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Tucson Family Law Blog

Divorce and paying for college

Arizona parents who are thinking about getting a divorce may be concerned about its negative financial impact, particularly regarding how they will be able to afford to pay for the higher education of their children. However, wise planning can be used to ensure that they are able to address the financial obligations for their children's college education.

According to one certified divorce financial analyst, the best way for being prepared to handle the college expenses for children after a divorce is for parents to start preparing while they are still married. During the divorce process, planning can be substantially more difficult, as there will be less money available.

Lack of commitment, infidelity among top-ranking divorce factors

Two people walking down the aisle together in Arizona often have specific reasons why they made the decision to tie the knot. This is also true when a couple decides to end a marriage. In order to find out the specific reasons why some couples split, the National Center for Biotechnology Information conducted a study to rank the top divorce-related factors. They did this by interviewing divorced couples who had participated in a prevention and relationship enhancement program before getting married.

Respondents were asked if their marriages ended because of a combination of factors or if there was a "final straw" that led to the decision to divorce. Interestingly, just over 13 percent of the former couples surveyed said a lack of sufficient premarital education was a factor, even though all participants had taken marriage prep courses. One ex-spouse felt that the course didn't address the various stages of marriage that couples tend to go through. Religious differences and lack of family support were other lower-ranking divorce factors that significantly affected some relationships.

Developing a joint custody parenting schedule that works

If joint custody is awarded to parents in Arizona, the next step is to iron out a parenting schedule that's also acceptable to both parties. It's a process meant to be about more than just divvying up parenting responsibilities: It's also an opportunity for parents to show their children that they can work together and keep their best interests in mind.

For this reason, parents with joint physical custody are typically advised to put themselves in their kids' shoes by considering what their children will gain and lose by having to split time between two homes. When possible, parents are also advised to make an effort to remain close enough to one another to make logistics issues manageable. This can be especially important if kids are in the middle of a school year or when younger children have a favorite babysitter.

Prenuptial advice for college students

A prenuptial agreement can be effective for anyone thinking about getting married regardless of how old they are. For younger people attending school in Arizona and elsewhere, they may find it hard to imagine one day having many valuable assets to divide. It can also be tough to think about the future when there is uncertainty over what type of educational and career track a person could take.

However, the discussions that take place while working out a prenuptial agreement can serve young people well. A conversation with a parent or a financial adviser may make it easier for a student to find out what he or she owns and what those assets are worth. The prenuptial agreement could help determine what happens to assets if a spouse dies. In some cases, younger individuals may agree to let assets pass to the deceased spouse's parents or other relatives.

Financial planning tips during a divorce

Getting a divorce in Arizona or any other state may represent a clean start for an individual. Therefore, it may be a good idea to resolve the matter with professionals who solely represent one spouse or the other. This could be difficult at first as a person may want to keep their lives as static as possible during a potentially emotional time. However, a divorce attorney may be able to recommend a financial adviser for a person to work with.

Furthermore, it may be a good idea to work with an accountant and an estate planning professional. Accountants can create a plan for handling any tax issues that are related to the divorce and life after it is finalized. Forensic accountants can also be helpful in discovering assets hidden or obscured by the other spouse. An estate planner can help a person update beneficiary designations and other documents that may need to be changed when a marriage ends.

Marrying 'up' could increase divorce risk for men

Many people in Arizona maintain relationships with what could be termed "similarly matched" individuals. However, there are some men who seek to partner with more attractive spouses. An assessment of online dating data shows that both men and women have a tendency to seek out potential partners up to 25 percent more attractive than themselves. While it is possible for such relationships to be successful, there's research from multiple sources suggesting that a physical attractiveness discrepancy in a marriage tends to increase the risk of divorce.

The reason for a greater divorce risk with physically mismatched couples isn't necessarily a lack of commitment on the part of the more attractive spouse. Research suggests some marriages of this nature have a shorter duration because of jealousy on the part of the less attractive partner. However, one study suggests another contributing factor may be that women with less attractive significant others are more likely to flirt.

Advantages of joint custody after divorce

Parents in Arizona who get a divorce might wonder whether they should seek sole or joint custody of their children and which arrangement is in the child's best interest. Most research indicates that even for infants, a joint custody arrangement is not harmful and usually has the best outcomes for children.

One psychologist surveyed dozens of studies and found that shared parenting was a beneficial arrangement for children of all ages. More than 100 experts worldwide endorsed his findings. He also pointed out that current understanding of child development does not support the idea that it would be harmful for toddlers and infants to spend the night with their father.

What happens to a business in a divorce

When people get a divorce and one or both of them owns a business, there may be a complex process to decide what share of the business each person gets and what happens to the business. Since Arizona is a community property state, a business created after the marriage will usually be considered the property of both spouses. If the business was started before the marriage, there may be a more complicated issue of determining how much the company's value has increased since the marriage began.

The first step will be to get an accurate valuation of the business. This should be done by someone who has been recommended by a trusted legal or financial professional or by someone associated with the American Society of Appraisers. The appraisal should take into account the value of any equipment and real estate holdings as well as the company's reputation and other less tangible items. A family-run business may have some informal dealings that are more difficult to identify, and if the divorce is a contentious one, one person might attempt to hide or overstate the company's value.

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.

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Law Office of Michael A. Johnson, P.C.
177 N Church Avenue
Suite 311
Tucson, AZ 85701

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