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May 2010 Archives

How to Establish Paternity in Arizona

Paternity often needs to be established when a child is born to parents who are not married to each other and if the father of the child is unknown. If both parties are in agreement on paternity, then there's no need for DNA testing. However, if one party contests paternity allegations, then there's often a need for such testing. This is a brief overview of paternity in Arizona.

Issues of paternity often arise in cases involving child support, but the results of a paternity test can also be important for the courts when it comes to issues of adoption, inheritance, custody, and other family law issues. When there's a dispute over the paternity of a child, it's important to get Phoenix family lawyers involved so that both sides can be represented fairly. The Phoenix family lawyers know that there are several ways in which parents can go about establishing paternity in the state of Arizona. The Judicial branch of Arizona states that one way to establish paternity is for a judge to enter a court order that mandates paternity testing. The state's Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) may also establish paternity without going to court.

Making Child Support Payments

Non-custodial parents who have been ordered to pay child support in the state of Arizona can learn how to set up automatic child support payments and how to process electronic fund transfers through the state's Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE).

Child support payments and support payment handling fees are usually paid to the Support Payment Clearinghouse, however there are various third party vendors that accept child support payments and then forward those payments to the Arizona Support Payment Clearinghouse. Some of these third party collectors include Western Union, Expert Pay, and e-ChildsPay. The Arizona Department of Economic Security has also made paying child support easier, as there is now an option to make payments over the Internet through State of Arizona Payment Gateway.

The Value of Paternity Testing: Dancer Suing Albert Haynesworth

Albert Haynesworth, a defensive tackle on the Washington Redskins, could soon be facing a great deal of family drama since an exotic dancer from New York is claiming that she is pregnant with the professional football player's baby.

The New York Post reports that dancer Silvia Mina is suing Albert Haynesworth for $10 million, alleging that the football player abandoned her after she told him that she was pregnant. Albert Haynesworth reportedly signed a $100 million contract with the Redskins last year, but the dancer claims that he has refused to talk to her or pay money toward her medical bills since last March.

Prospective Parents Can AASK About Adoption

There's at least one Arizona non-profit adoption and child placing agency that puts emphasis on the importance of adopting from foster care. Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) places parents with children who have had a less than ideal early life. Some of the foster children have special needs or have suffered from neglect, abuse, or drug exposure.

People who are interested in adopting a child from AASK must be approved by the state of Arizona and meet other qualifications. All adoptive families must go through an adoption certification process, which includes an orientation, intake interview, 30 hours of training, fingerprinting, and a home study. The process of adopting from AASK typically takes about six to nine months to complete.

Local Business Owners Reach Divorce Settlement

A divorce can especially be complicated if the couple owns property or businesses and there's no prenuptial agreement involved. The complications arise when there's not an agreement on who gets to take ownership of such property, which is why the Phoenix family lawyers often step in to settle and negotiate the dispute.

The Arizona Republic reports that there might be some changes to downtown Chandler after the divorce of Roger and Tresha Baldwin. The couple owned several businesses in the town of Chandler, but court papers show that they agreed to a consent decree that ends their marriage and divides their assets.

Nas and Kelis Finalize Their Divorce

It's official. Nas is a single man, since the finalization of his divorce last week. BET reports that him and his estranged wife Kelis were able to finalize their divorce in Los Angeles Superior Court, but their battle of alimony and child support could be far from over.

Nas and Kelis reportedly filed for legal separation in April 2009, claiming that they had irreconcilable differences. Their separation led to a request for divorce, which was granted after the divorce lawyers stepped in.

If the Wedding is Called Off, Who Gets the Engagement Ring?

If you call off an engagement and decide not to go through with a wedding, then who gets to keep that expensive ring? If a man pays for the ring, is he entitled to get it back? Or is the ring a gift considered the property of the woman, once it is given to her?

Some couples can come to a harmonious agreement on what should happen to the engagement ring. Other times, Phoenix family lawyers will get involved in the case and turn it into a legal issue. The question of who gets the ring can be complicated, even for Phoenix family lawyers, because there are no set laws in Arizona on engagement rings or conditional gifts.

Does Having An Autistic Child Lead to Divorce?

Statistics often claim that having an autistic child puts a strain on married couples.

It's often cited that parents with autistic children have higher rates of divorce than the average parent. The Baltimore Sun reports that some studies show that the divorce rate among parents of special needs children  is as high as 80 percent.

Taking care of a special needs child can often be time consuming and can of course lead to stress within a marriage. However, new studies have found that the assertion of high divorce rates among parents with an autistic child is not necessarily true. A study from Kennedy Krieger researchers shows that 64 percent of children with an autism spectrum disorder have two married biological or adoptive parents, compared with 65 percent of children without autism.

Promoting Marriage Equality in Arizona

Same-sex couples can't get married in the state of Arizona, but there are some groups that are hoping to change just that. They are trying to promote marriage equality in the state of Arizona. Through speaking engagements, forums, and outreach functions, there are activists in Phoenix and across the state that are pushing for the marriage rights of gay couples.

Marriage Equality USA is just one organization, with a chapter in Arizona that works to promote the idea of marriage rights for same-sex couples. The organization advocates for same-sex marriage through education, media campaigns, performances and other various partnerships.

Wife Beaten To Death: Was The Husband Angry Over Alimony?

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Deputies say that Carol Kennedy was beaten to death in her Prescott home in July 2008 and that her husband, Steven Democker, is suspected of being the killer. However, the Arizona Republic reports that Steven Democker and his attorneys have denied the allegations and say that the murder case is based almost entirely on circumstantial evidence.

It turns out that prosecutors are arguing that a battle over alimony is the motive behind the entire case. The prosecution says that Steven Democker was in a "full-blown battle over money" with the ex-wife and that he was upset over making the $6,000 payments to Carol Kennedy, which was the amount established in a court order during the divorce process. The beneficiary of Carol Kennedy's life insurance policies was also valued at $750,000.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child?

Adopting a child can be a very rewarding experience, but some prospective parents worry about the costs to adopt a child. However, there might not be a financial burden at all when it comes to the adoption process, because there are plenty of ways to bring down the costs.

FindLaw states that the total cost of adopting varies, but can range from $0 to $40,000. Obviously, the costs depend on a number of factors. Some of these factors include the type of placement agency or facilitator, type of adoption, and the child's age and circumstances.

Leaving Kids in the Car Can Lead To Child Abuse Arrest

A Phoenix man was arrested on Sunday at a popular night club in the city of Tempe for leaving his three young children unattended in a car. Some people may not see this as a serious crime, but the father was booked on three counts of child abuse. The child abuse arrest highlights some serious issues.

The Arizona Republic reports that Maurice Morgan allegedly left a six-month old, a two-year-old, and a three-year-old in the vehicle by themselves for nearly an hour. The man admitted that he never checked up on the children while he was in Graham Central Station, but claimed that his wife was going to come by and pick up the kids.

What Is An Invalid Marriage?

Happily married couples may occasionally find out that their marriage is for some reason invalid. An invalid marriage is rare, but possible. The situation may occur if one spouse incorrectly thought that a previous marriage ended in divorce or death of another spouse.  FindLaw also states that a marriage can legally be considered invalid if the marriage is found to be between two close relatives, such as siblings, or if one spouse is underage for a legal marriage in Arizona. This is where an annulment can come into play.

If the marriage is found to be invalid for any reason, family courts can allow for an annulment rather than a divorce.  With an annulment, a marriage is treated as if it never existed. This is different from a divorce in that a divorce declaration ends a marriage that was considered to be valid.

It's Time to Celebrate National Family Month

It's time for parents, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and grandparents to step outside of the box and spend time with the family. This year, National Family Month is being celebrated from May 9 to June 20 (Mother's Day to Father's Day) and is a time to honor the idea of family togetherness.

Phoenix family lawyers point out that the image of the traditional family is changing and doesn't necessarily consist of one mother, one father and kids. Issues of adoption and child custody have opened new doors of what a family can look like, giving new opportunities for people to come together as a family in a whole new way.

Arizona's Voluntary Paternity Program

Paternity is the legal establishment of the identity of a child's father. And through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), the state of Arizona has laws that establish a simplified civil process for parents to voluntarily acknowledge the paternity of a child that has been born out of wedlock.

As reported on the Arizona Department of Economic Security's website, the state's voluntary paternity programs are carried out through the Hospital Paternity Program (HPP).

Arizona's Voluntary Paternity Testing Program, a collaborative effort through HPP and Arizona hospitals, provides paternity establishment services for unmarried couples immediately after the birth of a child.

Living Together Before Marriage

Unmarried couples involved in a serious, long-term relationship should consider creating a nonmarital agreement if they're planning on living together. While such an agreement is not always necessary, it could prevent a great deal of legal trouble in the event of a breakup. This is especially true if the couple owns property, or has a great deal of assets.

FindLaw states that nonmarital agreements, also known as "living together contracts," establish who owns property and finances, as well as what happens to the money if one person dies, or if there's a breakup. The living together contract can also includes how expenses are handled during a relationship. Who's paying for the costs of food? Who pays for housing and utilities? These questions can be answered in an agreement, and be upheld in court if necessary.

Why File For Legal Separation?

Why would a couple file for legal separation?

With legal separation, a couple can stay married and still receive all the perks of a marriage, but a legal separation also ensures that the spouses can be apart from one another under the law. Like a divorce, legal separation can involve issues of property division, debt division, child custody and visitation, child support, and even spousal maintenance.

According to FindLaw, legal separation is simply an arrangement that's formalized by a court order. The order specifically states what support, if any, one spouse will pay to the other. So, how is a legal separation different than divorce? A separation does not end a marriage and still recognizes the possibility that the couple might get back together. People who are separated cannot legally remarry, unless they decide to divorce.

New AZ Law On Elective Abortions Raises Questions

A new law that is set to go into effect on July 29 will change insurance policies on elective abortions for some city employees. The Arizona Republic reports that with the passage of Senate Bill 1305 (also known as SB 1305), public funds and tax dollars can no longer be used to fund a health-insurance policy that "provides coverage, benefits or services related to the performance of any abortion." It does, however, allow exceptions if the woman's life is at risk.

It may not be long before a Phoenix family lawyer chooses to challenge such a law, as there are many members of the Legislature that oppose SB 1305. Rep. Phil Lopes, D-Tucson, argues that this new law isn't needed.

Arizona's Child Support Settlement Program

Attention non-custodial parents who owe past due child support. The Division of Child Support Enforcement in the state of Arizona has a program that can provide assistance to help pay off past due support. This can provide some sort of relief for anyone who is seeking child support settlement. 

The Arizona Department of Economic Security reports that the state's Settlement Program specifically helps the non-custodial parents reduce or eliminate past due child support amounts so that the parent can continue to meet their current child support obligation, if one still exists.

In such tough economic times, paying child support can be quite a challenge. Whether you've been put out of work, have had work hours reduced, or have been incarcerated, there are many reasons that keep parents from getting the money to pay child support. This is why such a program exists. More information about the Settlement Program can be found at the DES website or by calling 602-252-4045.

Father of Nine Advocates For the Rights of Dads

Most family law blogs focus on the rights of mothers, but what about the rights of dad?

Sean Penton has three daughters, four stepsons, and is about to take custody of two more adopted children. The Arizona Daily Star reports that the man has a three-bedroom, one-bath home that he shares with his wife and kids. While he is constantly surrounded by family members in the home, he works full time at Raytheon Missile Systems, while his wife Leesajean Penton has a part-time job at the Handmaker Foundation.

This off-beat version of the Brady Bunch can be inspiring for people in Arizona that are going through the state's family court system. Sean Penton, in particular, is seen as a role model for fathers trying to navigate through the state's child custody system. He is now even trying to start a non-profit organization called Single Fathers of Southern Arizona, which would help fathers have a fair opportunity in a child custody battle.

Jon and Kate Gosselin May Have a New Family Plan

Jon and Kate Gosselin have been in an ongoing legal battle over their eight children, but the couple may now be attempting to work out their differences and come up with a fair plan for the family. New York Daily News reports that Jon Gosselin recently fired his family law attorney and he may even drop his child custody and child support lawsuit against his ex-wife Kate.

The couple and their kids became famous reality television stars on TLC’s Jon and Kate Plus 8, but in reality the Gosselins may not be a happy family after all. Jon reportedly pays more than $20,000 to his ex-wife who has primary custody of the children. Yet many Phoenix family lawyers see this as unfair because Kate reportedly makes significantly more money than Jon. While the father claims that he is struggling to make his child support payments, Kate recently banked over $200,000 on Dancing With the Stars.

Signing a Prenuptial Agreement Before Getting Married

So you're getting ready for the big wedding day and you're probably excited about saying the words "I do." But before walking down the aisle, many couples choose to sign a prenuptial agreement so that property rights can be established before the marriage.

The idea of a prenuptial agreement should appeal to many Arizonians, since Maricopa County has a surprisingly high rate of divorce. The Marriage Ministry at CCOJ reported that the county's divorce rate sat at 64 to 70 percent in 2008. Perhaps prenuptial agreements can provide Phoenix residents with a safety blanket so they don't have to fear the idea of getting a divorce.

Laura Bush Voices Support For Gay Marriage

Apparently Former President George W. Bush and his wife disagree on at least two things -- gay marriage and abortion. Former First Lady Laura Bush surprised Larry King Live viewers on Tuesday after she stated her support for the legalization of gay marriage and for a woman's right to choose with abortion procedures.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Laura Bush told CNN, "When couples are committed to each other and love each other, they ought to have the same sort of rights that everyone has."

Now that the conservative George W. Bush is no longer in office, she can come out of the closet as a gay marriage supporter without the fear of damaging her approval rating. These comments, of course, show that she is more progressive than most Democrats in office, perhaps more liberal than current First Lady Michelle Obama. 

Couple From Mesa Allegedly Tried to Sell Baby

A Utah couple claims that they have information that caused them to believe an Arizona couple was going to sell their unborn baby for $6,000 to another couple. However, this would be illegal and the case could be rather unusual for Phoenix family lawyers because it involves the custody of a child that hasn't even been born.

Gary and Allison Stuckey, from Mesa, were served with court papers warning them not to go through with the selling of the baby. Deseret News reports that the Utah foster couple believed that the Stuckeys would be selling their baby because the couple are foster parents to other children born to the Stuckeys and have custody over those children. When the couple offered to adopt the Stuckey's unborn child, Gary and Allison allegedly said that they would be selling their child. In 2007, the Stuckeys allegedly sold one of their children to an unnamed Utah attorney for $4,000.

ASU Professor Ira Ellman Discusses Child Support

Arizona State University Law Professor Ira Ellman is becoming to be quite well-known among Phoenix family lawyers. The professor recently sat on a panel titled "The Development and Future of Guideline Support Calculations" at the 2010 National Child Support Attorney College, which was held last month in Costa Mesa, Ca.

ASU reports that Professor Ellman has a "groundbreaking" new method for generating child support, which bases the support amount on the the situation of the parental households after separation. His model is close to the model recommended by the American Law Institute, which is not supportive of child support methods based on child expenditures when the parental relationship is intact.

Issue Of Nudism May Play Role in Child Custody Case

Do parents have the right to be naked in their own home or should children be protected from nudity? The question may seem silly, but the issue of nudism could become relevant in a child custody case.

In this case, El Mirage police officers found that a mother and stepfather were walking around naked in their home in front of adolescent boys and recommended the parents be charged with a crime. The Arizona Republic reports that there was clearly no evidence of sexual misconduct between the parents and the children, but that the indecent-exposure technically does apply to parents within a household.

How Do I Change My Last Name After a Divorce?

Once you split up from your former spouse, you may feel a breath of fresh air when you get to change your married name back to your maiden name, or perhaps to a new name altogether. After all, changing the name can be the sign of a fresh start and symbol of independence.

FindLaw states that changing the name after divorce is not usually a huge legal problem, but it can become a complicated ordeal if a child's last name is changed as well. It's usually best to have a Phoenix divorce lawyer request that the judge handling your divorce make a formal order restoring your former name or birth name. If the divorce decree contains the name change order, then there's no other necessary paperwork. With the official documentation, you can officially have your name changed on identification and personal records.

Arizona Residents Should Learn From the McCourt Divorce

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The purpose of alimony is to provide income to a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse in a divorce. Yet many Phoenix family lawyers may question if the estranged wife of Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is really in need of spousal support.

A Los Angeles judge said in a 55-page ruling last Friday that the man must pay his wife Jamie McCourt $225,000 a month in alimony and another $412,159 a month in costs that are associated with the seven residential properties in her name. That's a total of $637,159 in monthly support!

Why must Frank McCourt pay so much money? The Los Angeles Times reports that because Jamie McCourt had such an extravagant lifestyle during her marriage to the Dodgers owner, she was entitled to a great sum of money. FindLaw states that the couple's standard of living during the marriage is a key factor in determining the amount of alimony that is rewarded.

The Rights of Grandparents in Arizona Family Law Cases

The rights of grandparents in child custody cases can always be interesting because there are laws in Arizona that protect the visitation and custody rights of grandparents. FindLaw states that courts in Arizona can award visitation rights to grandparents if the child's parents' marriage has been dissolved for at least three months or if the child has parents that were never married.

Preventing Teen Pregnancy in the Month of May

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and across the country various organizations are shedding light on preventing unplanned pregnancies. The Tucson Citizen reports that the state of Arizona in particular is hit hard with a high teen pregnancy rates each year.

Arizona has fifth highest teen birth rate in the country, according to the North Star Youth Partnership in Yavapai County. Approximately 39 teenagers become pregnant in the state each day, where 95 percent of those pregnancies are unplanned.

Arizonians For Alimony Reform

Spousal maintenance, otherwise known as alimony, has become somewhat of a controversial issue in recent decades. This is because many Phoenix family lawyers see the state's spousal maintenance laws as too vague and is left to too much interpretation for judges to make a critical decision.

Some people argue that alimony does not motivate the spousal maintenance receiver to work or be come self sufficient. And unlike child support, there's not always a defined duration on how long one spouse receives alimony, where the duration is often determined by a judge. It brings up the question: Is alimony simply outdated? Should there be alimony reform?

In the state of Arizona, there's one group determined to break free from alimony. The group calls themselves the Alliance for Freedom From Alimony and consists of both men and woman who are working to change the state's spousal maintenance laws. In order for these laws to change, Alliance for Freedom From Alimony is writing and e-mailing state legislators and members of Congress.

Parents Arrested After Police Find Toddler Alone in House

Can police officers arrest a person for simply being a bad parent? They can if they're endangering their own children. When it comes to child endangerment, a parent can not only face criminal charges, but can also run the risk of losing their children to Child Protective Services.

Police arrested two Scottsdale parents this week after their two-year-old son was found crying on a balcony while they were both allegedly in a local bar. A neighbor told officers that she heard the child crying for at least an hour, so she decided to call authorities.

Arizona's Most Wanted Child Support Evaders

There's a law in the Grand Canyon state that requires The Arizona Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) to develop a process to publicly identify certain parents who are delinquent in the payment of child support. The law (A.R.S. §25-526) is quite controversial among Phoenix family lawyers because some attorneys see this as a great deal of embarassment to those who are struggling to make their child support payments.

Nonetheless, the state's DCSE Child Support Evader program displays photographs and profiles of certain parents who are evaders of child support. In order to be listed as a child support evader on the Arizona Department of Economic Security website, the parent's court ordered delinquent support must be in excess of $5,000. Those who are listed also have had an arrest warrant issued, have an unknown location, have not made child support payments within the last six months, and have no known involvement with bankruptcy proceedings or receiving welfare benefits.

What Will Happen If Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren Split?

Multiple news reports say that Tiger Woods' wife will be leaving with him, since he admitted to having sex with over 120 women while married to his wife, Elin Nordegren. The Huffington Post reports that Elin Nordegren will likely be receiving a $500 million settlement.

While the model has been spending a lot of time lately in her home country of Sweden, rumors have circulated that Elin Nordegren plans to buy a house in Arizona when the couple splits. So perhaps she'll be making a call to a Phoenix family attorney when she's needs help with the legal process of divorce. Since the couple has two children together, Charlie and Sam, child custody will be another heated issue for the family lawyers to deal with.

Family Event Teaches Pima County Community About Adoption

The Third Annual Blue Ribbon Heart Gallery Celebration took place in Tucson last Saturday, giving an opportunity for Arizona families to learn more about the process of adoption. There are currently over 2,700 children in Pima County that are in custody with Child Protective Services. But after Saturday's event, the Arizona Heart Gallery is hoping that new families will consider adopting children from foster homes.

At the community event, more than 2,780 balloons were released into the air, one to signify each foster child in the area. The Arizona Daily Star reports that of the over 2,700 foster children, there are 86 kids who have been cleared by a court for permanent adoption and are now awaiting their permanent homes.

Challenging a Paternity Test

Paternity tests are done to legally establish who the father is of a particular child. When a father's identity is uncertain, it can lead to problems in a family, and it often leads to a lot of work for Phoenix family lawyers. When such uncertainty exists, FindLaw states that family courts will often look at the results of a paternity test before deciding cases involving child support, child custody, or adoption.

DNA testing is considered to be fairly accurate among family courts, but once the paternity of a father is established, he still has the right to challenge the validity of a paternity test. While it's improbable that the results of a paternity test are incorrect, Phoenix family lawyers may challenge the DNA test results on certain grounds.

Arizonians Celebrate National Foster Care Month

There are currently 463,000 children around the country who are living out of foster care, but fortunately there are many Arizona residents who are helping foster children and foster families by creating awareness on the issue.

This month of May is the perfect time of year to promote such a cause. This is because May is National Foster Care Month, where there's an ongoing campaign to heighten the visibility of children in foster care. The campaign primarily focuses on older youth who are about to age out of the foster care system. FosterCareMonth.org reports that the awareness month came about in 1988, and has since gained much recognition in the appreciation for foster parents.

Getting Married Under the Age of 18

In the state of Arizona, couples can get married under the age of 18, but they could end up needing a Phoenix family lawyer in order to complete the marriage process. According to the Clerk of the Superior Court's Office in Maricopa County, a marriage license can be given to 16 and 17 year olds if each spouse who is under the age of 18 has a notarized parental consent form or has his or her parents with them when applying for the marriage license.

Anybody who wants to get married under the age of 16 (ages 15 and under) must have a court order to get a marriage license. The law in Arizona does not say that there's a minimum age in order to get married, however anybody under the age of 16 may face difficulties getting a court order to approve a marriage. The law requires that the order be signed by the Juvenile Court Judge of the Superior Court. To obtain a court order, you can contact the Conciliation Court at (602) 506-3296.

Child Abuse Charge After Leaving Kids to Drink at Bar

It’s likely that 27-year-old Rebecca Barrera will need a Phoenix family attorney if she wants to keep custody of her own children. ABC News reports that the woman was recently arrested on a child abuse charge at a north Phoenix nightclub after leaving her two children inside a car while she was drinking in the club.

According to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, officers found two children in an unlocked vehicle with the keys on the driver’s seat in plain view. The vehicle was in a parking lot outside of the Hurricane Bay night club near Bell Road and 43rd Avenue. A portable breath showed that Rebecca Barrera had a blood-alcohol level of .152 the night she left her children in the car, which is almost twice the legal limit.