Whether you are going through a divorce or need to establish legal guardianship or paternity, family law can be complicated to navigate without a lawyer. Even after orders come down from the judge “changes in circumstances” occur and often these Family Orders need to be modified. The outcome of every family case can change your life forever. Additionally, a modification to an Arizona family order can make a bad situation better.
At My AZ Lawyers, our experienced family attorneys will discuss all your unique concerns. However, we also appreciate the importance of immediate answers. Therefore, below are some answers to commonly asked Arizona family law questions and FAQs regarding Modifications of Family Orders. For additional information, call our Arizona Family Lawyers at (480) 448-9800. We offer free initial consultations either over the phone or in one of our conveniently located Arizona Family Law Offices.
REASONS WHY A JUDGE MIGHT CHANGE A CHILD CUSTODY ORDER
Custody order modification attorney in Arizona
Some of the reasons a judge might change a child custody order include:
One parent moving away– When one parent needs to move for work or other reasons, this can throw a wrench into existing child custody orders. Especially for out of state parents, visitation and full time custody may be infeasible. Parents who evenly split custody may need to switch to a more creative schedule, such as summer breaks and other vacations with the out of state parent. If one parent’s move makes visitation too burdensome, or moving or staying with one parent would have a positive or negative impact on the child’s life, a modification will be granted.
Changing needs of the child– Children’s needs change as they age, and some children may have injuries or medical conditions that affect how the child should be cared for. For example, if a child has a chronic medical condition and one parent is able to work remotely and care for the child during the day, a modification may be granted.
The parents’ circumstances have changed– One parent may experience a permanent change in income, have another child, win the lottery, etc. All of this could warrant a modification of child support, and possibly even child custody.
The child’s safety is at risk– If a child is being physically, emotionally, sexually, or psychologically abused, neglected, surrounded by dangerous people and drug use, or if one parent has mental health issues that affect the child’s safety, a modification may be necessary.
One parent refusing to follow custody orders- The parent who is following custody orders should document each time the other parent fails to comply with current orders. That parent may either be granted extra visitation to account for time lost, or receive primary custody of the child.
FAQs REGARDING MODIFICATIONS IN ARIZONA FAMILY LAW ORDERS
A parent may want to modify child support after experiencing an income reduction. For example, they may develop an injury or disability, be fired, become incarcerated, or retire. The parent may also marry a new spouse who is their dependent and have more children. New expenses like these are taken into account when determining how much child support should be paid.
Custody may be modified for a number of reasons. One parent may not be providing a safe environment for the child due to drugs and alcohol use, mental illness, an unreputable new partner, etc. One parent may relocate, making the current custody order impossible to maintain. The child’s needs and wishes may change as they age. Custody may also be modified if one parent is refusing to comply with the current order and withholds parenting time.
The orders currently in place won’t automatically change once you apply to modify. If the request is contested by the other party, you will both appear in court to argue your position. You may need to present evidence and interview witnesses to show why the modification should be granted. The other party will have the chance to present their side of the argument before the judge will issue a ruling on the modification.
To avoid an undue burden on the courts, property division orders are often non-modifiable. Spousal support orders are often non-modifiable as well. Because it is impossible to foresee the needs of a growing child, child support and child custody orders can be modified, with some restrictions.
Oftentimes, a parent will request a child support modification thinking that their payments will be reduced. However, that parent may fail to consider other forms of income, and the court recognizes that children’s expenses increase as they get older. Many child support orders even include automatic yearly modifications to adjust for inflation. If you want to modify your child support to have it reduced, you should consult with a family law attorney first to make sure your support payments won’t actually be increased.
It is a common misconception that you are constitutionally guaranteed a court-appointed attorney in all legal matters. Unfortunately, despite the important role family law plays in our society, this right only extends to criminal matters. If you want an attorney to represent you in your family law matter, finding and retaining that attorney will be your own responsibility.
You are not required to hire an attorney, and will need to represent yourself if you choose not to hire one. If you are getting divorced and it is uncontested by your spouse, you may be able to get by without an attorney if the marriage was of short duration, you have no minor children, etc. Otherwise, issues like asset and debt division may be irreversibly mishandled without attorney representation.
You will need to learn the residency requirements of your state before deciding where to file your case. In Arizona, the residency requirement to file for divorce is 90 days. A child must have resided in Arizona for at least 6 months before having jurisdiction over a custody or child support matter.
There is an exception to the one year waiting period for custody modifications when the current arrangement is unsafe for the child. An emergency custody modification can be brought at any time, regardless of when the last modification was granted.
Yes. If the other parent has withheld visitation or otherwise not complied with family law orders, the judge may grant a modification to “make up” for the time lost with your child. The judge may also determine that the child would be better placed in your primary care if you cooperate with court orders and attempt to co-parent while the other parent fails to do the same.
A modification hearing is only necessary if the other parent contests the modification. You may petition the court for a modification, and the other parent can respond with agreement. Unless the agreement has glaringly obvious pitfalls for the child, this will help the parents avoid going back to court. If the parents are unable to reach agreement on their own, mediation may be another option before resorting to litigation.