Written by Canterbury Law Group

Pet Custody in Arizona

A beloved cat, dog, or any other animal can be as important as a child to some couples. So it can be heartbreaking to leave a pet with an ex spouse if the couple gets divorced. It should be noted that pets are not considered similar to children under Arizona law, even though they may feel that way.  By law, pets are property.  However, divorcing couples can include pet care concerns in the legal proceedings to give them some consideration under the law.

Legally speaking, pets fall under the category of personal property that can be divided during divorce. But, if the animal in question is separately owned by one of the spouses, then that is an asset that cannot be divided. In other words, the other spouse cannot claim ownership. However, Arizona’s pet custody cases are increasingly being contested because most couples raise animals together, like children.

Determining Pet Ownership During Divorce

There are several factors the court will consider when determining who owns the pet. If the pet was owned by one spouse before the marriage, then ownership is clear, the premarital assets of either spouse remain that way after divorce.  Some consumers have a deep misconception in Arizona that if anyone owns an animal for 6 consecutive days then that person becomes the lawful owner of the animal.  This so-called “6-day rule” is codified at Arizona Revised Statutes Section 11-1001(10). However, the rule exists for animal control purposes, and does not determine final ownership.  Put another way, the 6-day rule has little or nothing to do with which spouse will exit a marriage with the family pet.

Getting Primary Pet Custody

The court will look at evidence to support claims of ownership. What matters here is who the primary caretaker of the animal. If one spouse trained the dog, is responsible for feeding the dog and taking it on daily walks, then that spouse would be the primary caretaker of the animal. When fighting for animal custody, demonstrate how much time and effort you dedicate to taking care of the pet. That’s what matters the most when it comes to ownership.  Judges are like anyone else—they are fair and equitable and should award the pet to the spouse who has that pet’s best interests in mind.

Additionally, the court will consider children’s wellbeing if any pets are involved. If the pet is important for the psychological well-being of the children, then the pet will likely go to the spouse that has primary custody of the children. It happens in most cases, though not all.  Family law litigation, by definition, is unpredictable.

Keep in mind that the court will also consider the financial situation of the spouses when granting pet ownership. If the animal in question requires significant resources to take care of, like a horse, then the spouse will need to demonstrate financial stability to own the animal post-Decree.

Sharing Pet Custody

If the court cannot determine just one owner, or if the separating spouses are willing, pet custody can be shared. In this scenario, the divorcing couple could agree on a pet visitation schedule. A divorce lawyer in Scottsdale can help you draft a reasonable pet parenting schedule.

This “pet parenting time” plans are not the same as child parenting time, which are actively reviewed by the court. But if one spouse neglects the rules in the schedule, such as failing to show up for dog walking time, then that can be used as evidence in court in an ownership battle.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

The Role of Parenting Coordinators in Arizona Child Custody Cases

Arizona Rules of Family Law, under Rule 74, allows judges to appoint a parenting coordinator in divorce and child custody cases. So what exactly is a parenting coordinator? How will having one affect the case? Are parenting coordinators good for children? This article will touch on these questions and briefly explain how parenting coordinators could benefit (or not) from a family law dispute.

What are Parenting Coordinators in Arizona?

Recently, many states have begun to appoint parenting coordinators in child custody cases. Arizona has had a parenting coordinator rule since 2011, and it was amended in 2016. A parenting coordinator, in simple terms, is a third party appointed by a judge to resolve or alleviate disputes between parents fighting for child custody. Many types of professionals can be appointed as a parenting coordinator. Usually, a child psychologist, a therapist or even a family law attorney is appointed a parenting coordinator.

In Arizona, parenting coordinators have what’s called “quasi-judicial” authority. This authority is limited under the law. Parenting coordinators cannot actually change how legal decisions are made in the child custody case. However, parenting coordinators have the authority to step in and resolve some disputes arising from conflicts not specified in the court-approved parenting plan.  Both parents must agree to use a PC for each one year term assigned by the judge.  If at any time the other parent does not want the PC term to renew, the PC concludes their term and is no longer involved.   

What do Parenting Coordinators Do?

It’s important to understand that parenting coordinators cannot change any clauses in the parenting plan. But other things that parents disagree with, which are not explicitly stated in the plan, can be resolved with intervention from the parenting coordinator.   Think of a PC as a referee—hired by the court—to keep the case out of court ideally.  

Parenting coordinators, for example, can step in and help when parents disagree about pick up and drop off locations of kids when sharing joint custody. Parenting coordinators can also resolve other problems with regards to holiday scheduling, meeting dates and times, and after-school activities. The law allows parenting coordinators to resolve disputes related to personal care, health, school choice, discipline and managing problem behavior in children.

Parenting coordinators, however, are not judges and their authority to solve issues are limited by law. Therefore, it’s still highly recommended to get Family Law help in Scottsdale if you and your ex cannot civilly agree on how the kids are taken care of. It’s best to have a parenting coordinator and a lawyer present during the case. If you want to change the parenting plan, it will require the assistance of a family lawyer and go to court by formal motion to the judge.  

Why Have a Parenting Coordinator?

Divorcing parents can disagree on many things from serious issues like children’s health to minor problems like how to cut a child’s hair or ear piercings (it happens). Parenting coordinators can step in and restore sanity to a situation when parents are unable to negotiate peacefully.

The alternative to having a parenting coordinator is time-consuming litigation. When parents are fighting over an issue related to custody or the parenting plan, finding a court resolution to the issue involves modifying existing court orders. Doing so means that both parents have to undergo costly litigation that could take months or years.  Therefore, having a parenting coordinator is more cost and time effective—so long as both parties agree to the formal one-year appointment of a PC.  

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Child Custody in Arizona

Custody in legal terms refers to the person a court has appointed as the parent or guardian of a child. The person retaining child custody manages the well-being of that child. The legal custodial parent will have the right to make decisions about the child’s education, religious teachings, and healthcare. There are different types of custody, but courts in Arizona do not favor one over the other. The decisions will be based on what’s ultimately good for the child. If you are a parent currently seeking custody of the child, or if you are already a custodial parent, here are answers to some of the questions frequently asked on the subject:

What is the different between “sole,” “joint,” and “legal” decision making authority?

These are three ways in which a court can grant custody of a child. Sole Legal Decision Making means that one single parent has complete legal custody of the child’s legal decision moving forward. The court has granted this parent the express authority to make major decisions regarding the child’s life. Parents can discuss these issues together, but the sole Legal Decision Making parent will always have the final say.

In contrast, in Joint Legal Decision Making situations, both parents have legal decision making authority over a child. However, in order to reach a final decision, both parent must agree—or divert the case to mediation or back to the court if no agreement can be reached. 

Can the court declare one parent’s rights superior to another’s in a Joint Legal Decision Making case?

No. Generally, when a court grants joint Legal Decision Making authority, both parents have equal rights to make decisions regarding the child’s well-being. No one parent is deemed superior to another. However, in special cases, one parent may get the sole right to make decisions regarding a certain aspect of the child’s life if the court decides it’s the best for the child. You should refer to an attorney to seek more family law and child custody information with regards to your situation.

Is there a difference between legal decision making powers and physical custody?

Absolutely yes.  Legal Decision Making authority relates to granting a parent the authority to make decisions about the child’s wellbeing, e.g. where the child goes to school. Physical custody, also called Parenting Time, determines where the child lives from day to day. A parent can have legal custody, but not physical Parenting Time, although this is rare. If a child is to live with both parents for equal amounts of time, then the court will have to grant both parents joint physical Parenting Time. Some parents may prefer for the child to live in one place without moving around, and have one parent with physical virtually all Parenting Time. But both parents, in this case, can have legal custody as well. Refer to Family Law help in Scottsdale, or your local area, for specific information.  Legal assistance is recommended to navigate these complex legal channels. 

Are court custody orders final?

The court decides custody when the parents cannot agree upon themselves, how to share custody of a child. A court may grant early custody orders when divorce or separation filings are in process. Once the divorce or a legal separation becomes final, the court may make modify prior orders which are dramatically changed at the time of trial. This custody decision by the court will stand, subject to certain exceptions, for at least one year, or upon a showing of a substantial and continuing change of circumstances thereafter.

If you want a custody ruling to be modified after trial, you can petition the court to make changes to the order. You will have to present strong evidence that the changes requested are in the best interest of the child. You are very likely going to need the able assistance of legal counsel at that time. 

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Family Law and Child Custody Information

Determining the custody of a child when divorcing is not easy. Child custody and the related laws are largely determined by state law, though certain federal policies may apply. Here are some basic facts to know about child custody if you are filing for a divorce:

Working out the Custody of a Child

There are two ways to decide which parent gets custody: by trial or private mutual negotiation outside of court. Some parents who divorce amicably can discuss among themselves regarding with whom the child may live after the divorce, and who can visit and when. Divorcing couples can also hire a third party mediator to ensure that these discussions go well. If the parents are unable to reach a mutual agreement, then the case would go to trial where a judge (not a jury) will decide custody and visitation rights.

Types of Custody

There are different types of custody family courts grant.

Physical custody: Also known as “parenting time”, this is the type of custody that decides which parent the child lives with majority of the time. Courts usually grant physical custody to both parents on a joint and equal basis absent parental fitness issues. 

Legal custody: Also known as “legal decision making”, if the court has already appointed a physical custodian, then the other parent might get legal custody. It’s the right of a parent to make decisions about the child’s welfare, education, health, religion even when the child is not living with him or her.

Joint custody: This is an arrangement where the child spends equal amounts of time with both parents following a divorce. There are both proponents and detractors of this type of custody. It’s ultimately something the divorcing parents have to decide. Getting joint custody requires showing cooperation between the divorcing couple and the willingness to make decisions about the child’s welfare together.

Split custody: If the divorcing parents have multiple children, the court may decide to “split” up the custody of the children among the parents. For example, if there are two children, the court may grant custody of one child to only one parent. Courts, however, do not usually separate siblings in this manner.

To determine the type of custody best suited for your case, you will need an attorney’s help. Hire a local attorney from your county, for example family Law help in Scottsdale if you live in Arizona.

Unmarried Parents

Not only divorcing parents need to decide the custody of the child. There are different laws that determine the custody of the child if the parents are unmarried. Most states have laws requiring the granting of physical custody to the biological mother of the child as long as the mother is fit to be a good parent. Unmarried fathers often do not get custody of the child, but Fathers are typically preferred for custody over other relatives like grandparents, or prospective foster or adoptive parents.  Unmarried parents can sometimes be awarded 50/50 custody.  Every case is different. 

How Custody is Granted

The courts take into account various factors when granting custody. Mainly, the court will decide which parent is best suited to be a child’s main caretaker. The child’s wellbeing is always considered above the desires of the parents or others who have filed for custody.

Different states evaluate the “best interest” standard differently. But, most take into consideration the mental and physical fitness of the parents, the child’s relationship to parents or others in the household, the need for a stable home, religious or cultural issues at play, the child’s treatment at the hands of parents, possible history of abuse, and so on. If the child is old enough, his or her wishes will also be taken into consideration.  Each state has different rules of how old a child must be before his or her ‘wishes’ regarding custody will be heard by the Court. 

The parents in any case should hire a good attorney to prove to the court that they are the most fit to be the child’s primary caretaker. It will be up to you to protect your parental rights, as the courts will prioritize the child’s.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Preparing for Divorce in the New Year

The Scottsdale divorce lawyers at Canterbury Law Group have represented hundreds of clients in Scottsdale divorce cases.  Although every case is unique, there are certain steps that every potential divorcee should take:

  • Do not try to hurt your soon-to-be ex –   Do not let your emptions get the best of you.  Especially if you and your spouse have children together, you need to try to take the higher road and attempt to part on decent terms. The court may frown upon any type of negativity or drastic misconduct against the other spouse. 
  • Confidently know your joint finances – It is estimated that 40% of divorce proceedings are about money. Be well informed in advance about your shared accounts.  Specifically, you should know all online passwords to bank accounts, which accounts have automatic payments and where money is invested, including the names of all accounts, the account numbers and the investment advisors.  Many times one spouse knows everything and the other spouse knows nothing about finances.  The law provides that both spouses be provided 100% financial disclosures while the divorce is pending. 
  • Find a trusted legal team – A lawyer who is knowledgeable in family law in your state can likely get you a better settlement because they understand the state-law nuances and understand local judges’ tendencies and opposing lawyers. If you and your spouse have complicated family assets, you likely need a legal team with additional expertise.  Take into consideration every possible avenue and plan accordingly.
  • Know your future living expenses – Your future financial well-being should be your top priority.  Thoroughly understand your current cost of living before the divorce proceedings start, so you can ask for a fair amount in the divorce settlement.
  • Also remember that anything written online about an ex-spouse will exist forever—when the children are old enough to read.  Although you may be hurt now, you don’t want to hurt your children even more in the future.  Texts and emails can also be used against you at trial.  Think twice before hitting ‘send’ on that nasty message to your spouse. 

The Scottsdale divorce attorneys at Canterbury Law Group have represented women and men, young and old, in their complicated and simple divorce cases.  To discuss your options in a Scottsdale divorce, call today to schedule a consultation.  480-240-0040.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Child Custody Questions in Scottsdale

There is typically an increase in divorces in the New Year. The Scottsdale divorce lawyers at Canterbury Law Group know that divorce often brings about child custody concerns. A popular question in Scottsdale divorce cases is whether or not a parent can take a child away from the other parent if there is currently no legal decision-making and parenting time orders in place.

In Arizona, a person can be charged with the crime of custodial interference even before there is a court order regarding legal decision-making and parenting time or if he/ she takes, entices (persuades) or withholds any child from the other parent and denies that parent access to any child. If the parent takes the child(ren) to another state, the penalties are even more severe.

However, there are some exceptions in the law, which involve a case where the parent has filed an emergency petition regarding custodial rights with the superior court and has received a hearing date from the court. The law is complicated and the risks are high, so the best option is to get the advice of a lawyer before leaving with your child if at all possible. You should never leave the state with your children without first speaking to a licensed attorney.

If a domestic violence victim is accused of wrongfully absconding with the children, he/she can seek to counter these allegations by:

  • He / she has begun the process to get an order of protection or files a petition for legal decision-making within a reasonable period of time and the order of protection or legal decision-making petition states his/her belief that the child was at risk if left with the other parent

The parent either:

  • has a good faith and reasonable belief that the taking, enticing or withholding of the child is necessary to protect the child from immediate danger; OR
  • the parent is a victim of domestic violence by the other parent and has a good faith and reasonable belief that the child will be in immediate danger if the child is left with the other parent.

However, it is still best to get legal advice before leaving to make sure that your planned behavior would not violate the law.

The family law attorneys at Canterbury Law Group have significant expertise in child custody issues and can capably guide you through the legal process. Your children are counting on you to make the right decision both before and after the divorce case has been filed. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Child Custody Tips for the New Year

During the New Year, many parents strive to improve child custody situations. As authorities in Scottsdale child custody, the lawyers at Canterbury Law Group can offer suggestions to help ensure your success:

Be Actively Involved – Make sure you are able to demonstrate that you are significantly involved in your child’s life by taking an active role in the care, development, and discipline of your child. If the child is young, participate in feeding, bathing, walking, reading, napping and medical care. As they grow older, take part in their educational development and extracurricular activities. Get to know your children’s teachers, doctors, counselors, and coaches. Your ability to demonstrate the extent and quality of time with your child prior to and post separation is critical. If the other parent is interfering with your involvement, document your attempts and the resistance that you are receiving.

Establish a Physical Custody Schedule – If you live separately from the other parent, it is critical that you negotiate a physical custody schedule that accurately represents your long-term goal of shared parenting, ideally before a custody petition or court complaint has been filed. If you currently have a visitation agreement, make every effort not to miss any of your scheduled time.

Promote Involvement of the other Parent – Show that you encourage the contact and active involvement between your child and the other parent. Unless clear evidence shows the child is in danger while in their care, the Family Court will frown upon your interference with the child’s relationship to their other parent.

Provide a Healthy, Stable Environment – Present a safe, nurturing and stable environment. Demonstrate that you provide a healthy environment by maintaining a steady, clutter free home with a bedroom for your child and a safe play space. Provide regular, nutritious meals and keep a record of your grocery receipts. Get those kids to bed early and to school on time.

If you need assistance with your custody or joint parenting plan, contact the Phoenix divorce attorneys at Canterbury Law Group! We can help ensure the New Year is enjoyable for all.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Tips if Divorce Is Your Resolution in the New Year

If you are considering filing for divorce in the near future, you are not alone. The month of January has long been marked down in the calendars of family law attorneys, including the Scottsdale divorce lawyers at Canterbury Law Group, as “Divorce Month.” In fact, many firms see an increase in the number of consultations upwards of 30 percent beginning the Monday after New Year’s.

While contributing factors vary, the fact remains that many couples will begin this year with a resolution to end their marriage. No matter the reason, there are many things that anyone looking into divorce for the first time needs to know that will help them get through the process smoothly while protecting their rights:

1. Do not move out of the marital home – If you wish to keep yourself in a good position to obtain a fair custody arrangement and also want to mitigate potential financial burdens, do not pack up and move out of the marital home. This is one of the top mistakes that many spouses continue to make, and it can start you off at a disadvantage out of the gate.

2. Research divorce laws for your specific state – There are very few, if any at all, states that have identical laws regarding the various aspects of divorce. You will want to do plenty of research over areas that you know may come up if you and your spouse decide to split specific to your local jurisdiction.

3. Set up a consultation with an attorney – Even if you aren’t certain you will need to retain an attorney or that you will even end up filing for divorce at all, it is a really good idea to meet with an expert familiar with your state’s divorce laws. Many attorneys and firms offer initial consultations, though even when there is a charge, it is well worth the fee to get accurate information you can trust as you plan your next move.
If you’re looking for a Scottsdale divorce attorney and / or family law attorney, contact us today. Any delay can affect your future and the wellbeing of you and your children.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Technology Used in Shared Custody

The Scottsdale custody attorneys at Canterbury Law Group have seen firsthand that technology is an invaluable tool for parents dealing with shared custody. In fact, it has become so commonplace in divorce arrangements that technology has even become part of the formal legal process, a development that both divorce lawyers and judges applaud.

Here are some technologies that are being applied to custody cases to help ensure success:

Email and Text Messages – E-mail and texting alone have practically revolutionized post-divorce family relationships. Sending a message can be a great option for communication amongst co-parents, especially for couples who may not yet feel comfortable with the divorce or separation. Necessary information can be relayed to the other party with the ability to review the message before sending it, something that talking face-to-face communication does not offer.

Cell Phones – Parents are often required to buy a cell phone for their child, and call times are recorded to ensure an adequate amount of time is spent talking to each parent. In addition, with a parent calling children directly on their phone, there’s no possibility of a bitter intermediary exchange between parent and parent. It’s also important that parents identify rules associated with the phone, such as times it may be used and which parent is paying for the device, to eliminate any potential problems.

Video Chat – Many joint custody arrangements will stipulate weekly video chat sessions between parent and child while they are apart. Apple’s Facetime, Google’s Hangouts, and Skype are some of the more popular video chat options that are free and can be conveniently accessed on a smartphone. It’s often suggested to add these video chat sessions to the calendar so they’re accounted for.

Custody Communication Tools – When relationships weaken to the point of legal action, courts are now ordering ex-couples to work out their differences via technology. New online custody tools are emerging that have been specifically designed to regulate the communication between both parents. For example, online tool called Our Family Wizard has been utilized by Judges around the country. The program’s goals include easing custody matters and helping parents increase the opportunity to have a healthy and harmonious relationship not only with their child but also with their former spouse. With this program, lawyers supervise e-mail exchanges between the ex-couple, ensuring that each party responds to the other in a timely manner. All e-mails are time dated and tracked.

Interactive Online Calendars – Using online calendar programs can help parents keep up with the day-to-day activities of their children and as a way to keep track of visitation times. For example, 2Houses is an app that was created to help divorced parents schedule and better organize their children’s activities. One of the main features that the app offers is the Calendar, which enables everyone to view an online schedule to ensure that every family member is always on the same page.

If you’re looking for a Scottsdale divorce attorney and/or family law attorney contact us today. Any delay can affect your future and the well-being of your children.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

4 Child Custody Tips to Incorporate Into The Holiday Season

A key driver of any divorce with children, after the dust settles, is a court enforceable joint parenting plan. Typically when parents cannot mutually agree on a child-rearing plan, the court will often establish a written plan and court order that both parents must follow concerning the children’s health and welfare. Arizona law requires that the best interest of the child be the lead consideration above any other.

At Canterbury Law Group, the family law attorneys in Scottsdale have helped thousands of parents achieve mutually agreeable custody road maps, and help navigate the changes needed when children’s schedules fluctuate as they grow and mature. Here are some common ways that parents divide and share holiday time under the law:

Alternate holidays every other year. You can assign holidays to each parent for even years and then swap the holidays in odd years. With this arrangement, you won’t miss spending a holiday with your child more than one year in a row. For example, this year she gets Thanksgiving and next year he gets it.

Split the holiday in half. You can split the day of the holiday so that your child spends part of the day with each parent. This arrangement requires planning and coordination because you don’t want your child to spend holidays traveling all day. However for longer holidays like Spring Break you can get the front 5 days and they get the other 5 days, and you reverse the time exchange the year after.

Schedule a holiday twice. You can schedule time for each parent to celebrate a holiday with your child. For example, one parent can celebrate Christmas with the child on Dec. 20th and the other parent on the 25th. The following year would reverse the order. Younger children, in particular may not even notice!

Assign fixed holidays. You can have each parent celebrate the same holidays with the child every year. If parents have different holidays that they think are important, each parent can have those holidays every year. For example, military spouses may want Veterans Day or Fourth of July every year and the other parent, in exchange would get Labor Day and Memorial Day every year.

The Scottsdale family law attorneys at Canterbury Law Group can help you keep the legal peace with your ex and enjoy a great vacation with your kids. If you need legal advice, call us today (480-240-0040) to schedule your consultation.

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