Arizona Guide to Hybrid Child Custody Orders

Struggling with a child custody dispute can lead to serious disharmony within the family unit. When working with a former spouse regarding child custody, individuals are likely to learn about joint custody and sole custody. While these limited options imply black-and-white solutions, the reality is anything but.

If you are negotiating a custody order within the state of Arizona, make sure you have legal representation to guide you through the process. Experts at The Sampair Group have decades of industry experience working in complicated custody scenarios.

Today, we are going to highlight the reality of hybrid child custody orders.

Legal Custody vs Physical Custody

Before the courts determine which type of child custody is right for your family, it is pivotal that we better understand the two forms of custody in general. Custody references the legal parenting and decision-making over a child. Family law judges will often opt to have joint custody to allow the child access to both family members. If the judge doesn’t think seeing both parents is in the best interest of the child, other custody options may be considered.

Parenting Time is also referred to as physical custody. Working with a judge, parents will lay out a parenting plan that shows when the child will spend time with each member of the family. One parent may have legal authority while the other parent has physical custody or even supervised parenting orders.

So, what exactly is a hybrid child custody order?

Hybrid Custody Scenarios

Hybrid custody orders are often decided upon in situations where amenable agreements can be made. Hybrid custody orders are often done when both parents retain a positive relationship with one another as well as their child.

A few other examples of hybrid custody scenarios include:

  • One Parent Is In The Military –  A parent deployed for military service will often yield hybrid custody situations.
  • Injury or Illness – Parents may occasionally or temporarily cede their parenting rights or legal decision-making in the event of an injury or sudden bout of illness.
  • One Parent Is A Doctor – A medical professional parent may want to have the final say on choices made regarding their child’s health.

Every family dynamic is unique and that means taking a custom, you-first approach to your child custody scenario. For residents of Arizona, the team at The Sampair Group can help.

Contact The Sampair Group

The Sampair Group focuses on family law for clients throughout Maricopa County. Providing aggressive and affordable legal representation, The Sampair Group represents clients for complex legal matters including divorce cases, child custody, child relocation, and property and debt division.  With 39 + years of decorated legal experience, Attorney Patrick Sampair leads a distinguished team of attorneys with more than 60 combined years of experience in the field.

Other reasons to contact The Sampair Group for representation include

  • Free Consultation
  • Flat Fees
  • Pay As You Go Service (No Retainer or Deposit)
  • Limited Scope and Full-Service Representation

With locations in Glendale, Scottsdale, and Chandler, you can rest easy by contacting The Sampair Group, today!

What If the Other Parent Won’t Comply With the Court Order?

Unfortunately, having a court order for child custody doesn’t always guarantee that things will be smooth sailing. This is often the case when the other parent fails to comply with a custody order that has been issued by a judge. If you’re going through this, you may be wondering what recourse you have and what steps you should take next.

Document Everything

First and foremost, try to remain calm; emotions naturally run high when child custody agreements are not being followed. However, you will want to keep your composure as much as you can. Focus your efforts on documenting each instance where the other parent is not complying with the court order. If the parent is late picking up or dropping your child off, for example, be sure to write down the date(s) and the time(s) that this occurred.

The more documentation you have of the parent not following your court order, the better your case will look in court.

File a Motion to Enforce Parenting Time

The next step you will most likely want to take is to file a legal motion with the court; this is known as a motion to enforce parenting time. When you submit this motion, a judge will review your original court order, as well as any documentation or evidence you have gathered. In some cases, the other parent may be fined for violating the original custody order. In other cases, the judge may change the original custody order to give you more time with the child or make other alterations to the original agreement.

Attend Necessary Hearings

In some cases, a judge may request additional information from each party. When this occurs, a court hearing will be scheduled. Typically, both parties will be required to attend. This is an important time to bring any additional evidence or documentation you may have of the other parent’s failure to follow the original court order. At this hearing, you should also be prepared to hear counter-allegations that the other parent may have against you (whether they are true or not).

At the end of the hearing, the judge will most likely reach a decision on whether to alter the original court order or to impose fines (or even jail time) on the other parent.

Get the Legal Representation You Need

Dealing with a parent who does not follow your child custody order can be stressful and frustrating. The good news is that there are steps you can take to help get your order enforced. Still, the best way to navigate this complex legal process is to work with an experienced family law attorney. At The Sampair Group, we offer the representation and guidance you need during this difficult time. Find out more about our attorneys or schedule your free consultation with us today!

What Are Third Party Visitation Rights in Arizona?

According to the A.R.S § 25-409 statute, third-party rights in Arizona allow the placement of children into the home of a third party. The statute also grants third-party visitation rights in certain circumstances. When going through a divorce or paternity case, this statute is commonly referenced when rights and requests are petitioned to the court. If you’re a third party seeking visitation rights, keep reading to learn how this statute and others can be used in your favor.

How Do Visitation Rights Play Out in Arizona?

When a third party requests visitation rights in Arizona, this is what is known as atypical family law. During most divorce or paternity cases, the child’s best interest is always evaluated with both parents starting off on equal footing. However, during a third-party case, both parents are given an advantage over the third party because a parent always has rights unless they sign them away. This is what is referred to as a “mother and father having an equal constitutional right to provide the control, custody, care, and protection over their child. There is no such right for third parties.

When a third party intends to file a petition with the court to request third-party visitation rights, it must meet all criteria outlined in § 25-402, subsection B, paragraph 2:

  1. Must establish that the third party is standing in loco parentis to the child
  2. Must establish that removing the child from the legal parents’ home(s) is significant to the well-being of the child
  3. Within the prior year of filing the petition, there cannot be an entered or approved order regarding the legal decision-making of the child; the same applies for an order regarding parenting time; however, these criteria do not apply when the child currently resides in an environment that could bring serious endangerment to the child’s health, including its physical, mental, or emotional health
  4. One of the following criteria must be met:
  • A legal parent is deceased
  • The child’s legal parents are not legally married to one another when the third party files the petition
  • There is a proceeding for the dissolution of marriage between the legal parents when the petition is filed or the proceeding for a legal separation

When all four elements have been met in a manner in which it can be proved, then Rebuttable Presumption allows for the case to be set to trial.

If and when a trial takes place, the petitioner goes through the process of rebutting that the presumption of giving a parent the authority to be the sole legal decision-maker for the child is going to be in the best interest of the child. It is very important that clear evidence is obtained to make this claim and to file a petition. Without sufficient evidence establishing all four elements have been met, most petitions are quickly tossed from the court’s recognizance. Having a solid and experienced attorney who knows atypical family case law is essential to winning a third-party visitation case and is often the difference between an approved or denied petition.

image of father with two children

What to Do When Children Don’t Want to Go to Visitation

When a visitation schedule is set by a court order, following these orders should be pretty straight-forward…right? Well, not always. When a child no longer wants to attend a visitation with another parent, this can complicate matters significantly. By having a better understanding of why these issues arise and what your legal responsibilities are, you can handle this difficult situation properly.

Common Reasons for Visitation Hesitation

When a child seems hesitant or downright refuses to attend visitation with the other parent, the first step you’ll want to take is to determine why this is occurring. This is especially important is the hesitation seems to have come out of nowhere.

Some of the most common reasons that a child may not want to attend visitation include:

  • a poor relationship with the other parent’s partner/spouse or other children in the household
  • general resentment over a divorce or separation
  • a poor relationship with the other parent
  • a change in household rules or rituals that the child is uncomfortable with

Some less common (but more serious) reasons a child may be hesitant about visitation include:

  • substance abuse in the other home
  • physical/emotional abuse in the other home
  • sexual misconduct in the other home

Do You Have to Make Your Child Attend Visitation?

Unless you have a legal reason to withhold your child’s visitation from the other parent (such as evidence/claims of abuse or misconduct), it is generally your legal responsibility to follow your court-ordered parenting plan as closely as possible. This remains true even if the other parent is behind on child support payments.

If you suspect that your child simply doesn’t want to visit with the other parent due to other circumstances (like not wanting to be away from friends or having to conform to a different set of “house rules”), there are some strategies you can employ. The best course of action is usually to speak with the other parent and come up with a plan that will make everybody happier and more comfortable.

If visitation continues to be an issue, however, you can go back to court and request a re-working of the visitation plan. Before you do this, though, you’ll want to make sure the other parent is aware of the issues and that you have made an honest attempt to work through them. You’ll also want to start carefully documenting each instance where your child refuses or is hesitant to visit the other parent, as this documentation may come in handy in court.

Consult With a Family Lawyer for More Help

If you’re running into issues with your court-ordered visitation schedule, it can also be helpful to consult with a family lawyer who specializes in these types of cases. An experienced lawyer will be able to provide you with the personalized guidance and legal advice you need to move forward and challenge your current visitation arrangement in court if needed.

Ready to schedule your free consultation with our legal team? The Sampair Group is always here to assist you. Contact us today to find out more about what we can do for you.

image of parent pushing stroller

Modifying Your Child Support in Arizona

Many people who pay or receive child support end up having to go through some type of modification process. When child support is modified, this means the amount received or paid out will likely increase or decrease. A person paying child support who has a decrease in income will often ask for a modification to their child support payments. It’s important to remember, though, that child support modifications can’t be requested at all times. However, both parties, the one receiving the payments and the one making the payments, can put in modification requests if they meet certain criteria.

Always File Quickly

One of the keys to succeeding in a modification of child support is to file quickly. Even if you aren’t sure whether the case and criteria qualifies for a modification, you can still have ask for a modification review. If you fail to put in a modification request and you can’t afford your payments, the child support payments are still going to add up in arrearages every month. Even over a short period of time, these arrearages can turn into a substantial amount of debt that you can’t have dismissed. More so, interest will incur on the arrearages, further increasing your child support debt and making it harder to get caught up.

Another reason to file quickly is because if approved, the modification will begin from the date you filed. For those paying child support, you can save thousands of dollars by filing quickly and having the payments retroactively reduced fro the petition date. For those receiving child support, you can lose thousands of dollars if you fail to file a modification request quickly because the longer you wait, the more money you forfeit in the event the modification request is approved for a higher amount than what you are already receiving.

Remember the Retroactive Child Support Rule

Child support cannot be retroactively modified to a past date except for in two situations: retroactive modifications are permitted according to the date a Petition to Modify Child Support is filed, and in some cases, according to an initial child support award amount. The latter only applies to those who have never received a child support order. In this instance, the court will most times modify the award amount according to the date the partner stopped providing financial care to the child.

Know What You Have to Prove

To take the headache out of going through the child support process, it’s important to know what to expect; this applies to both parties. For those who are petitioning to receive child support payments, it’s pertinent to understand that you and the person you are petitioning will have to provide income information. This is because the amount awarded is determined by both parties’ income and expenses as well as the difference in those amounts.

For those who have received a petition for child support, you will have to provide income and employment information as well as payroll and banking information, if you have it, so that child support payments can be automatically deducted from your bank account or paycheck. Having the payments come directly out of your banking account or paycheck is helpful in ensuring you don’t get behind on payments.

In most cases when receiving an Affidavit of Financial Information, you will need to gather the following:

  • Tax returns
  • Pay stubs
  • W2s
  • Alternative forms of proof for any income deriving from self-employment

The process of modifying a child support in Arizona can be easy if you file the petition quickly and have all necessary information and documentation gathered and ready to submit. So, don’t wait.

Co-Parenting Tips During COVID-19

Co-parenting is already a challenge. Any disruption can make it even more challenging. COVID-19 has changed the way the world works. That also means it’s changed many parenting schedules. While you need to remain flexible during something like a pandemic, there are also boundaries that must not be crossed. Here are some tips for protecting your children and your relationships with them during COVID-19.

Set Boundaries Early On

Talk to your co-parent about COVID-19. Are you against your children returning to school? Do you need them to engage in certain precautions? What is your stance on them interacting with their peers? Different people have different levels of risk. Some may want their children entirely quarantined, while others may be okay with them seeing some friends if social distancing remains in effect. You need to communicate with your co-parent about what your boundaries are and negotiate reasonable strategies.

Consider Your Parenting Time

Understand that you might need to modify your established schedules. It’s not going to be reasonable, for instance, for children to go between households every week during the pandemic. This is especially true if one parent has a high-risk job, such as a job on the frontlines. A temporary agreement for parenting time may need to be invoked, so you can keep your family safe while remaining safe yourself.

Review Your Medical Rights

Sometimes both parents have medical rights for their children. Sometimes only one does. This is a good time to review your rights. If you want to get your children a vaccine in the future, can their other parent block you? If they want to take your children in for testing, will you be notified? Look over your medical rights with your attorney if you are concerned, it may be time to modify your rights to better suit the situation.

Have a Plan in Place

What happens if you test positive for COVID? What about your co-parent? What if both of you test positive for COVID? You should create plans with your co-parent regarding these types of emergencies. You might not have time when they are actually happening, or you could suddenly find out that your co-parent isn’t on the same page as you. You should also consider what you’ll do if your children test positive but you and your co-parent don’t. At that point, it may be better to limit risk by keeping them with one parent.

Talk to Your Attorney

If you’re having issues with your co-parent, you should consult with your attorney before the issues become any more severe. An attorney doesn’t have to escalate the situation. Rather, they can educate you on your options, and methods by which you and your co-parent can come to an agreement. In the time of COVID, situations can become more dangerous and more aggressive quite quickly. It’s best to have plans in place before they become urgent, rather than later.

COVID-19 will pass. But it’s important to establish healthy relationships with your co-parent and your children. Long-term, what happens now is going to affect your family. If you feel that you need help, it’s time to contact an attorney.

Modifying Your Child Support Order

Under federal and state law, parents have a right to request a modification of a child support order. Both parents must reach an agreement to modify the child support order. If there is no agreement between both parties, a judge can be asked to approve the change as long as it is explained why the modification need is justified and how the amount modification that is requested will benefit the child. In this court hearing, you must be able to show evidence that circumstances have changed since the existing order. Depending on the circumstances, the judge will decide if the modification will be temporary or permanent. A permanent modification order will remain in effect until child support is no longer needed, or if the order is again modified in the future. If you are unsure of whether you have valid reasons for a child support order modifications, contact a Glendale Family Law professional. Here are some examples of the types of changes that support a modification order:

Temporary

  • a child’s medical emergency
  • a temporary inability for the payer to be able to make child support payments, whether it be for a illness, temporary financial burden, medical emergency
  • temporary financial or medical hardship for the recipient parent

Permanent

  • either parent has lost their job or gets new employment with a decreased income
  • one or both parents remarry and the new spouse’s income increases the household income
  • the cost of living increases  for one or both parents
  • either parent becomes disabled
  • the child’s needs have changed (education, health, etc.)
  • child support laws have changed

 

Through Arizona Child Support Order Guidelines, when one parent files a Petition to Modify Child Support, the filing party will serve the other party with the petition, allowing for response from the other party, who may choose to do nothing or request a hearing. If the party that is served with the petition is a resident of Arizona, they have 20 days from the date served to respond. If they are not a resident of Arizona, they have 30 days to respond. It is then up to the judge to set a hearing date and decide how to proceed with the case.

If you have found yourself in a situation where you are unable to pay support because you have lost a job or your income has decreased significantly, do not wait to modify your child support order. Contact an experience Phoenix divorce lawyer at The Sampair Group for legal representation in any family law dispute.

Homeschooling and Child Custody

Homeschooling has become more and more popular in recent years. Some parents choose this option for religious reasons, others because they simply believe their child will be better served by education at home. Homeschooling can become an issue in a custody case in several situations. When a parenting plan is being created, the plan has to work with the schooling schedule. Sometimes one parent opposes homeschooling and would prefer a child attend public or private schools and will not consent to homeschooling.

In Arizona, the parent with legal decision-making authority makes the decision about how and where the child will be educated. If legal decision-making is being decided by the court and the parents have differing views on schooling, this may play a part in the decision the court makes. The custody decision is made based on what is in the child’s best interests. One of the factors considered by the court in this analysis is the child’s adjustment to school. If a child is currently homeschooled, the court will examine how the child is doing and if remaining in homeschooling would benefit the child. If the child is currently in a traditional school, the court will again examine the child’s progress and determine if remaining in the school or switching to homeschooling is best.

Homeschooling is legal and is considered an appropriate education as long as the parent providing the education meets the standards and requirements set by the state. In the past, homeschooling may have been a negative factor, but today it is considered acceptable.

If you are involved in a custody battle involving homeschooling, gather records and evidence that demonstrate your child’s progress (or lack of progress) in the current schooling environment. If your child was previously involved in a different kind of schooling, evidence of how well your child fared in that environment will provide needed contrast.

Call the Sampair Group for advice in your custody case in the Glendale, Mesa, and Phoenix areas of Arizona. We are ready to help you with your case.

Termination of Parental Rights

Termination of parental rights permanently ends the legal parent-child relationship. Once these rights are terminated, a child may be adopted without parental consent.

Termination of parental rights may be voluntary, based on the informed consent of the parent, or it may be involuntary, a result of court proceedings brought against the parent.

In Arizona, courts will only involuntarily terminate parental rights in extreme situations, such as the child being in serious emotional or physical danger, and the termination of the parental rights is in the best interest of the child.

A parent is deemed unfit if any of the following conditions apply:

  • Abandonment of the child
  • Sever or chronic abuse or neglect
  • Long-term illness or deficiency of the parent
  • Long-term alcohol or drug induced incapacity of the parent
  • Abuse or neglect of other children in the household
  • Felony conviction or incarceration
  • Failure to establish paternity
  • Murder or manslaughter of a sibling child
  • Felony assault of child or sibling
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Failure of Reasonable Efforts

There are circumstances, however, that are not considered valid grounds for termination. Some parties that have been through a divorce seek to terminate a parent’s rights because they do not pay child support or do not follow the visitation schedule. These are not sufficient grounds for a termination of parent rights proceeding.

If parents decide to place their child or children for adoption, it is considered to be voluntary termination of parental rights.

Under Arizona law, the right to file an action for the termination of parental rights goes to any person or agency with an interest in the welfare of the child. The action can be filed as long as the person taking the action has sufficient grounds to base the claim. The people and agencies that often petition for termination of parental rights are relatives, foster parents, physicians/nurses, Arizona Child Protective Services, and child welfare agencies.

If you are thinking of relinquishing your parent’s rights or have been served with an involuntary termination proceeding order, it is best to get legal advice from a Phoenix Family Law Attorney at the Sampair Group. The experienced child custody attorneys at Sampair represent individuals throughout the valley with locations in Phoenix, Glendale and Mesa.

Prevent Co-Parenting Failures

Learning to co-parent after a divorce or separation involves a learning curve. Even though you’ve been parents together for your child’s entire life, your relationship and situation is different after a divorce. Avoid these common pitfalls as you create a co-parenting relationship that will hopefully work for many years.

  • Ignoring the terms of the agreement. You have an order that spells your parenting schedule. You and your ex need to be flexible and ready to make changes as both of you will need accommodations from time to time. However it’s important to respect the basic terms of the order and the overall split of time. The written order should be what you follow as much of the time as possible. The details matter, such as transfer times, and these should not be lost.
  • Misunderstanding motives. If you and your ex don’t actually talk about things, it’s easy to assume he or she is trying to make your life difficult or stick it to you. Try to avoid the blame game and simply assume good motives whenever possible. In the end, motivation doesn’t really matter – you need to deal with the actual situation itself, not the reasons behind it.
  • Incorrect focus. The point of your co-parenting agreement or order is to provide your child with meaningful contact with both parents. The order is not supposed to be about putting parent’s wishes first. The focus is supposed to be on the child. Staying focused on that will allow both of you to live the agreement more easily.
  • No partnership. To parent together you have to see yourselves as on the same team. People on the same team cooperate, root for each other, and share common goals and plans. It can be hard to get to the place where you are able to cooperate, but you will likely feel much more in balance if you can reach this point.

The Sampair Group is ready to represent you in your family court case in the Glendale, Mesa, and Phoenix areas of Arizona. Schedule a time to speak with one of our skilled attorneys.