Will I Owe Spousal Maintenance?

In the state of Arizona, spousal maintenance is determined by a two-part analysis of all relevant factors pertaining to the financial, academic, and career standing of both spouses. The first level of analysis determines the eligibility of both spouses to receive or give spousal maintenance. The second level then takes into consideration the assets and abilities of both spouses. This information is then used to determine how much spousal maintenance will be owed upon the dissolution of the marriage. Spousal maintenance can be a challenging hurdle in the divorce settlement process because it requires significant documentation of past, present, and current circumstances. Here are some things to consider as you discuss spousal maintenance with your attorney:

Part 1: Eligibility

Since every case is unique, a judge must consider these important factors in relation to the specific needs of the individuals to determine if either spouse is eligible for monetary support. To determine if you will owe spousal maintenance, your attorney and the courts of law will need to know:

1) If your spouse has reasonable living accommodations and other necessary property.

2) If your spouse’s income and means of employment warrants self-sufficiency.

3) The duration of the marriage

4) The age of the spouse in relation to the time it would take to achieve academic and economic self-sufficiency.

Essentially, the courts must verify that both spouses are independently self-sufficient or able to become self-sufficient within a reasonable amount of time following the divorce. If your spouse is absolutely unable to provide for themselves due to an unequal division of assets, educational shortcomings, or demanding childcare obligations, they may be eligible for spousal maintenance.

Part 2: Considering All Relevant Factors

If your spouse is found eligible for spousal maintenance, the following factors are then assessed to fairly decide spousal support following the divorce:

1) The standard of living within the marriage

Did you live above or below your means?

2) The duration of the marriage

How much time was invested in the marriage?

3) Level of education, career experience, and earning potential

Did either spouse quit past jobs to take care of children? Do they have enough education to return to the work force?

4) The physical, mental, and emotional condition of the spouse seeking support

Does one spouse have significant health requirements that warrant spousal support?

5) The ability of the supporting spouse to meet their own needs while providing support to their former spouse

– Can one spouse adequately provide for themselves while partially providing for the other?

6) All contributions made by both parties to childcare and household income during the marriage

– Was the division of household labor, childcare, and income from earnings equal between spouses?

7) Any sacrifice of educational or career opportunities made by the spouse seeking support for the benefit of the other, their marriage, or their children

– Has one spouse’s earning potential been reduced while the other spouse’s has been advanced?

8) The ability of the spouse seeking support to obtain educational advancement and employment if necessary (with consideration of financial restrictions and time constraints)

– Is necessary educational training readily available? How much will it cost? How long will it take to complete the education and find adequate employment?

9) The extent to which both parties can contribute to children’s education costs

– Will spousal maintenance be necessary to help one parent contribute?

10) Health insurance costs for both parties

– How much will new coverage cost? How much money will be saved in the reduction of the current health insurance plan?

11) An imbalance in financial assets or properties

­– What debts have both spouses incurred independently? Does either spouse have hidden assets?

12) Any criminal convictions

– Were there any charges of domestic violence in which the spouse or child was a victim? What other damages were incurred?

Each case is substantially unique and requires an in-depth look at very personal matters. You can trust the experienced family law attorneys at Crider Law to work with you to establish a fair spousal maintenance agreement and ensure your needs are taken care of. Brad Crider is an expert on the complex division of assets and will work hard to create a fair divorce settlement for your individual circumstance. Call Crider Law today to set up an initial consultation.

Adoption Challenges

Relatives or non-relatives who have a legitimate interest in the well being of a child that is not their own may petition for adoption to give the child a better, safer, and healthier home life. The rights of the biological parents must first be terminated in order for the legal adoption to occur, and while some parents may relinquish their parental rights willingly, other cases may warrant a court hearing to terminate the rights of the parents by legal action. Crider Family Law attorney Brad Crider will help you present evidence against an unfit parent in a court of law or defend yourself against those trying to terminate your parental rights.

Most often, relatives such as stepparents or grandparents will petition the courts for an adoption due to their belief that the legal decision-making parent is unfit to raise the child responsibly. Despite this relative’s belief in what is best for the child, evidence of parental inadequacy must first be established before the child’s best interest is considered. The Arizona Revised Statute lists eleven scenarios that would qualify a parent as unfit and justify the termination of their legal rights:

  1. Abandonment
  2. Abuse – The parent abused the child, knowingly or negligibly, or put the child in a situation where abuse could occur.
  3. Health History – the parent is unable to provide for the child due to mental illness or dangerous abuse of drugs or alcohol. There must also be reason to believe that this unhealthy pattern will continue.
  4. Criminal activity – if the parent has been convicted of a felony or received a prison sentence that will deprive the child of a stable home life for a period of years.
  5. Failure to identify paternity within the required time frame
  6. Failure of the father to file a paternity claim
  7. Consent – The parents have relinquished their rights to the child to an adoption agency or given consent to an adoption
  8. Failure to remedy circumstance – If a welfare agency is providing for the child, and after reunification efforts, the child has been removed from the home by court order for a period of nine to fifteen months due to a parent’s unwillingness or inability to exercise proper care of the child (both presently and in the future), the parent’s legal rights may be terminated.
  9. Unidentifiable Parent – The identity of the parent remains unknown after 3 months of diligent efforts to identify and locate the parent
  10. The parent has had the parental rights to another child terminated within the last 2 years for the same cause and is currently unable to administer parental responsibilities
  11. Repeated Removal – If the child was living outside the home, according to court order, was returned to the legal custody of the parent, and within 18 months, was again removed from the parent’s custody

Once the birthparent has been deemed unfit to provide for their child, the courts must determine if the adoption by the prospective parent will also be in the best interest of the child. This may require an evaluation of the petitioner’s home to ensure the prospective parent can sufficiently provide for the potential adoptive child. A social worker will investigate the prospective parent’s financial and family history, and criminal and medical records.

Other problems may arise if both birthparents do not give consent to the adoption. If one or both legal guardians objects to the termination of their parental rights, a hearing will be necessary to determine final termination of their rights based on the evidence the petitioner provides. If a biological parent fails to show up to the hearing, the courts will consider it a “default” and your Crider family law attorney will take immediate action to sever their parental rights.

If you are attempting to adopt a child that is not yours, or if the state has filed a petition for Termination of Parental Rights against you, call Brad Crider at Crider Law today to quickly solve adoption challenges and protect the special child in your life.

Understanding Recent Changes in Arizona Custody Laws

Some important changes were recently made to the Arizona child custody legislation that went into full effect January 1, 2013. Some terminology was modified and some amendments were made in order to clarify the purpose and procedures of the courts when determining custody arrangements for children of divorced parents. The new legislation aims to provide fair treatment for mothers and fathers in court conclusions about custody and further maximize the time both parents spend with their children.


Most significantly, the word “custody” is almost completely removed from the legislation in order to clarify the difference between legal and physical custody. “Legal custody” is now referred to as “legal decision-making” and encompasses the right a parent has to make necessary decisions for the child about education, health and personal care, and religious upbringing. A judge may grant joint legal decision-making, dividing these responsibilities between parents, or give one parent sole legal decision-making authority.

“Physical custody” is now referred to as “parenting time” and indicates the time a child is allotted with each parent. While previously, “visitation” was thought to refer to the allotment of time granted to the non-custodial parent, this is an incorrect interpretation. “Visitation”, as far as the courts are concerned, is any time someone other than a legal parent spends with a child (such as grandparents). [For more information on visitation rights of grandparents, click here].


Arizona legislators are also making efforts to eliminate the biased designation of legal decision-making rights and parenting time based on gender. This gives fathers more of a fair fight in a custody battle, as historically women have been favored for sole guardianship of children or a majority of the parenting time. While the courts had already concluded that having both parents present in a child’s life is in their best interest, the new Arizona custody legislation aims to give both parents equal and maximum time with their children.

A conditional factor was also added to give children more of a say in the division of parenting time, given the court deems the child old enough and mature enough to understand their circumstances. Ultimately, a judge still has the authority to decide how much parenting time each parent receives, but these new clauses will hopefully provide children with cohesive parental relationships, despite the dissolution of a marriage.

Additionally, the legislation used to decree that custody rights were determined based on which parent, if either, provided the majority of the child’s primary care in the past. This process has been changed to take into consideration the past, present, and future potential of a parental relationship.

Fines are now being enforced on parents who intentionally delay court proceedings or are not forthcoming with pertinent information. Prior to the new legislation, these fines were optional based on the judge’s discretion.


Unfortunately, these new decrees were not intended to be retroactive, nor do they guarantee that a new petition for custody changes will grant the family a different outcome. Parents who wish to petition for their custody agreement to be more in line with the new statutes must still provide adequate proof of change in circumstances. [See “Changing my Child Support” for more information].

For the best results in a custody case, it is important to work with a family law attorney who has experience with the legal process and is an expert on how these changes to Arizona custody laws can affect your family. Brad Crider is well qualified to help you through even the toughest custody arrangement or divorce settlement. To set up an initial consultation, contact Crider Law today.



Grandparents: Custody and Visitation Rights

According to Arizona State law, grandparents and great-grandparents of minor children may petition the courts to be given visitation rights or custody privileges if they believe it is in the best interest of the child. However, there are many conditions that must be met for a court to grant such privileges to a non-legal parent. Many unique circumstances may require a grandparent to be responsible for the caretaking of a child, and at Crider Law we will work with you to ensure that your family’s childcare needs are met.


Some parents may try to keep their children from seeing their ex-spouse’s family after a divorce. For grandparents, this can be difficult, especially if they believe the parents are not equipped to take adequate care of the children. To grant grandparents visitation rights, even those with in loco parentis relationships (meaning that the child and the non-parent have formed a meaningful parent-child relationship over a period of time), the courts must see evidence that:

  • The parents’ marriage has been dissolved for at least 3 months, or
  • One or both parents is deceased or has been missing, as reported to law enforcement, for at least 3 months, or
  • The child was born outside of wedlock and the parents are not married at the time the petition is made

The courts will consider the following factors when determining whether grandparent visitation is necessary and beneficial to the child.

  • The historical relationship, if any, between the child and the person seeking visitation.
  • The motivation of the requesting party seeking visitation.
  • The motivation of the person objecting to visitation.
  • The quantity of visitation time requested and the potential adverse impact that visitation will have on the child’s customary activities.
  • If one or both of the child’s parents are deceased, the benefit in maintaining an extended family relationship.

Guardianship & Custody

In Arizona, parents can also choose to relinquish their rights of guardianship to a grandparent or other non-parent, but both parents must give their written consent by submitting a petition for “Consent Guardianship”. In the event that a grandparent or other nonparent wishes to petition for sole or joint custody, the following conditions must be met.

  • The person filing the petition must have an in loco parentis relationship with the child, and
  • There must be substantial evidence that it would be “significantly detrimental” to the child to be placed in the custody of either of the child’s living legal parents (whether adoptive or birth) that wish to retain custody, and
  • The courts have not approved a different custody agreement for the child in question in the year prior to receiving the new custody petition. This rule is exempt if there is reason to believe that the child’s present circumstances are severely dangerous to their physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.

The courts stand on the “rebuttable presumption” that granting custody to the legal parents is in the best interest of the child due to the evidence that the physical, psychological, and emotional needs of the child can be best met by their legal parents. However, in any case where substantial evidence is given to show that a non-parent is found better suited to provide physical, psychological, and emotional stability to a child, the courts may allow grandparents and other non-parents to obtain custody rights and visitation privileges.

To find out how these petitions can affect the future of your family, call Crider Law today to set up a consultation.

“A Child’s Best Interest”: Key Factors to Child Custody

When it comes to determining child custody and parenting time rights in the midst of a divorce, you’ve undoubtedly read the words “in the best interest of the child” countless times. But what does that really mean? Since every family dynamic is unique, you may be wondering how a judge can really determine what is best for YOUR child. You do not have to completely relinquish this life-changing custody decision to a third-party judge however if you are able to first negotiate with your ex-spouse, through assisted mediation or otherwise. While a judge still has power to make the final decision, they will take into account any agreement you and your spouse have come to. In addition to your input, there are many other factors that judges use to determine a custody solution. It is important to be aware of these key factors so you have a say in what best suits the needs of your family.

Custody Options

On matters of custody, courts rarely take an “all or nothing” approach. In the occasional case where one parent is granted sole custody, the child will reside with them permanently and this parent will be responsible for making all legal decisions on behalf of the minor child. More often however, a judge orders a joint custody arrangement. If a judge rules that “joint legal custody” is best, both parents will be responsible for making important legal decisions for the child together. “Joint physical custody” means that the child will have one primary place of residence and a parenting time plan will be drafted to ensure the other parent gets their fair share of time with the child. A combination of these parenting plans may be ordered as part of the divorce settlement.

Key Factors

To determine the best parenting and custody plan, a judge will look at factors like:

  • The physical, mental, and financial capacity of both parents to provide for the child
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment
  • Geographical location and proximity of parent’s homes to each other and to the child’s place of education
  • Any parental history of drug and alcohol abuse or domestic violence
  • The age and number of children involved
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • The child’s preference may be considered if the child is old enough (usually at least age 12)
  • Any special needs of the child

Use Caution

Another important component judges will look at is the apparent willingness of both parents to support their child having a relationship with the other parent. If you have an especially vindictive spouse, they may try and use your words and actions against you to make you seem unfit to parent, limiting your custody and parenting time privileges. Though it may be difficult, be very careful what you say about your ex out loud and in writing during the divorce proceedings.

You will often have to compromise with your spouse on issues concerning custody, but your children are absolutely worth fighting for. Brad Crider is an experienced family law attorney in Arizona who is dedicated to fighting for your rights to time with your children. For further information on specific custody questions or to set up your initial consultation, call the Crider Law Offices today.