflict. In most cases, they are just trying to express their own emotions and needs.


Wrecking Your Finance

How To Keep A Divorce From Wrecking Your Finances

By Laurence Kotlikoff, Next Avenue Contributor 

(Kotlikoff also contributes to Forbes. His posts can be found here.) 

Divorce is always sad, but when it turns ugly, it’s terrible. You may remember The War of the Roses, the dark comedy where Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas start out as a perfect couple and end up destroying their possessions — including their luxurious house and cars — because they can’t agree on who gets what. That movie is unfortunately hitting home for plenty of boomers and Gen X’ers. According to a recent survey by Allianz Life Insurance, two thirds of divorced women feel their divorce created a financial crisis.

Many of my friends have gone to divorce war, but unlike Turner and Douglas, they destroyed their finances (by paying steep legal fees), not their possessions. Divorce doesn’t have to be as financially painful as it so often is, though.

Why Divorce Turns Into War

What drives divorce wars? My hunch is that many are driven by very different assessments by spouses of the impact of their proposed settlements. For example, a husband may think his settlement proposal is incredibly generous while his wife thinks it’s miserably cheap. Without a neutral measurement stick, their fight — with the lawyers’ meters running — can go on and on.

s an economist, I’d say that this is where economics can help couples. Its math and computer algorithms can figure out precisely how much each spouse will get to spend now and in the future under any given divorce settlement. And this analysis can take into account all relevant factors, including the division of assets, alimony and child support, child custody and the disposition of the marital home.

How do I know? My company just released a new software tooldesigned to limit divorce wars (full disclosure: I derive no income from it). It calculates each spouse’s living standard under any proposed divorce settlement.

John and Sally’s Equitable Divorce

Let me illustrate this new technology:

Take John and Sally Doe, both 50, who are untying the knot after 25 years. John earns $200,000; Sally earns $40,000. John and his employer both contribute $6,000 a year to his 401(k). Sally and her employer both contribute $3,000 to hers. John and Sally plan to retire at 65. The couple has one child, Sam, 10. Sam will spend 80% of his time with Sally and 20% with John. John will cover Sam’s college expenses. The couple own a $450,000 house with a $90,000 mortgage. John proposes that Sally live in their house for eight years, while he picks up three-quarters of the housing cost. Meanwhile, John will buy a condo for $200,000. Sally will buy the same-priced condo when they sell their house, sharing the proceeds 50/50. John also proposes dividing the couple’s $200,000 in regular assets and $1 million in retirement assets in proportion to their labor earnings.

John wants to be fair. He figures that paying for most of Sally’s and Sam’s housing for the next eight years, covering Sam’s college expenses and housing and feeding Sam one-fifth of the time is highly generous. He also believes his and Sally’s living standards will be pretty similar once his much higher tax payments are factored in. So John proposes no alimony or child support.

Is John right? Will he and Sally be able to spend roughly the same amount over the rest of their days?

No, he’s wrong. But by playing around with the numbers and the software they can arrive at an agreement that works for both of them.

John’s proposed settlement lets him spend $83,215 annually and Sally spend $23,353 annually (measured in today’s dollars) after covering all housing costs and taxes. There are lots of reasons for this big differential, including John’s higher salary, his large asset share and his receipt of higher Social Security benefits.

When Sally points out the large spending (living standard) difference, John offers to split all assets 50/50. Now John’s and Sally’s annual spending amounts become $73,891 and $35,757, respectively.

Sally, who sacrificed her career to put John through law school and raise Sam, digs in her heels. “John, you need to pay alimony and child support,” she says. John agrees to $25,000-a-year in child support until Sam goes to college. Sally runs the computer program again and finds that John’s annual spending would now be $68,783 and hers would be $41,158.

Sally says, “John, sorry, but you wouldn’t be making five times my salary if it weren’t for me. There is no reason I should have a lower living standard going forward. If you pay me $20,555 each year in alimony and agree to the other things you offered, we’ll both get to spend the same amount each year: $54,836.”

John thinks this over and then counters with a $10,000 annual alimony payment, pointing out that his job is far more demanding than Sally’s. Sally, upon reflection, decides this is reasonable and the two hire a single attorney for one hour to draw up the agreement. Sally and John used economics to save their divorce.

How to Divorce Fairly

Couples don’t have to use this software to come up with equitable divorce agreements. You can also get a rough handle on your relative spending levels by comparing each spouse’s disposable lifetime resources.

To arrive at this number, you’d start by calculating your lifetime resources (the present value (how much a future sum of money is worth today) of your future labor, Social Security and other income including alimony and child support plus your current net worth. Next, you’d subtract the present value of your projected taxes, housing costs, expenditures on children and other expenses including alimony and child support payments. The difference is your spendable resources.

Do this for your spouse, too, and then divide by each spouse’s maximum remaining lifespan (use a calculator like this one) to find what each spouse will be able to spend annually. This is a rough calculation primarily because you’ll need to guesstimate your taxes and may mis-estimate your Social Security benefits, since they may be different in the future than what you expect today.

Source: “”, Laurence Kotlikoff, 5/31/2017.

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