INCREASE FONT SIZE

A- A A+

Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time Information

Articles regarding what you should know before filing or going to Family Court.

What is legal decision making and parenting time?

Legal decision making and parenting time is most commonly known as child custody.  When parents separate or divorce, care for the children must continue.  If the parents cannot agree on a plan for raising the children, the court will order a plan or decide matters concerning their health and welfare.

What is legal decision making?

A term referring to the rights and responsibility of a person to make all non-emergency legal decisions for a child including those regarding education, health care, religious training, and personal care decisions.

What is parenting time?

The schedule of time during which each parent has access to a child at specified time.  Each parent during their scheduled parenting time is responsible for providing the child with food, clothing, and shelter and may make routine decisions concerning the care of the child.

 

Procedures

PIP Classes

Informational Resources

Parenting Plans

Custody FAQ

Custody Forms

Determining Your Objectives/Setting Expectations

The first step in family court is that you should determine your objectives. Let us say you are going through a divorce. I understand your objective is to get divorced. What I am asking is for you to think about what is important to you within your divorce. There are five main issues that will need to be decided:

1. Custody (Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time)
2. Property and Debt Division
3. Child Support
4. Spousal Maintenance
5. Other issues (marital waste, attorneys fees, etc)

Picture your life after divorce with regards to each and every one of the issues above. Be as detailed as possible. Plan your post divorce budget considering where you will live and work. If you have a transition plan to live with family or friends for a brief period of time, think about what your life will look like when you are done with that transition. Deciding you ideal outcome and what is most important to you prior to filing any paperwork is an excellent place to start when you are representing yourself. Consider coming up with your ideal outcome on each issue and then determining what you could live with for each and every issue. Work with a counselor, mentor of friend to do some serious planning.
 
After you have determined your objectives, it is important to understand that the “process” of getting a divorce or going through any family law matter is not a fast one. Setting your expectations to a realistic place will help you get through the process with your mental health in tact and gives you a better chance of meeting your objectives. Plan for a contested case to take a year or more. This is likely to be one of the most stressful events you will endure. Get a support structure in place in advance to help you through the process.

Contributing Attorney Writer: Billie Tarascio litigates family law and domestic violence cases at Modern Law.

The Initial Court Filings (Petition/Response/Temporary Orders)

The first step in the process of the family court case is the initial filings. This includes the Petition (and all accompanying documents), Affidavit of Service, Response (and all accompanying documents), and potentially filing for temporary orders. You or your spouse must file a Petition for Dissolution (divorce) with the court and serve the other party. Service must be according to the rules of procedure. Most often this is either through a process server or your spouse accepting service by signing an acceptance of service.

Whoever files the documents first is the “Petitioner” the non-filing spouse is the “Respondent”. You will retain these titles throughout the duration of your case, even in modifications that may come years from now. In reality, it does not really matter if you are the Petitioner or Respondent. There are strategic advantages to both.

Contributing Attorney Writer: Billie Tarascio litigates family law and domestic violence cases at Modern Law.

Motion For Temporary Orders

Finally, both Petitioner and Respondent may file a “Motion for Temporary Orders” along with the Petition or the Response. The request for temporary orders allows you to request that the court implement an order for temporary spousal maintenance, child support, use of the home, payment of the bills, attorneys fees, etc. In my experience about half of all cases have a temporary order in place. This is because divorce may take a year or more. In the mean time, arrangements have to be made. If the parties are unable to agree on the details of the arrangements, the court will need to put orders in place that allow for parenting time, payment of bills, and where someone will live. Other issues that may need to be addressed include where the kids will go to school, whether or not a child will be given a certain medication, travel arrangements between visits. Any issue that cannot be decided by the parties may be decided by the court as long as it falls within one of the five topics outlined above.

Contributing Attorney Writer: Billie Tarascio litigates family law and domestic violence cases at Modern Law.

Discovery/ Mandatory Disclosures

In Arizona, evidence that is not properly disclosed cannot be used in trial. On top of that, Rule 49 of the Arizona Family Law Rules of Procedure lays out what you are required to disclose even without the other person asking for the documents. In reality, self represented litigants rarely follow all of the rules and rarely disclose everything that they need to under Rule 49. But this list will help you determine what you may want to request and what you are required to disclose. The most important and non-negotiable mandatory disclosure is the Affidavit of Financial Information (AFI). If your case involves child support, spousal maintenance or attorneys fees, you and your ex will need to submit a completed and accurate AFI. This is one of the only disclosure documents that must be filed with the court. Most disclosure documents are handled between the individuals.

Contributing Attorney Writer: Billie Tarascio litigates family law and domestic violence cases at Modern Law.

Default Process

In the event you have served a petition on the opposing person and they do not respond, you have the opportunity to file for a default judgment. If the opposing person lives within the state of Arizona, they have 20 days to respond before you can initiate the default proceedings. If they are out of state, they have 30 days to respond. Another wrinkle to consider is that there is a 60-day waiting period before a judge may issue a divorce decree after you file. So, while the default rules allow you to ask for a default after 20 or 30 days, the judge will not sign a decree of dissolution prior to 60 days after the service of the petition.

In the event that the proper amount of time has passed, you can prepare an Application and Affidavit of Default. Simply create an account to access all of our professional legal documents. Make sure that you bring two copies with you when you go to file the documents. You will need to immediately mail, hand deliver or serve a copy of the documents to the opposing person. They then have an additional 10-day grace period to respond to your initial petition. After the 10 days has passed, you can call the court to schedule a default hearing. In the event that you do not have children, you can submit your documents via mail to the court and await the signature of the judge without scheduling a hearing.

To get a default judgment, you will need to submit a/an:

•    Completed Decree of Dissolution
•    Legal Separation or Order of Annulment and two copies
•    Parent Information Program Certificate (if it has not already been filed)
•    Signed Parenting Plan and two copies
•    Completed Child Support Worksheet and two copies
•    Order of Assignment and two copies
•    Completed Judgment Data Sheet
•    Wage information/pay stubs for both parties
•    Other financial information such as childcare costs, medical insurance premiums etc.
•    9X12 envelope addressed to the other party with 3 standard current postage stamps and
•    Copy of any prior Child Support Orders/Birth certificate for children

A default hearing is very informal. The judge will ask you questions about what you have included in your decree. The judge may make changes to what you have included in your decree. Also, you cannot put anything in your decree that you did not include in your petition. The other person is entitled to notice of everything that may end up included in the final paperwork. Alternatively, if you do not have children, you can submit the paper documents to the court for the signature of the judge. If you elect to go this route, make sure you deliver a copy of your documents to the chambers of the judge.

Helpful hint: Consider getting the phone number for the judicial assistant so that you can make follow up calls regarding the status of your documents.

Contributing Attorney Writer: Billie Tarascio litigates family law and domestic violence cases at Modern Law.

Rules of Evidence

In family court, the rules of evidence are relaxed unless one person files a “notice of strict compliance.” Under the relaxed rules, all relevant evidence is generally admissible unless it is repetitive or abusive. Generally, if it is relevant to the issues, a judge will allow you to use the evidence. If a notice of strict compliance is filed, all of the rules of evidence including hearsay and authentication rules apply. If you are going up against an attorney and they have filed the notice, we suggest you seek advice from an attorney. He or she can help you properly prepare your evidence for submission to the court.

Contributing Attorney Writer: Billie Tarascio litigates family law and domestic violence cases at Modern Law.

Interrogatories

A frequently used and very useful discovery tool is interrogatories. You can send both uniform and non-uniform interrogatories to the opposing person. Interrogatories are questions that must be responded to in writing by the opposing person within 40 days of receipt. This locks in the answer of the opposing person and provides valuable information you can use in making your case. As an example, the uniform interrogatories ask for the person to list all bank accounts, assets, insurance policies, pending litigation claims, etc. If your case has hotly contested issues, consider using the uniform interrogatories as a fantastic discovery tool for your case.

Contributing Attorney Writer: Billie Tarascio litigates family law and domestic violence cases at Modern Law.

Request for Production of Documents

Like the interrogatories, a Request for Production of Documents asks that the other person deliver to you the documents you are requesting within 40 days of receipt. You can ask for any and all relevant documents including electronic accounting files, criminal convictions, drugs tests, even medical records. This is a fantastic tool to accompany interrogatories.

Contributing Attorney Writer: Billie Tarascio litigates family law and domestic violence cases at Modern Law.

Request for Admissions

Requests for admissions are used less frequently than interrogatories and a request for documents, but can provide valuable information and insight for less money than the cost of a deposition. In a request for admissions, the opposing person is asked admit/deny questions and must either admit or deny the questions that you ask.

Contributing Attorney Writer: Billie Tarascio litigates family law and domestic violence cases at Modern Law.

Search