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Can I Stop Paying Child Support If I Don’t See My Kids

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Stop Paying Child Support

When parents separate or divorce, child support payments are often put in place to ensure the well-being of the children involved. But what happens if a parent no longer sees their kids?Can they stop paying child support? In many cases, the answer is no.

Even if you don’t see your children, you are still obligated to financially support them.

Consulting with a family law legal paraprofessional can help you understand your rights and options, and provide guidance on how to proceed. Remember, failing to pay child support can have serious legal consequences, so it’s essential to address the issue head-on. 

We will cover the following topics

How Does Parenting Time Impact Child Support 

In Arizona, parenting time significantly influences child support calculations, as outlined by the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.

These guidelines integrate both parents’ incomes, the child’s financial needs, and the time each parent spends with the child to determine child support obligations. Specifically, the formula adjusts the support amount based on the proportion of time the child spends with each parent.

For example, if a parent spends a greater amount of time with the child, their child support obligation may be reduced since they already cover more of the child’s day-to-day expenses.

When parents share equal or nearly equal parenting time, the child support calculation may result in a lower payment from the higher-earning parent, reflecting the shared financial responsibility. Changes in parenting time can lead to modifications in child support if they substantially affect the child’s living arrangements or the financial burdens assumed by each parent.

Arizona also offers a child support calculator that uses detailed inputs to help estimate potential support obligations based on these factors

Am I Required to Pay Child Support? 

In Arizona, the legal obligation to pay child support is clearly defined under state law.

According to Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-501, every parent has a financial responsibility to their children.

This obligation doesn’t hinge on the parents’ marital status or their custody arrangement and continues until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later.

Here are the primary considerations regarding the obligation to pay child support:

  • Court Orders and Administrative Assessments: Child support is typically determined during divorce proceedings or through paternity actions. Once established, the support amount becomes a mandate through a court order or an administrative assessment, legally binding the obligated parent to make regular payments.

     

  • Modification of Support: The law allows for modifications to the support order if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a substantial increase or decrease in either parent’s income, a change in custody, or a shift in the child’s financial needs. These changes must be legally acknowledged through a court proceeding to adjust the support amount accordingly.
  • Automatic Termination: Child support obligations generally terminate when the child turns 18 and is no longer attending high school. However, if the child is still in high school at 18, support continues until graduation or the child’s 19th birthday, whichever comes first. Special provisions exist for children with disabilities who may require support beyond these age limits.

In summary, if you are a parent, whether living with your child or not, and irrespective of your current relationship with the other parent, you are typically required to contribute financially to your child’s upbringing. 

What are the Consequences of Not Paying Child Support 

Failing to comply with child support obligations in Arizona can lead to severe repercussions, both legally and financially. Arizona takes child support enforcement seriously, employing a variety of mechanisms under state law to ensure that payments are made timely and fully.

Here are the potential consequences for non-payment of child support:

  • Wage Garnishment: The most common method for collecting overdue child support is through wage garnishment, where a portion of the delinquent parent’s earnings is automatically deducted and directed towards the child support payment.

     

  • Seizure of Assets: The state can seize federal and state tax refunds and apply them to outstanding child support debts. Additionally, other assets, such as bank account funds, can also be targeted for the same purpose.
  • License Suspensions: Arizona may suspend a non-compliant parent’s driver’s license, professional licenses, and even recreational licenses as a punitive measure to enforce child support orders.
  • Credit Reporting: Overdue child support payments can be reported to credit bureaus, negatively affecting the non-paying parent’s credit score. This can have long-term consequences on the ability to obtain loans, credit cards, and even housing.
  • Legal Penalties: Non-payment of child support can result in contempt of court charges, which might lead to fines or incarceration. Additionally, chronic non-payment can be prosecuted under federal law if the parent moves to another state to avoid paying child support.
  • Passport Denial: The U.S. State Department can restrict the issuance of passports to individuals who owe more than $2,500 in child support, effectively limiting their ability to travel internationally.

These enforcement actions are designed to motivate compliance with child support orders and ensure that children receive the financial support they need and are legally entitled to.

If you are experiencing difficulties in making child support payments, it is crucial to seek legal advice promptly. A  legal professional can help you understand your options, such as applying for a modification of the child support order due to changes in financial circumstances. It is far better to address these issues proactively rather than face the penalties associated with non-compliance.

How Can I Stop Paying Child Support

Legally stopping child support payments in Arizona requires adherence to specific conditions recognized by the courts. Parents wishing to end these payments must proceed cautiously and within the legal framework to avoid significant penalties.

Child Reaches Legal Age

Child support obligations typically conclude when the child turns 18. However, if the child is still in high school at 18, support continues until graduation or the child’s 19th birthday, whichever occurs first. This is the most straightforward scenario for the cessation of support payments.

Emancipation of the Child

If a child under 18 becomes emancipated—through marriage, economic self-sufficiency, or military service—this can legally terminate child support obligations. The parent must provide the court with proof of the child’s emancipated status to adjust the support order officially.

 

Significant Changes in Circumstances

Parents can petition the court for a modification of the child support order if there are significant life changes that affect their ability to pay or the child’s need for support. This includes substantial changes in the paying parent’s income, a disability that affects earning capacity, or changes in custody that alter the parenting time significantly.

 

Legal Termination of Parental Rights

If a parent’s legal rights are terminated, for example through the child’s adoption by another person, the obligation to pay child support also ends. The termination must be recognized by the court, and proper legal documentation is required.

Overpayment of Child Support

In cases where a parent has overpaid child support, they may request a court to credit the excess amount against future payments, which can temporarily halt further obligations until the overpayment is balanced out.

For all these scenarios, proper legal procedure must be followed by submitting the relevant documentation to a family court. Failing to do so and merely stopping payments can lead to severe legal repercussions, including fines, enforcement actions against wages or assets, and other penalties. 

Steps to Legally Modify Child Support

Modifying child support payments in Arizona involves a legal process that must be adhered to in order to adjust payments legally. Whether you are seeking to increase, decrease, or terminate child support, these are the steps to follow:

 

Step 1: Assess Significant Changes

The first step in modifying child support is to determine whether there has been a “substantial and continuing” change in circumstances. This could include a significant change in income, loss of employment, a change in custody arrangements, or changes in the child’s needs such as medical expenses.

 

Step 2: Gather Documentation

Collect all relevant documentation that supports your claim for modification. This includes financial statements, recent tax returns, proof of income changes, medical bills, or a detailed list of changes in the child’s needs. Accurate and comprehensive documentation is crucial for supporting your case.

 

Step 3: File a Petition

You will need to file a Petition to Modify Child Support with the appropriate Arizona family court. This petition should detail the reasons for the requested change and include all supporting documentation. The court will review the petition to decide whether the evidence justifies a modification hearing.

 

Step 4: Serve the Other Parent

Once the petition is filed, you must serve a copy to the other parent. This gives them the opportunity to respond to your petition, either agreeing with or contesting the proposed changes. They have the right to file an opposing affidavit if they disagree with the changes.

 

Step 5: Mediation or Court Hearing

Depending on the other parent’s response, you may go through mediation to reach an agreement, or you may proceed to a court hearing. During a hearing, both parties will have the opportunity to present their cases, and the judge will make a decision based on the evidence provided.

 

Step 6: Obtain a New Order

If the judge approves the modification, the court will issue a new child support order. This order will specify the new amount of child support to be paid and the effective date of the change. It is essential to comply with the existing order until the new one is officially in effect.

 

Step 7: Implement the Changes

Once the new order is issued, ensure that the changes are implemented according to the terms specified. This may involve adjusting the amount directly with the employer if the child support is garnished from wages, or communicating with state child support services to update their records.

Stephanie Villalobos, LP

How Our Family Law Legal Paraprofessionals Can Help

At De Novo Law, our team of legal paraprofessionals is well-versed in the complexities of Arizona child support laws, specifically regarding cases where parenting time does not align with child support obligations.

If you are questioning whether you can stop paying child support due to not seeing your kids, we can provide clear guidance and strategic support.

We help clients handle the process of legally modifying child support orders, enforce compliance, and represent your interests in disputes to ensure that the arrangements are just and equitable. Our firm is committed to delivering informed and empathetic legal services tailored to your unique circumstances. 

For more information about our services or to schedule a consultation, you can also reach us directly at (480) 725-2200 .

Affordable and Experienced Family Law Legal Services
Schedule an Appointment Today!

DISCLAIMER: The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  De Novo Law, LLC and its Legal Paraprofessionals are not attorneys and are not authorized to provide legal advice or representation beyond the areas and scope of practice for which license is held.  The transmission or receipt of any electronic correspondence or information does not create a legal paraprofessional-client relationship.

CONTACT US

Contact De Novo Law at any time to setup a free one-on-one consultation so we can discuss your concerns.

Please Call Us at (480) 725-2200 or Fill Out the Form Below to Schedule a FREE Initial Consultation with an Affordable Legal Paraprofessional to Assist with an Arizona Divorce or other Family Law Matters.

De Novo Law Blog

What Does Best Interest of the Child Mean in Arizona

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 Best Interest of the Child 

When it comes to matters of child custody and support in Arizona, the best interest of the child is always the top priority for family courts.

Under section 25-403 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, the court considers various factors to determine what is in the best interest of the child when making decisions regarding custody and support.

We will cover the following topics

The legal definition of “best interest of the child” in Arizona is primarily outlined in Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) §25-403. This statute provides a framework for judges when making decisions about parenting time and custody.

The law requires that all court decisions concerning children must prioritize the child’s best interests above all else, ensuring decisions promote their emotional and physical health, and overall welfare.

 

Best Interest Factors 

Under ARS §25-403, several factors contribute to defining the best interest of the child in Arizona, including, but not limited to:

  • The emotional and physical health of the child.
  • The child’s relationship with each parent.
  • The adjustment of the child to home, school, and community.
  • The wishes of the child if of suitable age and maturity.
  • The mental health of each parent.
  • Any evidence of domestic violence or child abuse.

These factors help the court assess what will best serve the child’s needs and how each parent supports those needs.

 

In Arizona, the principle of the “best interest of the child” critically shapes legal decision-making in family law, especially in matters concerning custody (legal decision-making authority) and parenting time. 

 

Legal Decision-Making Authority and Parenting Time

When determining legal decision-making authority, which encompasses decisions about the child’s education, health care, and religious practices, Arizona courts strive to place the child in an environment that promotes their best interests.

For example, consider a case where one parent has significantly more stable living conditions and a supportive community network than the other. The court may award this parent primary legal decision-making authority, believing it better supports the child’s educational and emotional development.

Similarly, in deciding parenting time, the court examines which arrangement will most benefit the child.

If a child has been raised in a neighborhood all their life, maintaining stability might involve granting more parenting time to the parent who continues to reside in the same area. This minimizes disruptions in the child’s social and educational environment, a key component of their best interest.

 

Modifications and Dispute Resolution

Modifications to existing orders also hinge on the best interest standard. A parent requesting a change in parenting time must demonstrate not only a significant change in circumstances but also that the new arrangement serves the child’s best interests.

For instance, if a parent needs to relocate due to a job change, the court will consider how the relocation impacts the child’s access to education, community, and the non-moving parent.

Disputes between parents are particularly challenging. Courts prioritize minimizing the child’s exposure to conflict because of the recognized impact parental conflict can have on a child’s psychological well-being. A solution often employed includes detailed parenting plans that specify exchange times and locations to reduce potential conflicts.

 

Practical Examples in Court Decisions

In practical terms, if a parent or parents show a history of coercion or inability to resolve conflicts, the court might favor an arrangement that limits the child’s exposure to such disputes. For example, the court might decide that the parent more likely to allow peaceful and meaningful contact with the other parent should have greater decision-making authority.

Additionally, considerations such as the person who may significantly affect the child’s development are taken into account, especially in cases involving new partners or extended family members.

In sum, the “best interest of the child” standard fundamentally guides all aspects of legal decision-making related to children in Arizona’s family law system. Judges meticulously apply this standard to ensure that each decision promotes the best possible outcome for the child, taking into account a variety of factors from the child’s current and future needs, the parents’ capabilities, and the family’s overall dynamics

Role of Child’s Preference in Legal Decisions

In Arizona family law, a child’s preference is a significant factor under the “best interest of the child” standard, particularly in decisions regarding custody and parenting time.

According to Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) §25-403, the court considers the wishes of a child along with other critical factors, but the weight given to these wishes can vary greatly depending on the child’s age and maturity.

While there is no specific age at which a child can decisively choose which parent to live with, generally, the preferences of older and more mature children are given more consideration.

Judges evaluate whether the child understands the implications of their preference and ensure that this preference is free from parental coercion or manipulation.

Children’s preferences are typically gathered through interviews conducted by court-appointed specialists who ensure that the child’s voice is heard without direct involvement in courtroom proceedings.

In summary, while children in Arizona do not have the unilateral right to decide their living arrangements, their preferences are increasingly influential as they grow older and demonstrate maturity. 

Evaluation Process for Determining Best Interest

The process of determining the “best interest of the child” in Arizona involves a structured and detailed evaluation, primarily centered around comprehensive assessments conducted by professionals such as child psychologists, social workers, or independent evaluators.

These experts are tasked with gathering extensive data on the family’s dynamics, the child’s environment, and the interaction between the child and each parent. Here’s a closer look at how this process unfolds:

Expert Assessments:

  • Home Visits: Evaluators conduct visits to the residences of both parents to observe the living conditions and the child’s well-being in each setting.
  • Interviews: Structured interviews with the child, each parent, and sometimes other family members help assess the nature of relationships and the emotional and psychological impact of each parent on the child.
  • Observations: Evaluators observe interactions between the child and each parent during scheduled visits to understand the dynamics of their relationships.

Analysis of the Child’s Integration:

  • Community and School Adjustment: The child’s adjustment to their school and community is evaluated to determine how changes in custody might affect their social and educational development.
  • Mental and Physical Health: Evaluations include an assessment of the child’s and parents’ mental and physical health, crucial in making informed custody decisions.

Review of Parental Interaction:

  • Encouragement of Contact: A significant factor is which parent is more likely to encourage a positive relationship and frequent contact with the other parent.
  • Parental Involvement: The extent of each parent’s involvement in the child’s educational activities and daily needs is closely examined.
  • History of Abuse or Neglect: Any evidence of past child abuse or neglect is critically important and heavily influences the outcome of the custody decision.

Comprehensive Reporting:

  • Expert Recommendations: After completing their assessments, evaluators compile detailed reports that outline their findings and provide recommendations for the custody arrangements that best serve the child’s interests.
  • Legal Considerations: These reports are integral to the judicial process, helping the court make informed decisions that focus on the child’s best welfare.

This evaluation process ensures that all decisions related to custody and parenting time are made with a deep understanding of the child’s needs, the parental abilities, and the overall family situation.

 

Stephanie Villalobos, LP

Get Help From Our Family Law Legal Paraprofessionals 

At De Novo Law, our team of legal paraprofessionals specializes in handling a wide range of family law cases that hinge on the “best interest” standard as set forth by Arizona law. This includes intricate matters such as child custody, parenting time, and child support, all of which are assessed under the guidelines of ARS §25-403.

Our licensed legal paraprofessionals offer a cost-effective solution for families needing expert guidance without the expense of full attorney representation. They provide comprehensive services, including the drafting of legal documents, negotiation of parenting plans, and court

For more information about our services or to schedule a consultation, please visit our website at De Novo Law. You can also reach us directly at (480) 725-2200 .

Affordable and Experienced Family Law Legal Services
Schedule an Appointment Today!

DISCLAIMER: The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  De Novo Law, LLC and its Legal Paraprofessionals are not attorneys and are not authorized to provide legal advice or representation beyond the areas and scope of practice for which license is held.  The transmission or receipt of any electronic correspondence or information does not create a legal paraprofessional-client relationship.

CONTACT US

Contact De Novo Law at any time to setup a free one-on-one consultation so we can discuss your concerns.

Please Call Us at (480) 725-2200 or Fill Out the Form Below to Schedule a FREE Initial Consultation with an Affordable Legal Paraprofessional to Assist with an Arizona Divorce or other Family Law Matters.

De Novo Law Blog

My Ex-Spouse is Hiding Assets in Our Arizona Divorce

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Hidden Assets in a  Divorce – How a Legal Paraprofessional Can Help

Handling a divorce is already a challenging and emotionally taxing process, but it becomes even more complicated when one party suspects the other of hiding assets.

In Arizona, a community property state, all assets acquired during the marriage are typically considered joint property and should be divided equally in a divorce settlement.

However, some spouses resort to deceitful tactics in an attempt to keep assets hidden from their soon-to-be ex-partner.If you suspect that your ex-spouse is concealing assets in your Arizona divorce, it is important to take action immediately. 

Additionally, it is important to note that hiding assets during a divorce is not only unethical but also punishable by law.

In some cases, individuals who are found guilty of hiding assets may even face criminal charges. 

We will cover the following topics

What are Assets in a Divorce

In the context of an Arizona divorce, the term “assets” encompasses a wide range of property types that may be subject to division between spouses.

Assets in a divorce can be broadly categorized into two types: marital assets and separate assets.

Marital assets, also known as community property in Arizona, include all property and income acquired by either spouse during the marriage.

This category typically encompasses:

  • Real Estate: This includes the family home, vacation properties, rental properties, and any other real estate acquired during the marriage.
  • Bank Accounts and Cash: All checking, savings, and other bank accounts that were filled or accrued during the marriage fall into this category.
  • Investments: Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investment vehicles acquired during the marriage are considered marital assets.
  • Retirement Accounts: Pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, and other retirement accounts accumulated during the marriage are subject to division.
  • Personal Property: Furniture, art, jewelry, vehicles, and other tangible items purchased during the marriage are included as marital assets.

Separate assets, on the other hand, refer to property that belongs solely to one spouse. This typically includes:

  • Property Owned Before Marriage: Assets owned by one spouse prior to entering the marriage remain separate, provided they were kept distinct from marital assets.
  • Inheritances and Gifts: Property inherited by one spouse or gifts given specifically to one spouse, even during the marriage, are generally considered separate assets.
  • Personal Injury Awards: Compensation received for personal injury, except for loss of wages, is typically seen as separate property.

Under Arizona Revised Statutes §25-318, the court seeks to divide marital assets equitably, though not necessarily equally. This means the division is based on fairness, taking into account factors such as each spouse’s financial situation, contributions to the marriage, and future needs.

It’s also important to note that the distinction between marital and separate assets can become blurred, especially when separate assets are commingled with marital assets. For example, if one spouse owns a home prior to the marriage but both spouses contribute to the mortgage payments during the marriage, this can create a situation where the home becomes part of the marital estate.

What if My Spouse Has Undisclosed Assets 

Addressing undisclosed assets in an Arizona divorce involves different approaches before and after the divorce is finalized.

Before finalization, it’s important to inform your legal representation about any suspicions of hidden assets.

 They can utilize legal discovery tools, such as subpoenas and depositions, to uncover these assets. Hiring a forensic accountant may also be beneficial for analyzing complex financial situations. If undisclosed assets are found, this information can significantly impact settlement negotiations for a more equitable division.

If the divorce is already finalized and undisclosed assets are discovered, you may need to file a post-judgment motion to reopen the case.

This requires proving the existence of hidden assets and that they were not identifiable with due diligence before the divorce concluded. While this process can adjust the settlement to reflect the newly discovered assets, it is more complex and less certain than addressing the issue before finalization.

In both scenarios, proactive legal strategy and thorough documentation are key to ensuring a fair resolution. 

Signs Your Spouse is Hiding Assets 

Here are some red flags that could indicate your spouse is concealing property or finances:

  1. Sudden Decrease in Income: If your spouse suddenly reports a significant decrease in income without a legitimate explanation, such as job loss or a pay cut, they may be attempting to reduce their financial obligations or the perceived value of their assets.
  2. Overpaying on Taxes or Debts: By overpaying the IRS or creditors, a spouse can create a situation where they appear to have less available income, while actually setting up a scenario where they’ll receive a refund or credit after the divorce.
  3. Unusual Financial Transactions: Watch for unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, large purchases made without reason, or the transfer of money to family members or friends. These could be attempts to temporarily move assets out of sight.
  4. Reluctance to Provide Financial Information: If your spouse is unwilling to share financial documents or provide clear answers about financial holdings, this could indicate they are trying to hide assets. Transparency is typical in honest dealings; evasion is not.
  5. Creation of New Accounts: The opening of new bank or investment accounts in their name only, especially if done secretly, can be a sign your spouse is trying to divert funds.
  6. Changes in Business Practices: If your spouse owns a business, they may start to pay nonexistent employees or delay signing new contracts or collecting payments until after the divorce, thereby reducing the business’s apparent value.
  7. Physical Assets Disappearing: Items like art, jewelry, or collectibles suddenly disappearing from the home without explanation can signify an attempt to undervalue the marital estate.
  8. Use of Cryptocurrency: Cryptocurrencies can provide a relatively easy way to hide money due to their less traceable nature. If your spouse suddenly shows an interest in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, it could be a red flag.
  9. Defensive Behavior: If asking about finances leads to unusual defensiveness or anger, it may be a sign that your spouse has something to hide.
  10. Documents with Missing or Incorrect Information: Inaccuracies in financial documents, such as tax returns, bank statements, or investment accounts, can be a sign of manipulation or concealment.

What To Do if You Suspect Your Spouse is Hiding Assets in Divorce 

Suspecting your spouse is hiding assets during a divorce can be distressing and challenging. However, there are specific steps you can take to uncover the truth and ensure a fair division of property. If you find yourself in this situation, consider the following actions:

  1. Gather Documentation: Start by collecting as much financial documentation as possible. This includes bank statements, tax returns, investment account statements, property deeds, and any other relevant financial records. The more information you have, the better.
  2. Monitor Bank and Credit Card Statements: Keep an eye on all financial statements for unusual transactions, such as large withdrawals or transfers to unknown accounts. This can help you trace where the money is going and identify any hidden assets.
  3. Hire a Professional: Consider hiring a forensic accountant or a financial investigator who specializes in uncovering hidden assets. These professionals can scrutinize financial records, track down undisclosed accounts, and evaluate business records for any signs of manipulation.
  4. Legal Intervention: Work with your legal professional to utilize legal tools available in divorce proceedings, such as subpoenas and depositions, to compel your spouse to disclose financial information. Your lawyer can also request court orders to freeze assets, preventing your spouse from hiding or dissipating them further.
  5. Review Tax Returns: Tax returns can be a valuable source of information in uncovering hidden assets. They can reveal inconsistencies, undisclosed income, or investments that your spouse may not have disclosed otherwise.
  6. Check for Overpayments: Look for any overpayments to creditors or the IRS, which might indicate an attempt to hide money that could be returned after the divorce settlement.
  7. Consult with Your Legal Representation: Regularly communicate with your family law proffesional about your concerns and findings. They can provide legal advice tailored to your situation and help strategize the best approach to uncover hidden assets.
  8. Stay Organized: Keep detailed records of all your findings, communications, and steps taken. This documentation can be crucial in legal proceedings and in ensuring a fair division of assets.
  9. Consider Court Action: If there’s evidence of hidden assets, your attorney may recommend court action. The court can issue orders for asset disclosure and, in some cases, can sanction a spouse who is found to be hiding assets.
  10. Negotiate Strategically: If hidden assets are discovered, this can significantly impact divorce negotiations. Your representation can use this information to argue for a more favorable division of assets on your behalf.

Remember, in Arizona, both parties are entitled to an equitable division of marital assets under Arizona Revised Statutes §25-318. Taking these steps can help protect your financial interests and ensure that you receive a fair share of the marital property.

Do not attempt to hide assets yourself or retaliate against your spouse, as this can negatively impact your case and lead to legal penalties.

What are the Penalties for Hiding Assets 

The law mandates full and honest disclosure of all assets and liabilities by both parties in a divorce. When a spouse intentionally conceals assets, they not only breach this legal obligation but also undermine the integrity of the judicial process.

The penalties for hiding assets can vary based on the extent of the concealment and the specifics of the case but generally include:

Monetary Sanctions

In cases where one spouse has hidden assets, the Arizona courts may impose monetary sanctions as a penalty. These sanctions can include fines or requiring the offending party to reimburse the other spouse for additional legal fees incurred while uncovering the hidden assets. These financial penalties serve as a deterrent against the concealment of assets and compensate the non-offending spouse for the extra costs involved.

Compensatory Division of Assets

If hidden assets are discovered during the divorce proceedings, the court might order a compensatory division of assets. This means the non-offending spouse may receive a larger share of the marital assets than they would have otherwise. This adjustment aims to rectify the imbalance created by the concealment and ensure a fair distribution of property.

Contempt of Court

Hiding assets can be considered contempt of court, a legal offense that disrespects the court’s authority. Penalties for contempt can include additional fines or even jail time, depending on the severity of the concealment and the judge’s discretion. This measure emphasizes the seriousness of full financial disclosure in divorce proceedings.

Criminal Charges

In extreme cases, hiding assets during a divorce can lead to criminal charges, especially if the act involves fraudulent activities like forgery, perjury, or other forms of legal deception. These charges can result in more severe consequences, including criminal records and incarceration, highlighting the legal system’s stringent stance against asset concealment.

Revised Settlements

If hidden assets are discovered after a divorce settlement has been finalized, the courts can reopen the case to adjust the terms of the settlement. This can lead to a revised division of assets more favorable to the non-offending spouse. Such actions ensure that justice is served, even post-judgment, and reinforce the importance of honesty in the disclosure process.

By understanding these potential penalties, spouses can grasp the serious repercussions of hiding assets in an Arizona divorce. Full and honest disclosure is not only a legal requirement but also a critical component of achieving a fair and equitable division of assets.

Stephanie Villalobos, LP

How De Novo Law Can Help

De Novo Law, led by Stephanie Villalobos, offers extensive family law services, helping clients handle complex issues like hidden assets in divorce.

As Arizona’s first legal paraprofessional firm, they provide affordable, experienced representation, especially for those concerned about income and asset disclosure.

If you suspect undisclosed assets or face other family law challenges, De Novo Law can help. Contact them for a free consultation to ensure you’re well represented through the divorce process.

For assistance, call De Novo Law at (480) 725-2200 or visit their contact page for more details

 

Affordable and Experienced Family Law Legal Services
Schedule an Appointment Today!

DISCLAIMER: The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  De Novo Law, LLC and its Legal Paraprofessionals are not attorneys and are not authorized to provide legal advice or representation beyond the areas and scope of practice for which license is held.  The transmission or receipt of any electronic correspondence or information does not create a legal paraprofessional-client relationship.

CONTACT US

Contact De Novo Law at any time to setup a free one-on-one consultation so we can discuss your concerns.

Please Call Us at (480) 725-2200 or Fill Out the Form Below to Schedule a FREE Initial Consultation with an Affordable Legal Paraprofessional to Assist with an Arizona Divorce or other Family Law Matters.

De Novo Law Blog

Common Law Marriage in Arizona

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Common Law Marriage- How a Legal Paraprofessional Can Help

Common law marriage is a concept that has been around for centuries and continues to be a topic of interest in family law.

In Arizona, however, common law marriage is not recognized

which can lead to some unique legal challenges for couples who consider themselves to be husband and wife without a formal marriage certificate.

Whether it’s understanding the legal implications of not being recognized as a married couple in the eyes of the state or seeking affordable legal services to protect each other’s rights and assets from a common law marriage originating in another state, a legal paraprofessional can provide much-needed guidance and support. 

We will cover the following topics:

What Is a Common Law Marriage? 

A common law marriage is a non-ceremonial form of marriage that can be recognized as legally valid without a formal wedding or marriage license,

based primarily on the couple’s cohabitation, intention, and presentation as a married couple.

This concept originated in England and was transported to many states in the U.S. However, its recognition varies significantly across different jurisdictions.

In Arizona, common-law marriages are not legally recognized. This means that regardless of the duration of a relationship or how a couple may present themselves publicly, they are not considered legally married without undergoing the formal process, including obtaining a marriage license and having a marriage ceremony.

In What States Are Common Law Marriages Legal?

Common law marriages are legally recognized in a select few states within the United States.

Each state has distinct criteria for what constitutes a common-law marriage. 

  1. Colorado: No minimum period of cohabitation required; couples must hold themselves out to the public as married.
  2. Iowa: Requires a minimum period of cohabitation and public declaration of the marriage.
  3. Kansas: Recognition based on cohabitation and public representation as a married couple.
  4. Montana: No formal requirements for a specific period or public declaration, but couples must meet certain criteria to be recognized.
  5. New Hampshire: Recognizes common law marriage only for the purpose of inheritance.
  6. South Carolina: Requires proof of cohabitation and a mutual agreement to be married.
  7. Texas: Known as “informal marriage,” requiring declaration and registration at the local county clerk’s office.
  8. Utah: Requires a petition to the court to establish a common law marriage.

It’s important to note that the recognition of common law marriage and the associated rights and responsibilities vary from state to state.

Couples in these states are typically granted the same legal rights as those in ceremonial marriages, including in areas of property division, inheritance, and spousal support. 

Will Arizona Recognize My Common Law Marriage From Another State? 

Arizona acknowledges common law marriages established in other states, adhering to the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution.

While the state itself does not permit the formation of common law marriages, it recognizes them if they are legally valid in the state where they were formed.

  • Interstate Recognition: Arizona respects out-of-state common law marriages, provided they meet all legal requirements of the state in which they were established.
  • Proof of Validity: Couples must demonstrate their relationship met the criteria for a common law marriage in the originating state, including aspects like cohabitation and public recognition as a married couple.
  • Equal Legal Standing: Once recognized, these marriages have the same legal rights and responsibilities as traditional marriages in Arizona, covering areas like property rights, inheritance, and spousal maintenance.
  • Legal Challenges: Proving a common law marriage can be complex without formal documentation, so maintaining detailed records is crucial.

In summary, Arizona will recognize a common law marriage from another state, but couples need to be prepared to provide evidence of the marriage’s validity according to the laws of the state where it was established.

Common Law Marriage and Divorce: How Does It Work?

While Arizona does not establish common law marriages within its borders, it does recognize those validly formed in other states due to the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

Consequently, if an Arizona resident was part of a common law marriage formed in a state like Colorado or Texas, Arizona courts will treat the dissolution of this marriage similarly to any other divorce proceeding.

This process will involve the equitable division of assets, determination of spousal support, and, if applicable, decisions regarding child custody and support. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1: Can my partner and I be considered legally married under common law if we live together in Scottsdale, Arizona?
A1: In Arizona, including cities like Scottsdale, the state does not recognize common-law marriages, regardless of how long a couple has lived together. While the concept of “marriage by habit and repute” or common-law marriage is recognized in some states, Arizona is not one of them.

Q2: As a surviving spouse in a common-law marriage from another state, what are my inheritance rights in Arizona?
A2: If your common-law marriage is recognized by the state of Arizona, you would have the same inheritance rights as a surviving spouse in a traditional marriage. This includes rights related to community property and other estate matters, subject to Arizona state probate laws.

Q3: Is it possible for my partner and I to file joint tax returns in Arizona if we have a common-law marriage from another state?
A3: If you are in a common-law marriage recognized by the state of Arizona because it was contracted in a state that allows such unions, you may file joint tax returns as a married couple.

Q4: If my partner and I have a common-law marriage in another state, how does the State of Arizona handle our marital contract for legal matters?
A4: When a couple with a common-law marriage from a state that recognizes such unions relocates to Arizona, the State of Arizona will uphold their marital contract for legal matters. This includes recognizing rights related to property disputes, probate proceedings, and other family law matters under Arizona state law.

Q5: Can I use my spouse’s last name in Arizona if we are in a common-law marriage recognized by another state?
A5: Yes, if your common-law marriage is recognized by Arizona because it was contracted in a state that recognizes common-law marriages, you can legally use your partner’s last name. However, it’s advisable to keep documentation proving the validity of your common-law marriage.

Q6: Are there family law firms in the 480 area code that specialize in cases involving common-law marriages?
A6: Yes, there are family law firms in the 480 area (Scottsdale and surrounding areas) that specialize in cases involving common-law marriages recognized by other states. These firms can provide legal advice and representation in various family law needs, including those unique to common-law marriages.

Stephanie Villalobos, LP

How a Family Law Legal Paraprofessional Can Help 

De Novo Law offers specialized assistance through their family law legal paraprofessionals for couples moving to Arizona with a common law marriage established in another state.

A legal paraprofessional, like those at De Novo Law, is a licensed professional who can perform many of the same functions as an attorney but at a more affordable cost.

This includes offering guidance on how Arizona laws might affect your common-law marriage and handling associated legal matters like property division, child custody, and support.

For individuals seeking advice in this area, De Novo Law’s free consultation offer is an excellent starting point to better understand your situation. You can contact them at (480) 725-2200. to schedule this consultation and discuss the specifics of your common law marriage and how it may be treated under Arizona law.

Affordable and Experienced Family Law Legal Services
Schedule an Appointment Today!

DISCLAIMER: The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  De Novo Law, LLC and its Legal Paraprofessionals are not attorneys and are not authorized to provide legal advice or representation beyond the areas and scope of practice for which license is held.  The transmission or receipt of any electronic correspondence or information does not create a legal paraprofessional-client relationship.

CONTACT US

Contact De Novo Law at any time to setup a free one-on-one consultation so we can discuss your concerns.

Please Call Us at (480) 725-2200 or Fill Out the Form Below to Schedule a FREE Initial Consultation with an Affordable Legal Paraprofessional to Assist with an Arizona Divorce or other Family Law Matters.

De Novo Law Blog

Arizona Divorce by Default

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Default Divorce- How a Legal Paraprofessional Can Help

When going through a divorce in Arizona, the process can become more complicated if one party fails to respond or participate in the proceedings. This can lead to what is known as a Divorce by Default.

If your spouse fails to file a response to your divorce application and affidavit of default, you may be able to move forward with the divorce without their participation.


In the state of Arizona, default divorce decrees can be obtained through a legal process that involves requesting a default hearing. However, handling the legal complexities of default divorces can be overwhelming and confusing. This is where a family law legal paraprofessional, such as De Novo Law, can help.


A family law legal paraprofessional can provide valuable assistance throughout the default divorce proceedings, from helping you understand the process to ensuring that all required documents are properly filed. Additionally, they can also facilitate divorce mediation if both parties are open to resolving their issues outside of court. 

So, if you find yourself in a situation where your spouse fails to engage in the divorce process, know that there is professional help available to guide you through the Divorce by Default process. 

We will cover the following topics:

What is a Divorce by Default 

A divorce by default in Arizona occurs when one spouse (the respondent) fails to respond to the divorce petition filed by the other spouse (the petitioner) within a specified timeline.

If the respondent resides in Arizona, they must respond within 20 days; if outside Arizona, the timeframe extends to 30 days.

Failure to respond within these periods allows the petitioner to seek a default judgment from the court.

How Does the Divorce Process Work 

The process for a default divorce in Arizona follows a specific legal pathway, beginning with the filing of the divorce petition and potentially concluding with a default judgment if one party does not respond.

Here’s an overview of the steps involved:

  1. Filing the Divorce Petition: The process begins when one spouse (the petitioner) files a petition for the dissolution of marriage with the appropriate Arizona court. This petition outlines the petitioner’s terms for the divorce, including aspects like property division, child custody, and spousal support.
  2. Serving the Divorce Petition: The petitioner is required to serve the divorce petition to the other spouse (the respondent). This service must be carried out according to Arizona’s legal requirements, often through a process server or by certified mail.
  3. Waiting for the Response: After being served, the respondent has a specific timeframe to respond. If residing in Arizona, the respondent has 20 days to file a response; if outside Arizona, the timeframe is 30 days. This response should address the claims and terms laid out in the petition.
  4. Filing for Default: If the respondent fails to respond within the given timeframe, the petitioner can then file an application for default with the court. This application signifies that the respondent has not participated and the petitioner seeks a default judgment.
  5. Additional Waiting Period: Upon filing for default, the court typically allows an additional 10 days for the respondent to respond. This is a final opportunity for the respondent to become involved in the divorce proceedings.
  6. Default Divorce Hearing: If the respondent still does not respond, the court may schedule a default hearing. At this hearing, the petitioner may be required to provide evidence or testimony to support their requests in the divorce petition.
  7. Issuing the Default Decree: Based on the information presented, the judge can issue a default decree of divorce, which legally dissolves the marriage and typically grants the requests made by the petitioner in the absence of any contest from the respondent.

Throughout this process, it’s important for both parties to be aware of the timelines and requirements set by the Arizona Revised Statutes to ensure their rights and interests are adequately represented and protected.

Consequences of a Default Divorce in Arizona

In Arizona, when one spouse fails to respond to a divorce petition, it leads to a default divorce, which has considerable consequences.

The petitioner often obtains their requested divorce terms, including property division, spousal support, and child custody. 

In this community property state, property division in a default divorce may favor the petitioner. Child custody and support decisions are made in the children’s best interests but often go uncontested in default cases. Spousal support is typically awarded as per the petitioner’s request if uncontested.

A default judgment is binding and final, leaving the non-responding spouse with limited options to contest.

This can lead to unfavorable financial and custody outcomes for them. While courts aim for fairness, they may adjust excessively unfair demands.

It’s beneficial to respond timely to divorce proceedings and consider seeking legal advice for a clearer understanding of the process.

Setting Aside a Default Judgment in Divorce

In certain circumstances, it is possible to set aside a default judgment in a divorce case in Arizona.

This action involves asking the court to nullify the default decree and reopen the case, allowing the previously non-responsive spouse to participate in the divorce proceedings.

Here are key aspects to understand about this process:

  1. Grounds for Setting Aside a Default Judgment: The most common grounds include showing that the default was a result of mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect. For example, if the respondent did not receive the divorce papers due to an error in service or had a significant reason that prevented them from responding, these could be valid grounds.
  2. Timeliness: The request to set aside a default judgment must be made promptly after the default judgment is entered. Arizona law generally requires that this motion be filed within a reasonable time, in no case exceeding six months after the decree is entered, except under extraordinary circumstances.
  3. Filing a Motion: The process begins by filing a motion to set aside the judgment with the same court that issued the default judgment. This motion should clearly state the reasons why the default judgment should be set aside, supported by relevant legal arguments and, if possible, evidence.
  4. Hearing on the Motion: After the motion is filed, the court typically schedules a hearing to allow both parties to present their arguments. The petitioner (the spouse who obtained the default judgment) will have the opportunity to contest the motion.
  5. Court’s Decision: The decision to set aside a default judgment rests with the court and is based on the specifics of the case. The judge will consider the reasons for the non-response, the promptness of the motion, and any potential prejudice to the petitioner.
  6. Legal Representation: Given the complexity and the strict timelines involved, seeking legal advice from a qualified divorce attorney or a family law paraprofessional is highly recommended. They can help in preparing and presenting a compelling case to the court.

How Mediation Works in a Default Divorce

In the context of a default divorce in Arizona, the role of mediation can be limited, but it still holds potential value.

Mediation typically involves both spouses working with a neutral third-party mediator to negotiate and resolve issues amicably.

However, in a default divorce, since one party is non-responsive, traditional mediation as a tool for mutual agreement is not feasible in its standard form.

Despite this, if the non-responding spouse becomes active in the process after a default has been filed but before it’s finalized, mediation can be introduced to resolve any pending issues.

This scenario allows for a more collaborative approach to finalizing the divorce terms, potentially leading to a more mutually satisfactory resolution than a court-ordered judgment.

It’s important to note that while mediation can offer a platform for negotiation and compromise, its effectiveness in a default divorce scenario largely depends on the participation and willingness of both parties.

In cases where the non-responding spouse remains uninvolved, the divorce process continues toward a default judgment without the benefits of mediation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce by Default in Arizona 

  1. FAQ: What happens if I move out of state after my spouse files for divorce but before a default judgment is issued?
    • Answer: Moving out of state does not automatically prevent a default judgment. If you were served with divorce papers and did not respond within the legal timeframe, the court in Arizona can still issue a default judgment. It’s crucial to file a response or consult with a legal professional regardless of your relocation.
  2. FAQ: Can a default divorce be contested after the judgment if I was unaware of the original divorce filing?
    • Answer: Yes, under certain circumstances. If you were not properly served or genuinely unaware of the divorce proceedings, you might have grounds to contest the default judgment. This typically involves proving that you were not properly served and filing a motion to set aside the judgment.
  3. FAQ: How does a default judgment affect my credit score?
    • Answer: A default judgment itself does not directly affect your credit score. However, if the judgment involves financial obligations like spousal support or debt division and you fail to meet these obligations, it could negatively impact your credit.
  4. FAQ: What is the impact of a default divorce on joint business assets?
    • Answer: In a default divorce, the court may allocate business assets according to the petitioner’s request if it seems fair and within legal guidelines. 
  5. FAQ: How does a default divorce impact immigration status if my residency is based on my marriage?
    • Answer: A default divorce can affect immigration status if your residency is conditional based on your marriage. 
  6. FAQ: Is it possible to negotiate the terms after a default divorce judgment in Arizona?
    • Answer: Once a default judgment is entered, the terms are generally considered final. However, if both parties agree, they may be able to modify certain terms post-judgment, especially those related to child custody or support. Legal advice is recommended for such modifications.
  7. FAQ: Can default divorce proceedings address retirement accounts and pensions?
    • Answer: Yes, retirement accounts and pensions can be divided in a default divorce. However, without a response from the non-filing spouse, the court may allocate these assets based on the petitioner’s requests and legal guidelines, potentially without consideration of the non-filing spouse’s interests.
  8. FAQ: How does a default judgment impact child visitation rights?
    • Answer: In a default divorce, child visitation rights may be determined solely based on the filing spouse’s petition. If the non-responding spouse wishes to have visitation rights, it’s important to respond to the divorce petition to ensure these rights are considered.
  9. FAQ: Is it possible to recover attorney’s fees in a default divorce case?
    • Answer: Yes, in some cases. Arizona courts may order one party to pay the other’s attorney fees, especially if there is a significant disparity in financial resources. However, this is not automatic and depends on the specifics of the case.
  10. FAQ: What if I was serving in the military and could not respond to the divorce petition in time?
    • Answer: The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides protections for military personnel who cannot attend court proceedings, including divorce cases. If you were on active duty and unable to respond, you might be able to have the default judgment set aside under SCRA provisions.
Stephanie Villalobos, LP

How an Arizona Family Law Paraprofessional Can Help 

An Arizona family law paraprofessional, such as those at De Novo Law, offers essential support in default divorce cases. They ensure clients understand legal procedures and deadlines, reducing the risk of a default judgment due to procedural errors.

Their role includes preparing and reviewing documents to comply with legal standards, and providing strategic advice on responding to divorce petitions or proceeding with default divorces.

For those seeking the assistance of a family law paraprofessional for default divorce cases in Arizona, you can reach them by phone at (480) 725-2200. They offer a free initial consultation with a legal paraprofessional to discuss your specific concerns.

Affordable and Experienced Family Law Legal Services
Schedule an Appointment Today!

DISCLAIMER: The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  De Novo Law, LLC and its Legal Paraprofessionals are not attorneys and are not authorized to provide legal advice or representation beyond the areas and scope of practice for which license is held.  The transmission or receipt of any electronic correspondence or information does not create a legal paraprofessional-client relationship.

CONTACT US

Contact De Novo Law at any time to setup a free one-on-one consultation so we can discuss your concerns.

Please Call Us at (480) 725-2200 or Fill Out the Form Below to Schedule a FREE Initial Consultation with an Affordable Legal Paraprofessional to Assist with an Arizona Divorce or other Family Law Matters.