Fathers Have Rights in Arizona
Fathers rights in Arizona presents an important issue for many fathers. Some parents are not aware they have the same rights in an Arizona divorce or child custody case as a mother has. This misperception that mothers are afforded greater rights to children can sometimes lead to a parent taking an overly and unnecessarily aggressive posture. They may do so believing they are protecting their rights. They may fear losing valuable time with their children. The may be concerned about losing the ability to have a voice regarding the major life decisions for the children.
Arizona is a progressive state and has gender-neutral laws regarding custody of children. These laws prevent a judge from giving a mother preference in child custody cases. So, the question becomes whether judges, nevertheless, prefer mothers over fathers when they issue child custody orders. It has been our experience that courts do not favor mothers and, instead, give fathers the same rights in Arizona.
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Mistakes Fathers Need to Avoid in Arizona
We are going to address some of the biggest mistakes fathers may fall into in an Arizona divorce or child custody case. We are also going to provide ways to prevent a father from making these mistakes to provide you the greatest chance of prevailing in your custody case. If you want to protect your rights as a father, you need to avoid making these costly mistakes in your case.
If you have already made these mistakes or want to avoid doing so, you should contact our experienced attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC today. Our attorneys have over 100 years combined legal experience and have the knowledge and experienced to navigate fathers through the complex issues that arise in an Arizona divorce or child custody case.
#1 Waging a Financial War of Attrition
Some attorneys may encourage you to wage a financial war of attrition to protect your rights as a father. This tactic involves bombarding your spouse with extensive and prolonged litigation until the other side simply gives up. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Most attorneys are reasonable and do not promote such a tactic. However, as with any other profession, there are still some lawyers who are more than happy to take this approach. They do so because his or her client requests this tactic be used or because of their selfish interests in billing more attorney fees. An experienced attorney has plenty of clients and does not need to take this approach to run a professional law firm.
Waging a war of financial attrition will very likely blow up in your face and result in the exact opposite of what you are trying to accomplish. You must be very tactical in how you execute your divorce or child custody strategy to provide yourself with the greatest opportunity to protect your relationship with your children.
For example, if the court sees you are burying your spouse in overly zealous litigation, the court has the power to issue financial sanctions against you. Arizona revised statute section 25-324 gives the court the authority to punish a party who the court believes is abusing the legal system. As a result, you may not only not succeed in your effort to bury your spouse in attorney fees, but you may actually immerse yourself financially if the court sanctions you.
The other problem with waging a war of financial attrition is that the judge on your case, who has the final say as to the issues in your case, may become upset with your conduct and rule accordingly. Judges do not want to see cases coming back before them on a future motion to modify court orders when one of the parties has taken a litigious path in their divorce case. As a result, a judge who sees a spouse abusing the legal system may grant the other parent sole custody of the children to ensure issues that can occur in a joint custody situation do not find their way back in front of the court.
#2 Do Not Be Too Generous in Your Divorce
Some men try to enforce their rights by taking the opposite approach of mistake #1. That is, they choose the strategy of being too generous on the division of assets and debts, child support and spousal maintenance out of fear that failing to do so will result in a fight. This strategy can have a devastating impact on your financial future and is, quite frankly, completely unnecessary. The law provides that property is to be divided equitably (i.e., “fairly”) and that child support orders should be entered only to the extent necessary for the support of the children’s basic needs (i.e., “food, shelter, clothing, medical needs, and sometimes educational needs”).
Being overly generous often times leads a mother to feel more empowered than grateful resulting in an entitlement attitude. It can be damaging to your if your former spouse is unmotivated to work and become self-supportive because she views you as being obligated to pay for everything for her and your children.
#3 Giving Up Your Fathers Rights
Some parents simply give up instead of fighting to protect their rights. In the heat of their divorce, they simply want it all over and they may give up rights to their children to bring the divorce to an end. More often than not, these parents regret that decision and have to pay an attorney to undo the mistake they made. We have represented many fathers who have put themselves in this situation and, although we have managed to undo the mistake, it often comes at a higher cost than if he had not given up in the first place.
Some people have heard the legal system has a preference for mothers over fathers in an custody case. This is simply not true. The concept of fathers rights in Arizona is not meant to imply that courts favor mothers over fathers in Arizona divorce cases. Courts do not favor mothers over fathers in Arizona. An Arizona statute provides that an Arizona judge may not prefer mothers over fathers in an Arizona child custody case. If a judge violates that law, you have the right to appeal your case to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Courts have given both parents equal parenting time and joint legal decision-making in a majority of cases. They generally issue such orders when you can prove you are available to personally care for your children during your parenting time and there has not been a history of significant domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health disorders that impact your ability to parent your children or child abuse or neglect by you.
Although every parent’s circumstances are different, it is believed that it is in the children’s best interests to spend as much time with each parent as possible. Enforcing your rights in Arizona, therefore, becomes much less about making the mistakes discussed above and more about being the best father you can be for your children. Your children need you to be strong and make the best decisions in your case to ensure they spend as much time with you as possible. Do not allow an overly aggressive and zealous attorney to destroy your chance at winning your case.
To win, you must be able to explain your position to the court and support that position with evidence. You should do so in an organized and logical manner to ensure the judge understands your position and the evidence submitted in support of that position. Our attorneys create a very detailed plan at the beginning of every case. We then accumulate all of the evidence, which is organized to provide for an effective presentation at trial to protect your interests.
#4 Not Modifying Child Support or Custody Orders
Some fathers who find themselves financially devastated in an Arizona divorce due to child support orders or spousal maintenance orders stop paying the support instead of seeking a modification of those support orders. Similarly, many fathers who did not win on their initial requests regarding child custody and parenting time give up because they remember the cost of the original divorce. They may not realize that failing to pay the support ordered can lead to judgments being entered against them, financial sanctions being levied against them, and the accrual of interest on the past due support amounts.
They may have to pay their attorney to defend them and may end up being ordered to pay their former spouses attorney fees as well. They may not realize it is much less expensive to pursue a modification case than a complete divorce case because there are significantly fewer issues in a modification case than a divorce case. Consider this . . . Which is less expensive? Continuing to labor under oppressive support orders and orders that limit your time spent with your children or paying a lawyer to assist you in modifying those orders? In almost every case, it is less expensive to pursue the modification if your attorney correctly concludes you have a basis to change those orders.
So, what do you do now? Take action. Call us to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. We will provide you with a plan to help you come out ahead in your divorce or child custody case. Our dedicated team of family law attorneys is committed to protecting your interests.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article to ensure everyone has access to information about family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and, quite frankly, actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case. In short, his practice is defined by the success of his clients. He also manages all of the other attorneys at his firm to make sure the outcomes in their clients’ cases are successful as well.
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