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Tucson Family Law Blog

DNA testing can be important in child support cases

Just as DNA testing is becoming increasingly indispensable in criminal cases to convict a suspect or exonerate a wrongly imprisoned person, these tests are also essential in Arizona family courts. DNA testing is far more accessible and affordable than in the past, and it is often used for genealogy projects. The high accuracy of DNA tests, exceeding 99.99 percent, means that they offer a firm basis for determining legal parenthood.

When a man is married to the mother of a child, he is often presumed to be the father. One effective means of challenging this presumption in case of an extramarital affair is a DNA paternity test. More commonly, however, paternity tests are performed for children born to parents who are not married. There is no obligation to list a father on the birth certificate or for a father to sign a legal paternity document. However, if the mother of a child needs child support payments, she may seek an order to obtain a DNA test to establish the child's paternity. Once the father has been identified, a child support order can be entered. Of course, the newly identified legal father would also have rights to his children, including custody or visitation time.

An overview of the child custody hearing process

After a divorce or separation, parents in Arizona will need to create a parenting plan. One of the first steps in creating such a plan is determining who will be the custodial parent. In some cases, both parents have joint custody of their children. During a child custody hearing, a judge will determine who should have legal custody and who should have physical custody of a child.

If a parent has physical custody of a son or daughter, the child lives primarily with that parent. If a parent has legal custody, they get to make decisions about the child's upbringing. During the hearing itself, each parent will be given a chance to explain why they should be given custody of the child. This may also be a time during which parents can express concerns that they have about their former spouse or partner.

Tips to prepare children for holidays after divorce or separation

Divorce changes the holidays for families in Arizona. Differences that led parents to split could create negative emotions when one parent has to let the children spend holiday time with the other parent. Children could also feel uncertain about what to do, but parents can take meaningful steps to reduce family stress and keep the focus on children enjoying the holidays with both parents separately.

Planning is essential for a smooth holiday season. Parents should make an effort to stay calm and avoid old arguments when deciding the holiday schedule for their children. They need to choose pick-up and drop-off times and locations for the children in advance and communicate plans to their kids. Children should receive encouragement to have fun with both parents. For people who struggle to interact calmly with a former spouse, emotional support from a friend, relative or therapist could help the person process feelings and avoid fights.

The impact of child custody on a parent's taxes

Divorcing parents in Arizona need to decide how they will divide their assets, determine who will get any real property and have discussions on parental guardianship. Since these are all important topics, it's easy for ex-spouses to neglect seemingly smaller issues, such as tax ramifications. However, proper tax planning can lead to substantial savings.

For example, there are a number of benefits to filing as head of household. However, doing so requires meeting stringent restrictions that will be placed both on the taxpayer and their dependents. The filing status is only eligible to parents who have physical custody of a child more than 50 percent of the year. The factors that determine head of household status can be even more complicated when there are multiple children and as well as child support payments involved. For this reason, it is recommended that both parents discuss their current and future tax statuses with a CPA and attorney.

The pros and cons of "birdnesting" after a divorce

There's no getting around the fact that divorce can be a challenging time for anyone in Arizona going through the process of ending a marriage. This is especially true if children are involved. Research suggests that kids may be less traumatized during the divorce process if efforts are made by former spouses to minimize conflict. For some couples, one way to do this is with "birdnesting." This essentially means that the family home itself remains intact while parents take turns living there with their children although they'll still live in separate residences when not in the home.

For times when maintaining three homes after a divorce isn't affordable, practical or feasible, parents sometimes opt to use a nearby apartment in rotation while spiting their time in the family home. The biggest pro associated with such an arrangement is the ability to maintain consistency for children. Kids also won't have to deal with changing schools or dragging belongings from one home to the other.

Dads want equal time with their kids

In Arizona and across the country, 80 percent of the parents who are granted the custodial parenting role are women. Many children live primarily with their moms and see their dads sporadically or not at all. CNN's Lisa Ling recently spoke with dads about their quality of parenting time and how they dads the system is working for them. The men the reporter interviewed were not happy with their situations or the amount of time they got to spend with their kids.

It is not just parenting time that is difficult for some dads. They need to fit in that all-important time with their children, but they typically are also managing careers and child support obligations.

Tips for avoiding common mistakes during a divorce

Divorce may be a stressful process, but people in Arizona can make it somewhat less difficult by avoiding some common financial mistakes. One of the best ways to do this is to make a financial plan. This can be done with the assistance of a financial professional.

A common error is overspending during or after the divorce. While buying new things is temporarily satisfying, the bills will still have to be paid. Another mistake is selling assets to pay for bills without accounting for the fact that the sale could incur taxes.

Helping children cope after divorce

Divorce is typically difficult for every member of the family, especially children. Nevertheless, with the support of their parents, children are able to find happiness and stability after their parents have divorced in Arizona or elsewhere.

There are seven skills parents can teach their children to help them bounce back from divorce and other stressful events. Those skills are described by Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg as the 7 C's: competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control. Along with the 7 C's, there are other messages that divorcing parents should consistently communicate to their children to help them heal.

Cohabitation and increased divorce risk

Divorce has become quite common in Arizona and in other states, and one factor may be cohabitation before marriage. Researchers have found that couples who live together prior to marriage experience a higher divorce rate than couples who wait until marriage to move in together. Researchers have labeled this the "premarital cohabitation effect."

The recent study confirms previous research on the topic. Researchers in the recent study wanted to examine the longer-term effects of cohabitation, arguing that previous studies only looked at short-term effects.

How child support benefits children

Parents in Arizona and throughout the country are generally responsible for providing financial support to their children. Child support payments may be used to cover a variety of expenses from food and shelter to the cost of attending college. Support payments may also be used to cover miscellaneous expenses such as keeping the lights on in an apartment or heating a home that the child lives in.

Children who attend public schools may still incur educational expenses. These costs may include the need for clothes and shoes to the price of hiring a tutor. Parents may also be responsible for paying for school lunches or other fees that a school may levy. A child is generally entitled to entertainment in the form of television, access to a computer or the ability to go to camp. A child support order may require each parent to contribute to an entertainment budget for a son or daughter.


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