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Phoenix AZ Family Law Blog

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules that Stepfather Must Support


Stepchildren after Divorce

In an unusual and possibly groundbreaking case, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has found a stepfather responsible for the financial support of his stepchildren though he never adopted them. The circumstance that differentiates this case from others of its kind is that the stepfather sought legal and physical custody of his ex-wife's children, claiming parental rights for having stood in loco parentis for many years.

The story begins in Serbia where a mother gave birth to twins in 1998.
Read more . . .


Friday, January 29, 2016

Social Media Being Used To Call Out Child Support Evaders


Is it fair to use Facebook and Twitter to publicly shame “deadbeat” parents?

It is no secret that Arizona has a high rate of unpaid child support. The state has used various methods, including issuing warrants for arrest, in an attempt to collect back payments. Unfortunately, these methods haven’t worked for the worst offenders, and many children remain unsupported by one of their parents. Now, the state is trying something new in the child support arena-- publicly shaming child support evaders by posting their pictures on Read more . . .


Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Lottery Curse


Why do so many people who win the lottery end up miserable?

So you didn’t win the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot? Yeah, I didn’t either. I guess the downside is that my month-long trip around the world is going to have to wait a bit. However, on the upside, coming into all that cash isn’t going to ruin the relationships I have with all my family and friends, and keeping them around is worth more to me than even the biggest jackpot.

Have you ever watched the TV show Read more . . .


Monday, December 21, 2015

Domestic Violence: Definition and Statistics

What is domestic violence and how frequently does it actually occur in Arizona?

Defining Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is all too common in modern society.  Domestic violence certainly includes physical or sexual abuse by a family member.  It may also include physical or emotional intimidation and bullying within a family unit. 

While we generally think of domestic violence as being directed at women, it is frequently directed at children and in many instances, directed at men.  Domestic abuse takes place across all socioeconomic strata, ethnic, racial, and religious groups,  all levels of education and against people of all ages.  Either because of fear or the feeling that what happens within a family should stay within the family, domestic violence in many instances is a well-kept family secret.

 Most often, it is part of a pattern of dominance and control. Domestic abuse tends to be self-perpetuating, that is, children that have either been abused or have witnessed abuse in the home are more likely to become an abuser later in life.

The Statistics Speak for Themselves


Since most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police, the statistics below actually may underestimate the scope of the problem. 

Arizona Statistics

• Twenty-five percent of all women in Arizona have or will experience domestic violence
• Most domestic violence victims, 85 percent, are women
• Annually, an estimated 1.3 million women are abused by their intimate partners
• Domestic violence results in more than 18.5 million medical visits annually
• At least one child in Arizona witnesses domestic violence every 44 minutes
• As many as 60 percent of those who abuse intimate partners also abuse their children
• Witnessing violence is the strongest risk factor for a child becoming an abuser in adulthood
• Boys who see domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners later in life
• Victims of abuse in rural areas of Arizona and elsewhere do not have access to help

The national statistics for domestic abuse are even worse than those in Arizona. On average, for example, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S., which equals more than 10 million people per year. On an average day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic abuse hot lines. The presence of a gun in a situation of domestic violence increases the risk of homicide by 500 %.

Domestic abuse in Arizona, across the country and around the world, tends to increase and in extreme cases results in serious injury and even death.

If you are presently a victim of domestic abuse in Arizona, do the wise thing to protect yourself and your family by  leaving immediately and finding a safe haven.  Report the abuse to the authorities, and feel free to contact Arizona  attorney  Mitchell Cohen at Cohen Family Law, 602-714-8898, for your free consultation.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Possibility of Divorce in Arizona


Are there specific reasons for the high rate of divorce in Arizona?

The oft-quoted statistic that 50 percent of U.S. marriages end in divorce is disturbing to many since the concept of marriage involves a lifelong commitment. Apparently, someone who has divorced once is more likely to divorce again, since the percentage of people who divorce after a first marriage is 41 to 50 percent and the percentage of individuals who divorce after a second marriage increases to 60 to 67 percent.
Read more . . .


Monday, November 23, 2015

Arizona Denies Child Custody to Couple Because of Their Immigration Status

 Should immigration status be considered in cases of child custody?

In an Arizona case fraught with multiple tragedies, the grandparents of a baby girl have been denied custody of the child because they are undocumented aliens. The case is complex and laden with human misery.

It begins with the daughter of the couple being raped at the age of 15 by a family friend. The daughter kept her pregnancy hidden until secretly giving birth in her parents' bathroom. Subsequently, her baby girl was (depending upon which version of event you believe) deliberately dropped or accidentally fell from a window ledge to the ground.

The teenager, after pleading guilty to attempted second-degree murder and child abuse, has been sentenced to 5 years in prison, a lifetime of probation, and has forfeited her parental rights forever.

While the Arizona Department of Child Safety at first allowed the grandparents to visit their baby granddaughter, their visitation rights have now been denied. The agency has declared them unfit guardians because they are not legal residents of the United States. The grandparents, who have a daughter of about the same age as their granddaughter, believe it is unjust for them to be denied custody because of their immigration status, particularly because there is no state law forbidding it.

They claim that the state government has already torn their family apart since they are no longer able to visit their daughter in prison. This separation has occurred because they are unable to get the state-issued identification necessary to visit a state penal facility.

Those sympathetic with the grandparents point out that, apart from the rights of the adults in question, the baby continues to be traumatized by being separated from the only home and family she's ever known.

Laws concerning child custody are complicated and may, at times, seem unjust. It is essential that you have an experienced family law attorney in your corner to guide you as you navigate these choppy waters.
At Cohen Family Law, we have the knowledge and skill to assist you and to ensure the best possible outcome of your custody case. If you need help with child custody or other family issues, please call us for a free consultation at 602-714-8898. We have been helping Arizona families since 1982 and we would be pleased to help yours.
 


Friday, November 20, 2015

Funding College Tuition in a Divorce

Who pays for college of offspring in a divorce?



Divorcing parents have a number of issues to resolve in co-parenting, particularly regarding how to pay for their children's college expenses. This requires combining their income power to handle rising tuition rates.

During the time a couple was married, there may have been a savings plan such as a 529 plan.
In a divorce, one of the parents will assume control of the tax-advantaged account unless the account is split. The parent who becomes the sole owner is the only one who can make decisions about how these funds are used. Some experts believe that the non-custodial parent should own the plan since the funds will not be included as assets in a financial aid application.

In addition to the tax advantages of 529 plans, claiming a child as a dependent provides federal tax deductions (provided that the child is a full-time college student) This is usually handled in a divorce settlement agreement, and the parent with the higher income is often designated as the one permitted to claim the child as a dependent.

Resolving questions over who owns a 529 Plan and who will claim the child as a dependent hinge on the issue of who gets custody, one of the most contentious matters in a divorce. The decision can, however, impact the child’s financial aid eligibility.

While the only assets that are a factor in a financial aid application are those of the custodial parent, many colleges ask for additional financial aid forms that include the non-custodial parent’s financial information. In these cases, the equation becomes more complicated if the parent have remarried. Then, the assets of the other spouses may become part of a financial aid determination.

In the final analysis, a divorcing couple is best advised to overcome the contentious issues that arise in a divorce and strive to meet the court’s standard of what is in the best interest of the child. Ultimately, child custody decisions should consider how a child’s college tuition will be funded. Deciding which parent retains full custody can have a significant impact on financial aid.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

New Study Reveals Surprising Divorce Rates in Couples Who Marry After Having Children

What are the major considerations for couples with children considering divorce?

Having a child can drastically change the dynamics in a romantic relationship. For some couples, the stress of co-parenting can quickly diminish the partnership, leaving individuals feeling stressed and isolated.  However, the results of a recent study indicate divorce rates in couples marrying after having a child are surprisingly lower than those in couples pursuing the traditional marriage-then-baby timeline. In any event, couples with children must be prepared to make several significant decisions when pursuing a divorce or dissolution of the relationship, including visitation, custody, and child support matters.

According to the Council on Contemporary Families, couples who choose to get married after having a child actually fare better than originally thought. Traditionally, divorce rates among parents who married after having a child were much higher than those of parents who were already married at the time of their child’s birth.  Now, recent data shows divorce rates among these two groups is about equal, representing a decrease in divorce rates among the baby-then-marriage group.

 This is so because there is more of an acceptance of cohabitation before marriage and this new family form is more common.  In other words, the notion of cohabitation before marriage – particularly with a child is now much more widely accepted and this has created a a more welcoming environment for couples choosing to take a less traditional path to creating a modern family.

In Arizona, the family court determines both parents as equal regardless of marital status when deciding matters like visitation, child custody and support. There is no preference or special treatment under the law for parents to be married (or not) when deciding the best course of action in these contexts.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Discrimination against Same-Sex Families Continues in Some Places in Arizona

Why do some Christian colleges still deny same-sex couples equal treatment?

As with other civil rights issues, legality doesn't guarantee fair treatment. The Supreme Court's recent decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states has clearly not solved all problems of discrimination against gay couples and their families. Grand Canyon University, a Christian institution in Phoenix, has pitted itself against Arizona's ACLU relative to this issue.

Although the university states that it is "committed to providing equal opportunity employment and prohibits unlawful discrimination based on race, color, ancestry, religion, citizenship, sex, sexual orientation, family care status, marital status, national origin, age, veteran status, handicap status, mental or physical disability or medical condition, genetic information or any other characteristic protected by law," it has routinely discriminated against legally wed same-sex employees and their families by refusing to provide benefits for their spouses. Apparently the declaration that the school will not discriminate in hiring does not extend to how it will treat its employees once they are on the payroll.

It is noteworthy that Grand Canyon University, although a "Christian" institution, does not perceive any irony in its patent disregard of the integral "do unto others" portion of Christian theology. While the ACLU legal director has confronted the president of the University on behalf of employees in same-sex marriages who have been denied spousal health insurance and other benefits, the University maintains its position and may continue to deny such benefits until forced to do so by a court of law.

According to the president of the university, Brian Mueller, Grand Canyon University's "commitment to Biblical principles" is strong and the institution is presently reviewing its policies in light of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage. In the meantime, spouses and families are suffering financially and medically due to the University's discrimination.

If you or your family members are being discriminated against because yours is a same-sex marriage, or if you need to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney in Arizona for any reason, please contact Mitchell Cohen at Cohen Family Law by calling 602.714.8898


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Family Law Modifications: How to Get the Changes You Need

I recently lost my job and would like to decrease my child support amount. How is this accomplished?

Under Arizona law, orders involving legal decision-making (child custody) parenting time, child support, or spousal support (spousal maintenance) may be modified by citing a "substantial and continuing " change in circumstances. Of course, each area requires a different set of circumstances to modify, and the court will require a demonstration of actual difficulty or hardship as opposed to mere inconvenience.

In terms of child support, a court may increase or  decrease a monthly award if there has been a “substantial and continuing change of financial circumstances.  In general any change in circumstance that results in  a 15% change in the ultimate child support is considered "substantial".

This is most often as a result of an increase or decrease in income for either parent, but may also be can be as a result of the ending of a spousal maintenance obligation, the birth of additional children, the ending of the need for daycare or a significant change in the cost of health insurance. 

The changing of a legal decision-making (custody) order or a parenting time order is generally harder and is based on the best interests of the children rather than a simple guideline calculation.  Therefore whether to grant the change or not is up to the discretion of the Judge and the outcome can be much less certain.

If you are considering a modification of child or spousal support or visitation in Arizona and would like to discuss your options, please contact Cohen Family Law today: 602-714-8898.


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.


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