Community Property FAQ’s
What is Arizona Community Property and why is it different from other states?
Arizona, like most other states on the west coast, is considered a community property state. These states share many similar principles when it comes to dividing assets and obligations accrued during a marriage. Generally, anything that a married couple accumulates during the marriage is considered community property, that is, both spouses own an undivided share of the whole. Exceptions to this general principle include those assets acquired prior to the marriage, by gift, devise (by a will) or descent (inheritance). Because the Arizona courts start with a strong presumption that anything acquired during marriage is a community item, the spouse claiming a particular item is not community property has the burden of proving otherwise.
Generally, non-community property states are referred to as “common law title” states. Most states these days that are not officially community property states have laws on the books, often called “marital property” statutes that work similarly to community property principles, to one degree or another. However, in a true title state, the name on a title to an asset or the person’s name listed as actually incurring a particular debt may indicate ownership of the asset or debt. Community property principles are meant to combat the unfairness that can occur when both parties contribute substantially to the marriage but one party handles all transactions or makes more money and ends up with the assets titled in his/her name alone.
What about things that my spouse and I acquired while we lived in another state?
In such cases, Arizona courts apply a concept known as “quasi-community property.” The quasi-community property principle states that the Arizona court will divide an asset or debt on the basis of how the item would have been characterized had it been acquired in Arizona. Thus, even though another state would view the issue differently, Arizona treats it as though there had not been a connection to the other state. So, if a separate property state’s principles would have said that a particular debt was sole and separate but the parties later moved to Arizona, the Arizona court would be expected to treat it as a community debt, provided that community property principles would have applied had the debt accrued in Arizona during the marriage.
We own a house in another state. Can the Arizona court divide that according to Arizona law?
Depends. Although the Arizona court can issue its order dividing the property, the other state is not bound by that order. The circumstances are important here. If an Arizona couple, pursuant to a divorce, agrees on how to divide the out-of-state property, the order should be transferable without much trouble. However, because Arizona does not have in rem jurisdiction, i.e., jurisdiction over the thing, another state’s court may desire to issue its own order, especially when the two states’ laws conflict. Obviously, this can be a messy situation and we may recommend bringing in counsel from the pertinent jurisdiction to effect a team approach. This helps make sure that we get both courts on the same page.
Are Arizona’s community property laws implicated when a legal separation or annulment is sought instead of a divorce?
Yes. Legal separations in Arizona do not differ much procedurally from a full divorce. The main difference is the technical outcome – you and your spouse are still legally married. The court still divides all community property and obligations from the marriage as it would with a divorce. The court, as it would in a divorce, also stops all community property claims for the future between this couple – unless they elect to reunite at some point. In the case of an annulment, a couple may have accumulated substantial assets under the assumption that they were properly married. ARS § 25-318 allows the court to divide that property.
Can a married couple change the nature of an asset from community property to sole and separate, or vice versa?
Sure. Intentionally changing the nature of an asset is common. For example, one spouse may quit-claim a house to the other for some reason. This written agreement evidences their intent that the asset be sole and separate from that point on. Likewise, one spouse could change a sole and separate house to community property by an opposite change in title, to community property. The court would see that as a “gift” to the community. Many parties also use antenuptial (prenuptial) and postnuptial agreements to alter community property principles. On a different note, it is also possible to make the change unintentionally. This occurs in the case of commingling. Commingling occurs when separate assets and community assets become hopelessly mixed such that the court cannot tell the difference. This frequently occurs with bank accounts. The burden of tracing the separate asset falls on the spouse claiming a sole and separate interest. When an asset changes its nature, the process is called “transmutation.”
Is it true that my spouse may receive half of my pension upon divorce?
Yes, for those portions that accumulated during the marriage. Portions that accumulated prior to the marriage are the sole and separate property of the party earning it. Pensions, 401(K)’s, IRA’s and other deferred compensation receive treatment under Arizona community property principles like other assets. Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO’s) are the legal document used to divide these items. Because it is expensive to prepare QDRO’s (approximately $1000 to $1500 or more), many couples prefer to offset one party’s deferred compensation against the other party’s or another asset or debt. There is no requirement that all assets and debts be split in half equally, only that the division be “equitable.” Thus, one party could get all the assets and all the debts, totaling zero, while the other party takes no assets and no debts, also totaling zero. An equal division is the goal but it is not always practical or even desirable to equalize to the last penny.
I’ve since learned that my spouse spent a $200,000 of our community funds gambling over the years. Can I make a claim for that amount during the divorce?
Depends on your particular situation. The concept of “waste” could apply in this case, making your spouse liable to you for your portion of the wasted asset, i.e., half. However, waste is not always an easy thing to prove and varies from case to case. For example, if Bill Gates spends $200,000, it might not be considered waste because it’s such a minor amount for him and his wife. For most people, throwing away that much cash is a serious matter and so a court might be expected to address the $200,000 in the divorce by either offsetting other assets and debts to make up for it or ordering the wasting spouse to pay the other.
What is the effect of my divorce decree on my creditors?
Not that much if you and your spouse are responsible. Debts the community incurs remain community debts in the eyes of creditors. Although it seems harsh many times, both spouses will remain liable for a community debt even though the court awards responsibility for that debt to one spouse or the other. Therefore, if the spouse ordered to pay does not do so, creditors have recourse against the other spouse. On occasion (not frequently), a creditor will agree to not pursue a spouse based on the Decree of Dissolution; however, they have no legal obligation to do so. The law takes the stance that third party creditors should not suffer as a result of a couple’s bad relationship.
What about alimony?
Spousal support, otherwise known as “alimony,” is not required in all cases, but should be considered and may even be ordered by the judge under certain circumstances.
Spousal support should be considered if the circumstances are such that a spouse will face hardships if he or she does not receive financial support. The deciding reason for spousal support is the need to maintain the spouse at his or her customary standard of living. In other words, the law recognizes that a wife (or husband) should not be forced to live at a level below that enjoyed during the marriage.
However, other factors also need to be considered. For example, spousal support should most likely not be considered if the marriage was short (under two or three years), and both spouses are self-sufficient. However, if the parties agree on support, the court is bound to accept it. However, when spousal support is not awarded in the original decree, that decree cannot later be modified to award spousal support.
Does Arizona have alimony?
Yes. Alimony or spousal support may be awarded to either spouse for their support after the divorce. Alimony payments are designed to help with financial obligations of the receiving spouse and to maintain a similar lifestyle. The lifestyle can not remain the same due to the paying spouse typically having to maintain two households for a period of time. Since a majority of spouses both work rewarding alimony is not extremely common although it does exist. Most of the time alimony is rewarded for a short period of time just to help the receiving spouse get on his or her feet again.
How is alimony awarded?
Alimony is awarded based on one of the following situations:
1. A spouse lacks sufficient property to meet his/her reasonable needs;
2. A spouse must stay home with a young child and cannot support him/herself with reasonable employment;
3. A spouse supported his or her education; or
4. The marriage was lengthy and a spouse has little chance of finding employment.
The court considers the length of the marriage, the age of each spouse, health, employment, as well as the standard of living established during the marriage and other factors when establishing alimony.
How is spousal support or alimony paid or distributed?
There are several factors to be considered based upon the current laws:
The advantages and disadvantages of lump-sum settlement.
The amount of such payment and the method it will be paid (cash, property).
Will it be paid in installments?
Conditions attached to paying and receiving (disability, death, remarriage, cohabitation).
Terms arranged to provide enforcement measures. Tax effects of proposed arrangements.
The effects of will and inheritances.
What if I or my former spouse remarries?
Unless each spouse agrees, in writing, that the alimony will continue after the party remarries, the support will end. Remarriage of the paying spouse will not terminate his or her obligations of support.
What if my spouse quits working to stop his or her support?
A former spouse cannot terminate his or her support by simply “quitting” their job. The court has the discretion to attribute an income to a spouse who voluntarily quits working or reduces his or her income.
What are the risks involved?
There is always some risk involved with actually getting all of the court ordered payments. The factors that often lead to these risks are:
Additional expenses from new marriage or new family.
Incapacitation through illness.
Payment withheld as punishment, due to another order violation.
Refusal to pay.
How are support payments treated under Federal Income Tax rules?
Child support payments are typically not deductible from the income of the payer and are not included as taxable income to the supported spouse. Alimony or spousal support payments are tax deductible by the payer and taxable income to the supported spouse.
According to the Federal Internal Revenue Code, ” … any payment which the terms of the divorce or separation instrument fix (in terms of an amount of money or a part of the payment) as a sum which is payable for the support of children of the payer spouse” is not considered alimony or a separate maintenance payment. Thus, such payments are a tax neutral event (they are non-taxable to the person receiving them and non-deductible to the person making them).
Federal Income Tax Regulations state:
“A payment is fixed as payable for the support of a child of the payer spouse if the divorce or separation instrument specifically designates some sum or portion (which sum or portion may fluctuate) as payable for the support of a child of the payer spouse. A payment will be treated as fixed … if the payment is reduced (a) on the happening of a contingency relating to a child of the payer, or (b) at a time which can clearly be associated with such contingency. … For this purpose, a contingency relates to a child of the payer if it depends on any event relating to that child, regardless of whether such event is certain or likely to occur. Events that relate to a child of the payer include the following: the child’s attaining a specified age or income level, dying, marrying, leaving school, leaving the spouse’s household, or gaining employment.”
Thus, under Federal income tax law, regardless of the label that is used, most child support payments are a tax neutral event, while most support payments provided to the other (former) spouse are deductible to the payer and included in the taxable income of the supported spouse.
How can I obtain a tax deduction for a support payment?
In order for a support payment (other than any child support payment) to be eligible for an income tax deduction by the payer spouse, the following requirements must be met:
The payment must be made in cash (including checks and money orders payable on demand, but excluding transfers of services or property)
The payment must be made under either
(a) a divorce or separation instrument (a court order or decree of divorce or separation or a written instrument incident to such a decree or a decree which requires a spouse to make payments for the support or maintenance of the other spouse), or
(b) a written separation agreement between a husband and wife who are living apart requiring periodic payments because of the marital or family relationship (whether or not the agreement is a legally enforceable instrument)
The spouses do not file a joint income tax return
The written instrument or agreement does not provide for other tax treatment, and
The payer has no liability to continue to make payment after the death of the other spouse.
Any child support included as part of an alimony, family support, separate maintenance or spousal support payment is not eligible for a deduction by the payer and is not taxable income to the supported spouse according to Federal income tax rules.
Can a court order alimony payments after divorce/separation?
Yes. As part of the judgment of dissolution or legal separation, a court may order one spouse to pay the other alimony.
How long will a spouse have to pay (or be able to receive) alimony?
Depending on the particular circumstances, alimony is ordered to be paid during the time period that the supported spouse is seeking education, training, and marketable job skills in order to establish a career or otherwise become self-supportive. Consideration of the responsibility for providing child care during the early years of a minor child factors into this determination.
If the supported spouse is of advanced age or suffers from a medical problem which would prevent this spouse from obtaining a career (thus preventing him/her from becoming self-supportive), alimony could be “permanent” (but subject to future modification based upon a material change in circumstances).
If there was a long term marriage (in California, for example, a marriage of ten years or longer is considered a long term marriage), a court may have continuing jurisdiction over the issue of spousal support. With continuing jurisdiction, a court may change the amount or duration of alimony payments from one spouse to the other any time in the future (although a material change in circumstances is usually necessary).
Arizona, like many U.S. States uses a support payment duration test of 1/3 to 1/2 of the duration of the marriage in short and medium length marriages and a presumption of unlimited support duration in marriages of over 20 years – combined with an age test – where the payee spouse must also be over age 50. The issue of remarriage and cohabitation and the impact of same on continued spousal support will also have to be considered.
In addition, typically a court order for alimony terminates upon the death or remarriage of the supported spouse.
Try the Arizona Support Calculator
We are also pleased to provide you with a comprehensive interactive guideline spousal support calculator link based on the Arizona spousal support guidelines. You will see how the amount payable on an identical income of the payor increases as the duration of the marriage increases.
Try it now>>>
Can medical insurance be included in alimony?
Often. In a case where the supported spouse depended upon the other spouse for health insurance during the marriage and does not have sufficient means to obtain such insurance, the court may require the payer spouse to continue to provide medical insurance. Alternatively, the amount of alimony can be increased so that the supported spouse will have the ability to purchase medical insurance.
It should be noted that an employer sponsored group health insurance plan can be required under Federal law to offer continuation of benefits at the group insurance rates to the supported spouse for up to three years after the marriage has ended.
How do I get a Religious Divorce?
You may need more than a court order to end your marriage. Religious laws may also dictate your marriage status. It is not our purpose here to discuss religious law but to urge you to investigate further if you subscribe to a religion with a body of divorce law. These laws may affect your assets, children you may have now and in the future, any remarriage plans and, most important of all, your spiritual life.
Roman Catholics who seek to remarry after a civil divorce must obtain an annulment of their previous marriage in a church court or forfeit the right to take communion. The Pope recently reaffirmed this stance.
For More on Roman Catholicism and Divorce
North American Conference Of Separated and Divorced Catholics
Under Jewish law, only men can initiate divorce. They can divorce their wives for little or no reason although provision in the “ketubah”,” marriage contract, do protect certain rights. Jewish women must obtain a “get,” a bill of divorce, from their husbands. If they remarry without one, they are considered to be adulterous and children from the marriage are considered illegitimate and barred from some Jewish marriages. Although the process is relatively simple, many Jewish women find themselves “agunah” (literally, anchored) in a Jewish marriage if their husbands refuse to issue a get or if husbands have deserted them and cannot be found.
More about Jewish Divorce
For Help in Getting a Jewish Divorce
Islam also has complex religious laws governing divorce, in which women do not have equal rights. Karamah.org, Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, is drafting an Islamic marriage contract model Islamic marriage contract that would be recognized in American courts.
Islamic Divorce Laws
Essay on Islam and Divorce
When Can I File For Bankruptcy?
Should you file for bankruptcy if debt overwhelms you during or after your divorce? Many people do – and a growing number of them are women. More women than couples now ask the courts to declare them legally insolvent and distribute whatever property they have to their creditors. Among individuals filing, 58.2% are women, 42.8% men.
You may want to consider filing for bankruptcy if:
You have large debts that are likely to stop accumulating.
You can’t negotiated a good resolution with your creditors.
Ideally, you and your spouse should cooperate and file jointly before divorce.
If your spouse files for bankruptcy after a divorce has been filed but before it has concluded, the divorce court will have to wait until the bankruptcy proceedings are finished to divide marital property, but the court can still award custody, visitation, child support, alimony and even grant your divorce. If bankruptcy is filed after the final divorce judgment, the former spouse still has to pay child support and alimony if awarded.
The law offers you two choices of bankruptcy: Chapter 7, the “liquidation” chapter which lawyers call “straight bankruptcy” and Chapter 13, of “wage earner’s” chapter for individuals with regular income.
You can find bankruptcy basics, including details on Chapters 7 and 13, terminology and sample forms at our bankruptcy section or at our sister site bankruptcypreparers.com.
Can I appeal or modify my divorce decree?
Unhappy about how your divorce case was resolved and you simply cannot live with the results of your trial, or how that result was memorialized in your final divorce decree? You can appeal the court’s decision, as a matter of right, but expect the process to be slow and expensive.
When you file an appeal you are claiming that the higher appellate court should “reverse” or overturn the lower (trial) court’s decision in your divorce case. The law generally favors the finality of judgments, therefore, relief from a final judgment or decree of divorce is usually NOT available absent exceptional and compelling circumstances. Some courts find that while they are without legal authority to modify a final decree, they can interpret a final decree in a more fair way by modifying terms of payment, or whatever equity requires under the circumstances.
What to consider before filing a divorce appeal:
Because issues are more complicated and technical than at the trial level, it is important for you to consult a lawyer. You may actually need a different lawyer for your appeal. An appellate attorney is an attorney who is familiar with the appeals process. Be prepared to pay for the new attorney to come up to speed on your case because any lawyer representing you at the appellate level must know the intricacies of your case and that means poring over your “record below” and knowing it as well as you do.
The process might last a year or two and sometimes even longer. On top of paying your own legal fees you may be required to pay any fees and legal expenses of your former spouse if the court thinks your appeal was frivolous.
What can you appeal?
The common criteria, or “grounds” in appealing divorce decisions pertain to the division of assets or the equitable distribution of the marital property, are the following:
The judge abused his/her discretion, or made a ruling that was purely erroneous as to a matter of law, fact, or procedure.
Most states require a showing of fraud, misconduct or mistake in the negotiation, or a showing of fundamental inequity or unfairness in an agreement/decree, before a court can even consider setting aside the final judgment of divorce.
When and how to file an appeal:
Generally, you have from 30 to 45 days, from the date of the entry of the final divorce decree or judgment to file a document called a notice of appeal.
Although the specific procedure varies from state to state, the notice of appeal typically requires the following:
You must inform the trial court, the adversary (your ex-spouse), as well as the court reporter, that an appeal will be filed.
You will be required to describe the issues you will appeal and explain the reasons you believe the trial court was wrong in deciding the case the way it did.
In many states, you will need to request, and pay a fee for, your trial transcripts (the verbatim record of what transpired in the trial court). This trial transcript will accompany the notice of appeal. Just as a complaint/petition for divorce requires the payment of a filing fee to the trial court to obtain a docket number, so too does the filing of an appeal. Usually, the appellate legal briefs will be due within a period of time (35 to 45 days) after you receive the trial transcripts from the court reporter.
Your appeal is comprised of what is called a “record below” which is: all stenographic transcripts of the proceedings in the lower court (the trial court); all evidence admitted in the case; all papers, pleadings and documents filed in the lower (trial) and appellate court in reference to your divorce. This appeal, typed by a paralegal or attorney who you pay, must be meticulously typed and organized, complete with an appendix, numbered pages, index, paginated and bound.
You must also file these appellate documents in groups; generally an original and four copies with the appellate court, two copies to each adversary, one copy to the trial court, and a copy each for your attorney and, you, the client. (A total of eight copies of documents that can be hundreds of pages long plus the original!) Although an appellate legal brief is usually limited, depending upon the individual state, to 75 pages or so, the record below is as big as it is! Consequently the copy costs incurred in the appellate process are often huge!
After all the paperwork has been reviewed, typed, copied and distributed to all it is now in the hands of the appellate court. The appellate court, usually made up of 3 judges, reviews your appeal and all of its supporting documents. Unlike the trial court, they do not consider new evidence or hear testimony of the parties or witnesses. The appellate arguments are also not recorded.
If you win….
If, after reviewing your matter, the appellate court believes your appeal merits relief, it will afford you, the appellant (the litigant filing the appeal), another bite at the apple by ordering a reversal and, usually, a remand of the trial court’s opinion, as reflected in your final divorce decree or judgment.
A “reversal” is exactly what it sounds like, an appellate ruling overturning a trial rulings in a given matter. A “remand” is a directive from the appellate court to the trial court to do it again in conformance with whatever directives the appellate court communicates in its appellate opinion.
If you don’t win…
If the appellate court finds your appeal had no merit, it will affirm the final judgment/decree of divorce based upon the trial court’s rulings and decision. If that occurs, you are usually out of options. Although, another, even higher, level of appellate review (after the intermediate appellate court) exists. Thus, it is possible, but unlikely, that your case can be reviewed by the highest appellate tribunal in the jurisdiction, often called the state’s “Supreme Court.” In general, it is extremely uncommon to obtain a review of an appellate opinion from the higher appellate court.
Essential Things To Remember:
Appellate law – like marriage and divorce laws – differs from state to state.
Most states you can appeal only if the judge made an error of law or abused his or her discretion.
You cannot appeal a witness’s credibility or a factual determination made by the judge–unless plain error was involved.
If an issue wasn’t raised in the trial, you can’t appeal it unless an attempt to raise it was refused and an objection to that decision entered.
Often appeals courts do find errors but decide the judge in the divorce case would have reached the same decision some other way and the errors were “harmless” in a legal sense.
Words to know:
Motion – a written request for a new trial or rehearing on a particular issue. Sometimes the trial court will accept such a request, particularly if fraud, coercion or duress was involved or if important information has surfaced that you could not have known about at the time of the trial. This is usually a faster and much less expensive way to make changes.
Modification – a change in the settlement order or judgment based on a new set of circumstances. You may find it harder to modify an agreement made through settlement rather than through a court order, particularly if it involves property division or alimony. Custody and child support are easier to modify. If you waived alimony at the time of the trial, you may not be able to get it later through modification even if you can prove need.
Pendente lite – Temporary appeal orders allowed by some states. These usually are more limited, because the court believes a final hearing will correct any problems.
Now that I am divorced what about my taxes?
Divorce is often a time of financial strain and confusion. Despite your circumstances, the government will still expect that you file your taxes promptly and correctly. You will need to be prepared to make decisions about tax money you owed before, during or after your divorce. It is to both partners’ benefit to clearly state in your agreement who is responsible for what when it comes to taxes. As the manager of your divorce and finances, it is usually in your best interest to have a tax advisor review your agreement to make sure issues related to taxes are laid out clearly and will hold up under legal scrutiny.
Here are some tips for handling divorce and the IRS:
You and your partner want to consider whether or not it is to your benefit to file “married – filing jointly” or “married-filing separately.” Work up an estimate of the financial ramifications for each and decide with your spouse what is better for you. Note that if you are not yet divorced in the tax year you are filing for, then you can still file jointly. If your divorce is finalized on or before December 31 of that year, then, according to the IRS, you are considered unmarried for the entire year. This is a fact you may want to consider when planning the timing of your divorce.
You and your spouse can continue to file joint tax returns even after you are separated and have filed for divorce. However, if you singed a joint tax return that is fraudulent you are liable for the money owed unless you can show you were an “innocent spouse.” An innocent spouse is someone who trustfully signs a joint tax return not knowing that something on the return is incorrect. This is very difficult to prove. You can get more information on rules and regulations relating to “innocent spouse” tax relief by logging on to www.irs.gov and looking for Publication 971.
Realize that taxes play a large role in property distribution; from the house to investments to child support. The IRS decides how alimony, child support and property distribution are reported. Don’t wait until April 14th to find out that your settlement has a huge impact on the filing of your taxes. Read IRS Publication 504, “Divorced or Separated Individuals”. This document will give you the information and tips you need to make wise decisions in your divorce process. It also tells you how you may be relieved of liability in joint returns and what divorce-related expenses may be tax deductible.
Overall, it is important to educate yourself in order to make the best possible decisions. Don’t forget that laws around taxes and marriage/divorce do change. Use a financial professional, reference books or the World Wide Web to make sure you understand the situation and possible outcomes. Take some time to educate yourself even if you are using a financial or legal professional to handle the tax aspect of your divorce.
How do I find hidden assets?
The only way the division of assets can be equal and fair is that everything is put on the table. The court cannot divide what it does not know exists. Here are some tips that will help you in searching for hidden assets:
Investigate to find out if real estate has been given away by checking with your county records office.
Check motor vehicle registry to find out if a car has been given away.
Look on credit card records to discover money hidden by an overpayment.
Check bank and stock records for evidence of cashed in stocks or bonds, withdrawals from bank accounts or receipt of money by someone who then deposited or invested it or used it to buy something of value.
If you signature was faked on a deed or other asset that was given away, have a handwriting expert verify the forgery.
Use the “discovery” process in which you ask someone oral or written questions to be answered under oath or produce certain documents for you to examine and copy. You may need the court’s permission for anyone except your spouse, but permission is usually given if you can show likelihood of learning information relevant to the divorce.
Hire a private investigator or a forensic accountant (an expert in examining financial records and testifying in court) to help you find hidden assets in divorce. Such services can be expensive, but you can ask the court to have your spouse pay for these searches and evaluations. Professionals can be helpful in finding assets hidden abroad or payments made to a spouse outside the country where American courts have no authority to order banks or businesses to comply with discovery requests.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners can help you locate a forensic investigator in the United States, Canada or overseas.
What are Emergency Court Orders?
Divorce or legal separations may take time – a long time. You may find that you need financial support while the process is being completed. Here’s how the Court can help you by granting temporary (pendente lite) or emergency relief (ex parte).
Pendente lite or temporary relief requires filing a written request with the Court. Do this when your file your case or right after. You can ask the Court for:
Child custody, child support or visitation
An order prohibiting taking children from the state or country
Permission to move away with the children
Alimony or maintenance
Medical or other insurance coverage for you and your children
Payment of your attorney fees
An order prohibiting either partner from selling marital assets – like the house!
An order requiring an abusive spouse to move out
An order protecting you and your children from abuse.
Ex parte is used only in emergency and doesn’t substitute for regular motions. Save it for when you learn your spouse has tickets to leave the country tomorrow or plans to change the beneficiary of a life insurance policy to someone other than you. The court will entertain an “ex parte” motion, which means you can ask for court action right away and without notifying your spouse. Once you receive the order, your spouse has the right to respond, but can’t take whatever action you feared.
What is the parent locator service?
The Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) obtains and transmits information about the location of any absent parent when that information is to be used for the purpose of enforcing child support. The service is an arm of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The FPLS also can be used in connection with the enforcement or determination of child custody, visitation, and parental kidnapping. There are also state parent locator services in some states.
Recent federal legislation (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996) also expanded the FPLS’s services to include a National Directory of New Hires and a Federal Case Registry of Support Orders. FPLS will match data between the New Hire and Case Registry every two days and report matches to states within two days.
What are Expedited Services and how can it help me with my family law case?
What is Expedited Services?
Expedited Services is a department of the Family Support Services for Maricopa County that helps parties and judges find solutions to child support issues, including enforcement and calculations. Expedited Services also deals with spousal maintenance enforcement and visitation issues, often without the long waiting period associated with getting a hearing date with a judge.
Why was Expedited Services formed?
Expedited Services was formed in 1988 after the Arizona legislature established procedures to implement an expedited process for the enforcement of court orders for child support, spousal maintenance and parenting time (visitation), in 1987.
How can I use Expedited Services?
Expedited Services can be useful in helping parties reach agreements and to get Orders signed by a judge much faster than if the parties had to wait to get a Court date. Parties are initially referred to Expedited Services by the assigned judge on the case or a party may file a Petition for the Enforcement of Child Support/Spousal Maintenance or an Expedited Process Request to Enforce Parenting Time. Once the Court issues an Order for child support enforcement, Expedited Services monitors the case, allowing the parties to request a Conference for the Enforcement of Child Support. To enforce Child Support or Spousal Maintenance, there must be a current Maricopa Order and the unpaid support must equal at least one month of the support ordered. Additionally, the parting owing the money must be available to be served.
What do I need to bring with me to the Expedited Services Conference?
For a Conference involving child support, Expedited Services requires that parties bring their most current pay stubs, W-2, W-4 and income tax forms for the past two years, proof of court-ordered support for any other children, proof of costs of supporting natural or adopted children for whom there is no court order, proof that court-ordered spousal maintenance is being paid, proof of paying the medical insurance premium for the children related to the case and proof of any necessary extra education, child care, and extraordinary expenses paid for the children in the case. Also bring your children’s social security numbers and dates of birth. (Expedited Services provides a list of the information needed when you receive the date for your Conference).
Do I need an attorney for the Expedited Services Conference?
This decision is up to each individual and the complications in your unique circumstance. Expedited Services allows attorney involvement in the process but not every party brings their attorney, even if they are represented. If you are frightened of the other party, feel you may be pressured by the other party, are worried about being clear in your answers, or are unsure of your understanding of the process, having an attorney present may be to your benefit. If you work well with the other party and already have reached an agreement but simply need to make the agreement an Order, you may not need an attorney. This is an individual decision and since each case is different, there is no easy answer to whether you should have an attorney for Expedited Services.
Why do I have to submit all of my documents, especially since I am the one who should receive child support and I have done nothing wrong?
Expedited Services uses the information provided to calculate child support pursuant to Arizona law when making its recommendation to the Judge. Moreover, since the other party is likely to contest the amounts owed or even whether any amounts are owed, you must prove your assertions.
If the parties have reached an agreement for child support, should we still attend the Expedited Services Conference?
If you have reached an agreement, you can have the agreement entered as a Stipulated Order or can attend the Expedited Services Conference. If you choose to attend the conference, the Conference Officer will calculate what the child support should be according to the Arizona Guidelines. In its Report, Recommendation and Order, Expedited Services will inform the judge of your agreement and of the child support amount according to the Guidelines. The judge then has the final decision whether your agreement is fair to the children or if the Guideline amount should be ordered.
Who makes the decisions at an expedited Services Conference?
The conferences are run by Conference Officers who are neutral, impartial county employees who have training in Child Support and Parenting Time.
What happens during an Expedited Services Conference?
The Conference Officers work with the parties to help them reach agreements on the issues. The Conference Officer also gathers information that may be useful if the parties are unable to reach an agreement. The Conference Officer may perform calculations and include them in his/her Report, Recommendation, and Order that will go to the judge.
What happens after the Conference?
Following the conference, the Conference Officer submits a Report, Recommendation and Order to the judge. If the parties reached an agreement, the Conference Officer will give that information to the judge. If the parties were unable to reach an agreement, the Conference Officer will give recommendations to the judge. The judge will then review the Report, Recommendation and Order and will either approve the recommendation or modify it. The Court will then issue an order informing the parties what was ordered.
What if I do not like the outcome of the Expedited Services Conference?
Once the Conference Officer files the Report, Recommendation and Order the parties have twenty-five (25) days to file an Objection to the Report, Recommendation and Order. If an Objection is filed, the assigned judge will review the Report and Objection and decide if a formal court hearing before the judge is necessary to resolve the issue.
:::Child Support FAQ’s
How is child support calculated in Arizona?
In Arizona, child support follows the Income Shares Model. This model was developed by the Child Support Guidelines Project of the National Center for State Courts. Basically, to calculate child support, Arizona estimates the amount that would have been spent on the child(ren) if the parents and child(ren) continued living together. This amount is based on each party’s gross income and the number of children in common. From this amount, medical insurance premiums, day care expenses, support of other children, extraordinary costs and extra education costs are added. Then the non-custodial parent receives a reduction for the amount of visitation days they have with the child(ren). The calculator then tells what amount each parent should contribute for their proportionate share of the total child support amount.
What if I can no longer pay the court-ordered amount for child support?
Either party may file to modify the child support if the new child support will change up or down at least fifteen percent (15%) from the current amount.