Inheritance and Divorce

When going through a divorce, a big concern for either party may be how it will affect inheritance you have received before and during the marriage. Generally, equitable distribution and community property distribution in divorce cases do not apply to property that a spouse has inherited from a third party during a marriage, as it is considered that spouse’s property alone. However, there are some things both parties should know about how divorce can affect inheritance distribution.

When analyzing the inheritance, the key questions are the size of inheritance, when it was received, how it has been used and the financial needs of the family (both parties and any children) at the time of the divorce. Each case depends on the individual facts and circumstances surrounding the inheritance.

A judge will consider what property a party owns separately, and what can be considered marital property. Marital property will be split equally, whereas separate property will not be split, but can still be shared in certain circumstances.

In deciding the difference of the property ownership, the judge considers how, when, why and under what circumstances the property was received. They will also look at how the property is being held currently (who’s name the property is under). Also considered in the case is what each spouse contributed to the property and how much they each use it. (Example: If the property is in the wife’s name, but the husband is the only one who uses it and maintains it, just as he would if he were a co-owner of the property.)

If inherited assets are held in joint names or used for the benefit of both parties and/or for the family, they will likely be considered joint assets when being divided by the court.

If assets were inherited shortly before the divorce proceedings began, they are less likely to be included in the matrimonial assets for division, depending on if there are other assets in the marriage sufficient enough to meet future needs of the couple or family.

One of the main considerations by a judge is the needs of the family, especially those of minor children. If the only way to meet those needs is by transferring inherited assets or assets deriving from them to the other party, the court will do so.

Inheritances and separate property are very big reasons for why couples should look into prenuptial agreements and always have an experienced Phoenix divorce lawyer on their side. There are many rules that apply to parties dividing property in the event of a divorce or separation case, especially when children are involved. Consult the advice of an experienced attorney at The Sampair Group today to discuss the circumstances of your case and what your legal options are.

5 Signs of Impending Divorce

1. You Think Of Life Without Your Spouse
During marital problems, one or both spouses may have thoughts of how much better life would/could be if they were divorced. If you are constantly thinking about divorce, it’s a sign that you feel stuck and don’t see any solution to your marital problems.

2. Disconnection
If you’re no longer spending time together and you feel relief when your spouse isn’t around, it’s a sign that you have disconnected from each other and are both already disengaged from the marriage.

3. No Conflict Resolution
A lack of effective conflict resolution can be detrimental to a marriage. Not being able to resolve differences without avoiding disagreement and conflict can lead to a loss of respect, which can increase distance and cause withdrawal between spouses.

4. Disaffection
Emotional disengagement is usually accompanied with a lack of affection or complete disappearance of it. If you have separated from each other emotionally, it’s likely that you don’t feel much love for each other.

5. Increased Focus Outside of the Marriage
Once a marriage gets disconnected enough, each spouse will start focusing less on the marriage and more on outside activities. This could include immersing themselves in the lives of their children, working late nights at their career or pouring themselves into future careers.

Going through a divorce is a confusing and stressful time. Contact an experienced Phoenix divorce attorney at The Sampair Group for more information.

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.

Different Types of Child Custody

Each state governs child custody laws differently. In order to best understand your options for child custody and visitation options, you should be familiar with the different terms and types of child custody and how your Phoenix child custody attorney will help you approach the different options you can consider.

Legal Custody

When a parent has legal custody, they have the right to make any decisions regarding the need and upbringing of the child. This includes decisions about education, health care and religion, as long as there is consultation with the other parent.
In many states, both parents will be granted joint legal custody and can both have legal rights to making decisions about how to raise their children. Parents can share joint legal custody without having joint physical custody.
When sole legal custody is granted to a parent, the one granted this kind of custody is the only one who has the legal authorization to make major decisions on behalf of the child.

Physical Custody
Also called “residential custody,” sole physical custody refers to which parent the child lives with a majority of the time and only has visitation with the other parent. If the child is spending an equal amount of time with each parent, the state might award the parents join physical custody. This type of custody works best if the parents live relatively near each other as it lessens the interference in the child’s every day life.

Sole Custody
One of the reasons a parent might be awarded sole custody is if the other parent is proven to be extremely unfit to care for the child (i.e. drug or alcohol problems, charges of child abuse or neglect).
In many states, courts will hesitate to award sole legal custody to a parent to try and enlarge the role that both parents can possibly make in the child’s life will still considering the child’s best interest.

Joint Custody
This is the most common types of custody awarded in divorce cases when no parental issues exist. Joint custody is awarded equally to each parent and can take the form of joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both. Joint custody can be granted if the parents are divorced, separated, no longer living together, or even if they have never lived together.

In Arizona, statute provides that the court may not prefer one parent to another with respect to custody based on the gender of either parent. They are required to determine the best interest of the minor children by applying the statutory factors regarding custody and parenting time in correlation with the facts of the case. Contact an experienced Glendale family law attorney at The Sampair Group today for legal representation in your divorce and child custody hearing.

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.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Your Parenting Plan

Once you have a temporary or permanent parenting plan, it’s important to talk with your kids about it so they understand not only what the actual schedule is but the intent behind it.  If at all possible, it’s a good idea to talk to your children together as parents. This sends an important message that even though you are divorced or separated, you are continuing to parent together. This is also a good idea so that you can give your children one cohesive message. If you talk to them separately there will be differences in what you say as well as your tone.

Emphasize that the parenting plan is a way for them to spend lots of time with both of you. Even if you don’t believe it, tell them it is a fair way for everyone to share time. Explain the schedule, using the visual aid of a calendar for younger children. It can help to color each parent’s days a different color.

Remember that the details matter to your kids. They want to know when and where they are being picked up and dropped off. They want to know where they are sleeping. They want to know how this affects their homework, their chores, their sleeping arrangements, their after school activities, their screen time and more. If you don’t have all the details worked out it’s ok. Tell them what you do know and reassure them that you will figure the rest out as a family as you move forward.

Make time for your children to ask questions and be prepared that the questions will pop up at odd times in the coming weeks and months. Do your best to answer honestly without involving them in the conflict between their parents.

The Sampair Group is ready to represent you in your family law matter in Maricopa County. We are sensitive to all of your concerns and work with you throughout the case. Call us today for an appointment.

Social Media And Your Divorce

In today’s culture, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media and professional networking sites and applications have become a big part of how people interact with each other. Profiles are constantly being updated with shared information about our lives, jobs, etc. When a husband and wife going through a divorce are sharing this information on social networks without considering the potential consequences, it can be detrimental to the already existing stress that comes with the breakup of a marriage. The divorce process is full of stressors including legal, financial, and emotional battles between both parties, and the use of social media doesn’t make it any easier.

Be careful about who you trust on your social media profiles. Not every “friend” is a friend, and sometimes a message you thought to be private turns out to be public information that can be used against you. When posting on your social networking profiles, keep in mind the mutual friends of you and your former spouse. Some of these friends might be on your side, but some of them can easily turn on you or use information on your profile against you when taking the side of your ex, all because of something you may have posted on Facebook.

Information exchanged via technology such as emails or text messages can possibly be subpoenaed and picked through as admissible evidence in court. In many cases, one or both parties of the divorce process will claim to not have enough money for child support, spousal support, or other payments, but their Facebook profile picture of them with a new boat or on a fancy vacation may prove otherwise. The credibility of any parties that do this can be called into question immediately.

Take a few minutes to reflect on the nature of your social media posts. It would be wise to not post anything on these profiles that you wouldn’t say in person to the whole world. Information on the Internet doesn’t ever just go away immediately if it’s deleted. Exercise caution, discretion and good judgment when updating your profile. Don’t be malicious or talk poorly about your ex, as this information can quickly be used against you.

Have a discussion with your former partner to formulate a sort of social media agreement. Such issues should be addressed like what kind of information should not be posted by either of you, can you post pictures of your kids, etc. Establish one kind of communication between the two of you, such as email, to create a lower risk of impulsive comments on various types of networks. One tweet or wall post can quickly generate irreversible damage and lead to much more conflict in a divorce proceeding than you expected. Many family law attorneys will also recommend to clients that it would be in the best interest of all involved in the divorce to shut down social media profiles at the start of the divorce process.

Divorce is hard enough, and a frequent online presence can cause big problems. It is important to discuss your online presence with a legal professional. Phoenix divorce lawyers at The Sampair Group will help you understand which information is worth protecting as you battle the issues in a divorce process. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.

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.

Make Co-Parenting Work

Whether or not you get along with your ex, co-parenting can be difficult and cause tension that may or may not already have existed. Here are some tips to making co-parenting work without hostility, and more importantly, without negatively affecting your child.

  • Don’t criticize the things you cannot control. Learn to accept that your ex’s parenting style or skills may be different than yours. It’s easy to spend a lot of time and energy being aggravated by the things they do or don’t do, but accepting the things you cannot change will save you a great deal of stress, both emotionally and physically. Instead, channel this energy into spending quality time with your children.
  • If you have any angry feelings, keep them to yourself or express them privately to a therapist or close friend. When you are with your kids, do not express your frustrations. Showing the kids you are angry at your ex can cause confusion from the children and can be unhealthy for them to be exposed to. Kids tend to pick up attitudes that you may not realize your expressing.
  • Be sure to cooperate with each other as much as possible to avoid any resentment or argument. Be consistent in your parenting styles by communicating and compromising on ways to punish or reward your child for certain behaviors so that the child doesn’t think they can get away with something with one parent that they may not be able to with another without consequence.
  • When it comes to following a visitation schedule, always be responsible in maintaining the plan of visits. If changes need to be made, discuss it with the other parent in advance.
  • Do not make your children the middle form of communication. Sending messages through your children can hurt the child and confuse them. All communication should only be done between parents.
  • Even if it is your time with the kids, make a point to invite the other parents to events that involve the child, such as sporting events, holiday gatherings and birthday parties. Inform your ex in a timely matter so it doesn’t appear to be a last-minute thought that they weren’t a part of before.

Co-parenting and other elements of child custody cases can be stressful and confusing. An experienced Glendale divorce lawyer at The Sampair Group will look at the unique circumstances of your child custody agreement and work with you to reach the best possible outcome. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Understanding QDROs

Retirement accounts and pension plans are an important part of the community property division in a divorce. If either you or your spouse have an employer pension plan that was added to during your marriage, it is a marital asset and community property, even if only one spouse’s name is actually on the account. This asset is divided in the divorce, but divvying it up is much more complex than simply splitting up a bank account or changing the title on a car. Because the money in these accounts generally cannot be transferred by the owner’s request, there is a complex process that must take place to be able to move the funds out and give them to the other spouse as part of the divorce settlement or order.

To access the funds in the account that you and your spouse or a judge has decided should be transferred, your attorney must prepare a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, called a QDRO (pronounced “quadro”). This document must be prepared to meet the specifications of the individual pension plan or account. The court signs the order and it is sent to the company that manages and administers the account. If the document meets the requirements set up by the Administrator of the Plan being divided, the funds can be transferred to an account for the receiving spouse. In other words the receiving spouse now has a “sub-account” in the ex-spouse’s Plan, in her name. She is restricted by the same rules as the Plan Participant when it comes to withdrawing the money. Occasionally the Plan will allow the receiving spouse to roll her share of the Plan into a Rollover IRA account. Talk to your attorney to get details about QDROs and whether one is needed in your case.  Your attorney can also advise you as to the actions you need to take if you receive QDRO funds to avoid tax issues.

The Sampair Group handles complex financial divorces in Maricopa County, Arizona. Our office is conveniently located to serve you and is ready to take your call. Make an appointment now.