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Phoenix AZ Family Law Blog

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ashley Madison Fallout: How the Hack Could Impact Marriages Nationwide

Could evidence from the AshleyMadison.com hack come up in a pending divorce action?

There are a number of ways the recent AshleyMadison.com hack may impact pending divorce actions, both in Arizona and nationwide. In the wake of the scandal – which purportedly exposed the alleged infidelity of over 30 million paid subscribers – experts predict a sudden boon for divorce attorneys across the United States. However, evidence of a subscription on a cheater’s website does not, in and of itself, create or necessitate a divorce cause of action – particularly in light of the nationwide reliance on no-fault divorce to expedite and streamline the marital dissolution process.

One way, however, an Ashley Madison affair could alter the course of a marriage and/or divorce is if the parties had entered into a premarital agreement containing a fidelity clause. Often, premarital agreements contain language addressing the situation in which one of the spouses is unfaithful to the other – which can trigger significant financial rewards for the non-cheating spouse who seeks divorce. For instance, a premarital agreement might have a clause allowing the non-cheating spouse to receive a sum of money in the event infidelity is uncovered – a notion which has been implemented in celebrity and high-net worth premarital agreements.

In Arizona, which is a no-fault divorce state, evidence of adultery generally will not have any impact on the outcome of a divorce. In other words, a spouse cannot obtain higher alimony by proving her ex was popular on AshleyMadison.com. However, if the parties had engaged in what’s known as a “covenant marriage” under Arizona law, adultery would provide a basis for the filing of a divorce action. 

If you are considering divorce, whether or not issues of infidelity are involved,  and would like to speak to a reputable divorce attorney in Arizona, please contact Mitch Cohen at Cohen Family Law. Proudly serving the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, we can be reached at: 602-714-8898.


Monday, August 31, 2015

UPDATE: Arizona Judge Refuses to Issue Annulment in High-Profile WNBA Marital Dissolution Case

What are some reasons why a judge might deny an annulment? 

As we reported in an earlier blog post, WNBA powerhouses Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson were seeking to end their one-month marriage after a tumultuous start – and had planned to seek an annulment under Arizona law. As a bit of review, an annulment is a legal recognition that a “marriage” did not actually exist in the first place, and is distinguishable from a divorce based on this over-arching factor. Typically, annulments are issued if one party was underage at the time of the union, the parties were related, or there was an element of coercion or duress.

 However, in this case, the parties have experienced somewhat of a setback as an Arizona judge has opted to deny the annulment request – which was filed by Brittney Griner. Simply put, the court found no basis for an annulment under Arizona law, which means the spouses will be required to submit to the rigors of divorce court after all. 

Annulment vs. Divorce

An annulment will be denied if the court finds that a valid marriage existed at the outset. In other words, so long as the parties were of legal age, were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, did not have a mental impairment, and were not forced into the arrangement, an annulment will generally not be possible. 

Oftentimes, parties may attempt to seek an annulment in order to avoid the consequences of a full-blow divorce action. For instance, Arizona divorce law upholds the notion of spousal support, and may require one party to pay support to the other in a divorce (as opposed to an annulment).

If you are considering divorce or annulment and would like to discuss your options with a highly qualified attorney in Phoenix, Arizona and surrounding areas, please do not hesitate to contact Cohen Family Law today: 602-714-8898. 


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Divorced Mom Charged With Child Abduction 25 Years After Divorce

While a divorce is pending, what are the limitations on out-of-state or international travel with minor children?

Unfortunately for many litigants, the divorce process in Arizona can take several months – often longer than a year – to conclude. During this time there is a Preliminary Injunction in effect which prohibits removing a minor child of the parties form the state.  Additionally either party may seek pendente lite relief in order to set more specific  parameters regarding decision making and parenting time prior to the final divorce order.  If the parties maintain an interstate or international residence, the court may make reasonable accommodations for travel. Leaving the state with a minor child during a pending divorce and/or custody proceeding, however, can result in dire consequences, particularly for the parent alleged to have absconded with the child.

Recently Arizona law enforcement officials recently charged a retired mother with child abduction nearly 25 years after she fled Arizona during a pending divorce. According to the allegations, the mother and her ex-spouse – the child’s father – were in the process of divorcing and the father had been granted legal custody and visitation rights with their 3-year-old child. Inexplicably, the mother disappeared from the state of Arizona and was not heard from during all of the intervening years.

According to authorities, the mother had changed her name, altered her social security number, and changed the child’s identity to make it all but impossible to locate the pair. During the past two and a half decades, the mother was employed at Arizona State University as a professor of environmental planning and design, while the child successfully finished grade school, high school and college – with no one the wiser.

Once the mother was finally discovered, she was arrested and held on a $250,000 bond. If convicted, she could face up to three years behind bars. She could also face liability should the father file a civil lawsuit to compensate for the 25 years he was wrongfully denied a meaningful relationship with his child.

If you are considering a divorce, or would like to discuss the best ways to keep the dissolution of your marriage as drama-free as possible, please contact an experienced and concerned family law attorney at Cohen Family Law. Serving Phoenix, Arizona and surrounding areas, we can be easily contacted at 602-714-8898.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Undoing a Pre-Nup: How the Bobby Flay/Stephanie March Divorce Got Really Ugly, Really Quick


Can a prenuptial agreement be invalidated or nullified at the time of divorce?

For many, signing a prenuptial agreement (also known as a premarital agreement) imparts financial security at a time when emotions often cloud sound judgment. Some of the benefits of a premarital agreement include: 

• Clearly delineating real and personal property as separate and distinct;
• Identifying ownership of valuable assets acquired prior to and during the marriage;
• Protecting adult children from estate depletion by a second or subsequent spouse; and
• Preserving family heirlooms or generational real estate ownership.

Once a couple agrees to sign a prenuptial agreement, both must submit financial statements to one another, as well as meet with independent legal counsel to go over the rights, benefits and obligations conferred by such an agreement. Under Arizona laws, financial disclosures must be truthful and accurate, and must reveal all the assets owned by each spouse – especially those that will be kept separate. 

It is only after each partner has reviewed the full financial landscape of the other that a valid premarital agreement may be executed.


Read more . . .


Monday, July 13, 2015

Media Star Sherri Shepard Ordered to Pay Child Support for Child Born Via Surrogate; Previously Cited ‘Fraud’


What happens if a couple enters into a surrogate agreement and later splits? 

Surrogacy and gestational carrier laws have proven historically tricky for family courts to unravel, especially if the relationship between the father, mother, and surrogate sours before the birth of the child. To better understand the dynamic, there are two types of “surrogates” involved in the process. The first, which is a traditional surrogate mother, is artificially implanted with the father’s genetics and carries the pregnancy on behalf of the intended mother. In this scenario, the surrogate is actually the biological mother of the child, and usually agrees to a “surrogacy contract” wherein she promises to relinquish all parental rights upon the birth of the child. However, these contracts are sometimes overruled in Arizona – particularly if the surrogate did not understand the terms or decides to change her mind.
Read more . . .


Monday, July 6, 2015

Arizona Supreme Court Considering Changes to ‘Parenting Coordinator’ Role


What is a ‘parenting coordinator’ and how will this individual be involved in my custody dispute?

Amid widespread complaints from Arizona parents, the state Supreme Court will review proposed changes to the ‘parenting coordinator’ role in contested custody cases. Under current laws, a judge overseeing a custody case can mandate the appointment of a parenting coordinator – thereby requiring parents to submit to the inclusion of this often-resisted third-party in a confidential custody dispute. 

According to several court websites, the role of a parenting coordinator – who can be a mental health professional or family law attorney – is to help the family mediate and work through co-parenting issues as they navigate the unfamiliar territory of parenting post-divorce or post-break-up.


Read more . . .


Monday, June 15, 2015

Professional WNBA Star Seeks Annulment of 29-day Marriage in Arizona


What are the rules of obtaining an annulment in Arizona? 


A marriage annulment is a specific legal proceeding designed to void a marriage union under exceptionally limited circumstances. As opposed to a divorce, which acknowledges the marriage and severs the legal relationship, an annulment operates to treat the marriage is if it never existed in the first place. 

In one recent case out of Arizona, famed WNBA star Brittney Griner recently filed to annul her marriage to fellow WNBA star Glory Johnson – just 29 days after saying “I do.
Read more . . .


Friday, June 5, 2015

Domestic Violence Charge Against Ray Rice Dismissed


Can a domestic violence case proceed without the victim's participation?

The video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then fiancé out cold in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino was one of the most-publicized and documented occurrences of domestic abuse. Rice was allowed into a pretrial intervention program, which lasted one year and included anger management classes. Rice and his fiancé went ahead with their planned wedding.

The Read more . . .


Friday, May 29, 2015

Social Media & Divorce Litigation: How to Avoid Oversharing During Your Ongoing Case


My soon-to-be-ex-husband has been trying to avoid paying spousal support due to a “disability,” but his social media posts suggest he is able-bodied. Can I use this in court? 


Over the past several years, social media has played an increasingly important role in divorce and child custody litigation. Unbelievably, litigants will make certain claims in court or during settlement negotiations that can be totally refuted by the latest tweet or Instagram post. If you are in the midst of a divorce, or have questions about the usability of your spouse’s social media presence, we encourage you to contact a reputable Phoenix family law firm to discuss your options, rights, and obligations when evidence online is blatantly contradicting in-court statements or assertions. 

Spousal & child support

Spousal and child support determinations are made by calculating each party’s monthly gross income, as well as considering a number of other relevant factors.
Read more . . .


Friday, May 22, 2015

Determining Fatherhood in Arizona

How Does the Arizona Paternity System Work?

 

If you are a father, you have the legal responsibility to provide support for your minor child unless the mother is willing and able to totally financially support the child and does not want your help. Even if you do not want a role in raising the child, once paternity has been established, your financial assistance will be required. If you do want to get involved and if a paternity test shows you are the father, you can make a legal claim for custody or visitation. 

There are several ways paternity can be established in Arizona,

• There is a voluntary process by the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) where unmarried parents come to a DCSS office and open a case to establish paternity and child support. This Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity is completed by both parents and filed by DCSS.

• If paternity is unclear or denied, either party can have genetic testing done at the local DCSS office. If the results are 95% or greater, the agency files the results with a Request for an Order of Paternity to the court. The parents would receive a copy of this order.

• DCSS may refer the case to the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for a court hearing to determine paternity and seek a child support order if one of the potential parents is uncooperative. 

• A Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity establishing legal parentage completed by the parents can be filed with the court or an administrative agency.

• Unwed parents can avoid DCSS and opt to establish paternity and potentially have a child support order issued through the state court system. This will entail fees and costs, but enables the parties to have more control over the process, instead of a state agency. In most cases, the court orders DNA tests to determine paternity.

Whether you are the mother of a child seeking assistance or find yourself facing claims that you’re the father of a child in Arizona, the family law attorneys at Cohen Family Law in Phoenix can help. They routinely guide clients through the complex paternity process and provide representation in child support and custody cases. Call 602-714-8898 to schedule your free consultation. 

 


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tips for Parents as Summertime Looms


This is my first summer splitting custody of my school-age child with my ex. What is the best way to handle this situation?

If you are learning to co-parent after a divorce or separation, the first year or so can introduce new and unexpected changes in family dynamics. For the school-age child, the freedom offered by the summer months may also mean a change or adjustment to the visitation schedule. Oftentimes, these issues are addressed in a custody and visitation order incorporated into the final divorce decree. However, if you are operating without a visitation order, or are considering seeking a modification now that your child is a little older, the following tips may help you navigate the upcoming summer months.
Read more . . .


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