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How Does My Mental Health Affect My Child Custody Rights?

In general, your mental health is nobody’s business of your own. When it comes to a child custody dispute, however, it is common for mental health concerns to be brought forward by an ex-spouse or soon-to-be ex spouse. Unfortunately, an ex may bring up a parent’s existing mental health condition(s) in an effort to have their custody rights reduced or revoked.

So, how does your mental health actually affect your custody rights? By having a better understanding of how this all works, you can be prepared from a legal standpoint.

When Mental Health Matters in Child Custody

Ultimately, the goal of any child custody decision is to do what is in the child’s best interests. Therefore, a parent’s existing mental health condition doesn’t necessarily matter so long as the condition is well controlled—whether it be through therapy, medication, or another type of management/treatment.

Typically, a judge will look at two main factors when making child custody decisions with mental health concerns in mind. For starters, the judge will want to make sure that your mental health condition does not prevent you from being self-sufficient. After all, you cannot be expected to care for a child if you have trouble meeting your own daily needs.

Likewise, a judge will want to know that your mental health condition is predictable and/or well regulated. For example, if you have a mental health condition that has led to instances of self-harm or attempted self-harm in the past, this could end up being a concern when it comes to child custody.

If You Have a Mental Health Condition…

Keep in mind that mental health conditions are very common; in fact, it is estimated that more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives. With this in mind, simply having a mental health condition does not automatically mean that your custody rights are in jeopardy.

However, if your ex has brought your mental health condition up as a “concern” in your child custody dispute, then it is important for you to understand your rights. Likewise, it is vital that you show as much proof or documentation as possible that your condition is controlled and that you remain entirely self-sufficient.

A Family Attorney Can Help

Looking for assistance in handling your child custody dispute? An experienced family lawyer from The Sampair Group is here to represent you and work with our best interests in mind. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

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.

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.

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.

Child Relocation in Arizona

Following a divorce that involves a child or children, the custodial parents may wish to relocate with the children. By Arizona state law, the court cannot keep a custodial parent from relocating, but a compromise can be difficult to negotiate between parents when visitation rights will be affected. As a result, these cases are typically resolved in court.

Many child custody orders require that both parents live in the same state. However, the custodial parent has the right to request relocation for a child, as long as the reasons for relocation are legitimate and in the best interest of the child. Child relocation is often granted in situations that involve the custodial parent getting a new job or remarrying.

If both parents already live in the same state and share custody, the parent that wants to relocate with the child more than 100 miles from their current residence must provide written notice 60 days in advance of a projected move. The non-custodial parent then has a 30-day window to decline the request. If they object, they must file a formal objection with the court, where a judge will set a hearing with both parents present to decide if the move is in the best interest of the child. If there is no response to the written notice, the court will assume that there is no objection, and will grant relocation, given that all reasons for relocation are valid in opinion of a judge. During this process, child custody agreements, child support payments, and visitation will be re-litigated.

Before approving relocation, the court must make specific findings and relevant factors that solidify that the relocation is being decided in the best interest of the child. The parent who wants to relocate has the legal burden of proving what is in the child’s best interest.

Examples of factors that the court will consider include:

  • Reasons that the custodial parent wants to relocate (employment, family support, etc.)
  • How the move will impact the child educationally and emotionally
  • How the move will affect the other parent’s ability to visit the child

If you need representation in a family law dispute, contact an experience Phoenix Family Law attorney at The Sampair Group today to get a decision made in your favor.

When Is It Possible To Change A Child Support Order?

Our lives are always in a constant state of change. A divorce definitely shakes things up and can bring many more changes that create havoc in your life. Many times, due to a change in your livelihood, fulfilling your obligations to child support orders can become difficult. While laws will vary by state, most courts will need a compelling reason to make a modification to your child support order.

While not always, but at times, it is possible to request a modification to the original child support order. This is no easy task, but situations in your life may meet the criteria for such a request. With support and proper direction, you may be successful.

It is important to remember that you need more than just a verbal agreement with the other parent if you decide to pay what is contrary in the written order. A future dispute with the other parent may prove to be an unfavorable outcome for you if there is no legal change to your support orders. Even if there is a new written agreement, be sure that you have the judge sign the agreement so the current order reflects the newly agreed upon amount.

Let’s take a brief look at the beginning process of modifying a child support order and what information you will need to tackle the challenge ahead.

  1. You may be able to request modifications to your child support order if your job has been lost or your financial situation has changed negatively. If you simply feel your child support order is unfair or unreasonable, you may seek a modification, as well.
  2. It will be necessary to file the appropriate paperwork with the desired modifications. In the event that changes are not agreed upon between the parents, you will have the opportunity to present your case to the judge.
  3. A modification to child support orders can be permanent or just temporary; this will depend on the circumstances surrounding the reason for the request.

Child support obligations can be financially taxing, and you have the right to request a modification if your finances change. It is always a good idea to seek legal advice and guidance to ensure you take the appropriate course of action. There are many lawyers who specialize in custody cases, and most of them have an extensive amount of knowledge relating to child support orders. You can speak with one of these lawyers to see if you have a favorable case to present to a judge.

Three Things To Avoid If You Want To Keep Custody Of Your Kids

Getting divorced involves making decisions on many things. Some of the choices, like who gets the CD collection, are easy when compared to other issues that must be tackled. Among the most difficult things to decide during divorce are how to divide assets and liabilities, and who gets custody of the children. Making sure your kids are safe and happy are our priority as well, which is why we take an aggressive position when advocating for your children and offer advice on how you can help your cause.

A recent article regarding a celebrity who lost custody claims the result was due to actress’ Kelly Rutherford’s alleged interference with the relationship her children had with her ex. This scenario is being seen more frequently and is referred to as parental alienation syndrome (PAS), which is described as a pattern of behavior by one parent that influences the way a child feels about the other. The instances of PAS seem to be increasing, and as more claims are made it is likely the Courts will begin considering this type of activity when deciding custody. Three other things to avoid if you want to keep custody of your kids include:

  • Stay off social media! Things you post can come back to haunt you, and may even cost you custody.
  • Keep your friends close, but stop short of divulging every detail of your case. The more you keep to yourself, the less chance you have of putting friends and family in the awkward position of having to offer testimony that may damage your case.
  • Stay out of trouble with the law. Judges can be hesitant to give custody to parents that have a lengthy criminal record.

The bottom line is that custody and even visitation issues will be determined by an examination of factors the Court believes are in the “best interests of your kids”. Every case is different; but common themes include whether the home is stable, the wishes of the children (for older, more mature kids), the strength of any existing relationship with each parent, the ability of the parents to provide for the emotional and financial needs of the kids, and how well the kids will be able to adjust to a new environment if a change of school or other regular activities is made.

Let us put our experience to work for you. Call The Sampair Group in Phoenix and the West Valley today.