UPDATES TO FAMILY LAW FOR 2012

Happy New Year to all! As all of us gear up for another year and start on our resolutions for this year, we want to update you on some recent changes Arizona has made as it relates to divorce, child custody, and judgments relating to family law cases that may effect you and your family.

In divorce matters, the Court has offered conciliation services and other aids for reconciliation of troubled marriages which place up to a 90 day stay or "freeze" on a divorce proceeding. Now, effective immediately, upon request of either one of the parties, this stay can be extended by the Court for another 120 days beyond the initial 60 days, for a total of six months, to allow for additional marital counseling or other means to try to reconcile one's marriage. This can mean additional time to try to work things out or, at worst, can mean that your divorce may take a longer time to be finalized.

Arizona has also changed child custody modifications as it applies to military families. If one parent is an armed forces member and is deployed or mobilized, the Court will not consider that factor alone as a basis to show a substantial, continuing change of circumstances to justify a modification fo child custody and/or parenting time. Additionally, although the Court may enter temporary orders modifying custody and/or parenting time during a deployment or mobilization by a military parent, the Court will not and cannot enter a final order modifying custody or other parental rights until 90 days after the deployment or mobilization ends unless expressly agreed upon by the military parent. If it finds it in the child's best interest, the Court may also delegate the deployed parent's parenting time with the minor child(ren) to a stepparent, grandparent, significant other, or other non-parent for the duration of the military parent's absence.

Finally, Arizona has made some substantial changes to interest charged on judgments that may have some effect on certain family law matters. Judgments for child support or spousal maintenance arrears will still carry interest calculated at ten percent (10%) per annum, but other types of judgments received in the family court, such as for attorneys' fees or un-reimbursed medical expenses, will have interest calculated at the prime rate plus 1% (currently 4.25%) per annum. This change in the interest rate applicable to certain non-supported judgments is certainly something to be aware of when pursuing actions relating to the division of property, un-reimbursed medical and dental expenses, or reimbursement for allocated debts against one's former spouse.

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