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How much and how often can I modify child custody?

In appropriate circumstances, parents may petition the court to modify child custody, which changes the terms of the existing arrangement to reflect current circumstances.

A child custody modification can be an excellent solution for parents whose lifestyles or situations have changed significantly since the original order was issued — but this option is only reserved for certain circumstances.

modify child custody

Child custody modification requirements in Arizona

Arizona law has strict requirements that must be met before the court will consider a modification. In most cases, there must be a “substantial and continuing change” to the circumstances affecting the children. While there’s no clear legal definition of this phrase, it generally describes a significant change in the family’s circumstances that’s likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

If a family meets these criteria, the parent seeking the modification must wait at least one year after the date of the initial order before filing a request. The law doesn’t limit the number of times a parent can petition for a modification, and a new modification could potentially be granted every year if the parent can demonstrate a compelling reason for the change.

Exceptions to the standard requirements


There are a few exceptions to the above rules. For starters, if the child’s current living environment poses a serious risk of endangerment to their “physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.”

Situations involving certain forms of domestic violence by a parent or a member of the parent’s household are also valid exceptions. There is no mandatory waiting period for these types of custody modifications, and parents can file for them at any time.

Level of compliance with the custody order

Another exception applies when a parent fails to comply with the terms of a child custody order. In these cases, the other parent may file a modification petition six months after the order is issued without needing to meet the substantial and continuing change requirement.

Parent in the military

Special rules also apply to military families in Arizona. If either parent is in the military and is transferred out of state, the legal guidelines for modifying child custody orders may be different.

Common circumstances warranting modification

A child custody order can remain in effect for up to 18 years, and circumstances can change greatly during such a long stretch of time. Some of the most common situations that may warrant a child custody modification in Arizona include:

  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Substance use that interferes with parenting
  • Extreme changes to the safety and stability of the child’s living conditions, such as long-term homelessness
  • Changes to work, school, or extracurricular schedules
  • Relocation of either parent to another state or a different region of Arizona
  • A new medical diagnosis or disability within the family affecting the child’s needs or the parent’s caregiving ability
  • Changes to the child’s age and maturity — a schedule that was appropriate for a two-year-old might not be appropriate for a child who is now twelve

Keep in mind that the court’s decision to grant or deny a child custody modification request is based on what’s in the best interests of the child. Even if a family meets the legal requirements for modification, the court may choose to deny the request if it believes that modifying the order would be detrimental to the child’s wellbeing.

Let us help with your custody modification case

At Blanchette Law PLLC, we understand that your family’s needs are unique and can change over time. If you believe that your current child custody order isn’t serving your family’s best interests, our Tempe child custody lawyer can review your case and help you determine whether a modification is the right course of action — and, if so, guide you through the process of achieving it.

We provide compassionate, personalized representation to families throughout the greater Phoenix area and beyond, and we’re ready to do the same for you. Call Mrs. Blanchette at (602) 881-1748 to schedule a consultation and begin exploring your options.

Can I still get child support if I’m not legally divorced or separated?

Child support is a court-ordered financial arrangement between parents to help cover the cost of raising their children. It helps ensure that the child has the necessary resources and financial stability to live a comfortable life.

Whether you’re married, divorced, separated, or unwed, the law is clear: Parents are responsible for providing financial support for their children. That’s why, even if you and your child’s other parent aren’t legally divorced or separated, you may still seek child support as long as you meet certain criteria.

By understanding the law surrounding child support in Arizona and your rights as a parent, you can do what’s best for your child. 

can I get child support if im not divorced

Seeking temporary child support in Arizona

Divorce proceedings and legal separations are notoriously lengthy processes. As you wait for the court to finalize your split, you’re still legally married, but you and your spouse may have already begun to live separate lives. This can make it difficult to care for your children financially.

Fortunately, Arizona law provides a solution. If you’re currently married to your child’s other parent and have already filed for divorce or legal separation, you can seek a temporary child support order while you wait for your proceedings to be finalized.

Often, this is done by negotiating a settlement with your spouse and submitting it to the court for approval. However, if this isn’t possible, you may need to petition the court for a temporary order.

If the family court judge approves your request, they will issue a temporary order, which will remain in effect until your divorce or legal separation is final. Once that happens, a permanent child support order will replace the temporary order.

Requesting child support when informally separated

Sometimes, couples will separate without filing for a divorce or legal separation. One parent may move out of the house while the other remains with the children.

This is often a temporary arrangement while the couple decides if they want to pursue a divorce. In most cases, the parent who left the family home will continue to support the children financially, even without a formal child support order. The court likely won’t hear a case for child support until one of the parents files for divorce or legal separation.

However, if one parent leaves the family home and stops contributing financially, the other parent may seek a court order for the absent parent to provide child support. This is an unusual situation that can be tricky to navigate, so it’s best to consult with a lawyer before taking any action.

Child support for unmarried parents

Arizona law requires both parents to financially provide for their children, regardless of marital status. If you’ve never married your child’s other parent and don’t currently live together, you may still request a court order for child support.

This is true even if the other parent isn’t listed on the child’s birth certificate. Mothers can petition the court for a paternity test, which will provide proof that the other parent is indeed the biological father of the child.

Once you’ve established paternity as required by the court, you can apply for a child support order. The court will consider the financial circumstances of both parents and order a reasonable amount for the non-custodial parent to pay.

Get further guidance from a family law attorney

Your child deserves financial support from both parents and the Arizona family court system is designed to guarantee that. No matter your specific circumstances, there are legal remedies available to ensure that your child is taken care of. A family law attorney can provide the guidance you need to make it happen.

With the right Tempe child support lawyer on your side, you can make an informed decision and pursue the court order that best serves your child’s needs. Call (602) 881-1748 today to get started with Blanchette Law PLLC.

Is my spouse entitled to half of my retirement in the divorce?

Asset division is a major component of the divorce process, with retirement assets often at the center of negotiations. This leads many people to wonder whether their spouse is entitled to a portion of their retirement funds.

The answer largely depends on the state you live in and when you acquired your retirement funds. If you live in Arizona, there’s a strong chance that your spouse will be entitled to some of your retirement in the divorce. 

is spouse entitled to retirement in divorce

How Arizona’s community property law affects retirement division

Arizona is a community property state. This means that any assets acquired during the marriage are equally owned by both spouses, even if only one spouse’s name is on the title or account.

Under Arizona’s community property laws, any retirement funds accumulated during a marriage are considered marital property and subject to 50/50 division in a divorce. This includes 401(k)s, IRAs, pensions, and other retirement plans.

Alternatively, if one spouse opens a retirement account before getting married, any funds — including company matching — that they add to the account before marriage are that spouse’s separate property.

Determining if your spouse is entitled to your retirement

Arizona’s community property laws dictate how to handle marital property and separate property, but these guidelines are irrelevant if your spouse’s name is on the retirement account. If that’s the case, your spouse is entitled to half of your retirement funds regardless of when they were acquired.

If your spouse’s name isn’t listed on the retirement account, then it’s important to determine when you acquired the funds. If it was all accumulated during the marriage, 100% of the funds are marital property and your spouse will most likely be entitled to half.

Things become a bit more complicated if you acquired some of your retirement funds before the marriage. In this case, you’ll need to calculate how much of the retirement funds are separate property and how much are marital property. 

The portion that’s considered marital property will be further split 50/50, while the separate property portion will remain entirely with you.

Ways to protect your retirement assets

You worked hard to build your retirement fund and the last thing you want is to lose half of it in the divorce process. Fortunately, there are a few possible strategies you can pursue to protect your retirement assets.

Signing a prenuptial agreement

A prenuptial agreement (informally known as a “prenup”) is a contract signed by both partners before marriage outlining each party’s rights in the event of a divorce.  If you have a prenup in place, its terms will override Arizona’s community property laws.

A common clause included in prenups is a waiver stating that each spouse waives their right to any retirement funds acquired by the other during the marriage.

This asset protection option is only available if you aren’t yet married, but it’s the most certain way to keep your retirement funds safe.

Negotiating an alternative asset division agreement

If there’s no prenuptial agreement, the next best option is to negotiate an out-of-court agreement with your spouse. Like a prenup, this agreement takes precedence over Arizona’s community property laws as long as both parties agree to its terms.

This option requires some creative give-and-take between both parties. For example, you could offer to keep the majority of the retirement funds in exchange for giving your spouse a larger share of other marital property. 

The amount of negotiation that’s possible depends on a variety of factors, including both parties’ willingness to compromise and the overall value of marital assets.

An attorney can further assist you

Whether you’re considering a prenup, entering negotiations with your spouse, or just want more information about how your retirement may be divided, the guidance of a divorce lawyer in Tempe can be invaluable.

The outcome of your divorce settlement will affect your financial security for years to come. A lawyer can ensure that you make informed decisions along the way. Start protecting your future today by contacting Blanchette Law PLLC at (602) 881-1748.

How is drug testing used in child custody cases?

Not all child custody cases in Arizona involve drug testing. However, if the court has reasonable suspicion that you or your ex is abusing drugs, you may be asked to submit to a drug test.

Keep reading to learn more about drug testing in child custody cases, then contact Blanchette Law PLLC for personalized legal guidance.

drug testing in child custody cases

Situations where drug testing may be ordered

The most common scenario in which a judge might order drug testing is if one parent has accused the other of using drugs. 

In some instances, the court will order both parents to submit to drug testing. This is to prevent one parent from using false accusations to gain an upper hand in the custody dispute.

A judge may also independently order drug testing if they have any reason to believe that a parent could be abusing drugs. This might include if the parent shows signs of drug abuse, such as changes in behavior, or if the parent has a history of substance-related legal issues.

Types of drug testing used in custody cases

Urine samples are a commonly-used form of drug testing in child custody cases. A positive result typically indicates that the parent has used drugs within the last two to seven days.

The court may also order a hair follicle test, either in addition to the urine test or as an alternative. This type of testing can detect drug use for a much longer period — often up to 90 days.

It’s up to the judge to decide which type of test to use. Factors such as the parent’s documented history of substance abuse and the severity of the allegations may influence decisions about testing protocols.

How drug test results may influence custody decisions

In child custody cases, the judge’s role is to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child. If a parent tests positive for drugs, or if either parent has been convicted of a drug offense, this could be used as evidence to suggest that they’re not fit to care for their child.

The goal isn’t to punish the parent but rather to protect the child from harm. With that in mind, a positive drug test result doesn’t necessarily mean that the parent will be denied custody rights.

The judge will likely consider the type of substance the parent tests positive for — and its known effects on a person’s functioning — when determining the appropriate response. The parent’s criminal history is also an important factor.

For example, methamphetamine use is associated with aggression and impulsivity, which could make someone an unsafe parent, especially if the parent has several drug-related convictions on their record. 

On the other hand, marijuana use by a parent with a clean criminal record may not have the same effect. The keyword here is may – in all cases, the judge has the final say.

If the results suggest that the child isn’t safe in the care of the parent who tests positive, the judge may issue a supervised visitation order. This requires the parent to be monitored during visits with their child. However, it may not be a permanent arrangement. The judge may also order drug treatment and/or counseling to help the parent become fit to care for their child. 

Furthermore, in some cases, the parent may be able to challenge or “rebut” the court’s decision. When this option is available, the court will only consider arguments showing that the parent’s desired outcome is in the child’s best interests.

Learn more from our compassionate custody attorneys

Child custody cases are often stressful enough, but the added complexity of a drug test can make them even more difficult. You need someone in your corner to help you understand your rights and ensure that the court is making decisions based on accurate information.

Whether you’re on the requesting or receiving end of a potential court-ordered drug test, a Tempe child custody lawyer at Blanchette Law PLLC can help you understand your options and advocate for the best interests of your child. 

Call (602) 881-1748 to get started today.

Can you withhold visitation for unpaid child support?

If your child’s other parent is behind on child support payments, you’re not alone. 

Being on the receiving end of unpaid child support can be frustrating and may leave a parent desperate for immediate financial relief. In an attempt to pressure the non-custodial parent into paying, many custodial parents might be tempted to withhold visitation.

It’s easy to see why this might be appealing. After all, if the non-custodial parent isn’t able to spend time with their child, then they might be motivated to make timely payments. However, withholding visitation isn’t the best course of action and can often do more harm than good.

Read on for more information and call Blanchette Law PLLC at (602) 881-1748 for personalized legal guidance from our skilled Tempe child support lawyer.

can you withhold visitation for unpaid child support

Why withholding visitation rights isn't the answer

All parents have a responsibility to help support their children financially, and the child support payor should be held accountable if they don’t fulfill their obligations. That being said, withholding visitation isn’t the right way to go about this.

For one, matters involving child support, custody, and visitation are tightly regulated by the family court system, with the exact terms of each arrangement laid out in legally binding court orders.

Although it might be tempting to take matters into your own hands by withholding visitation from your child’s other parent, doing so could be a violation of those orders. Interfering with a court-ordered visitation schedule is just as much a violation of the law as not paying court-ordered child support and can put you at risk of facing serious legal consequences.

More importantly, withholding visitation rights can have a detrimental effect on your child’s emotional well-being. Children benefit from having a relationship with both parents as much as possible, and withholding visitation rights — especially for an entirely separate matter like child support — could damage this bond. In some cases, the child may even blame themselves for the other parent’s absence, leading to feelings of guilt, confusion, and insecurity.

How to pursue unpaid child support

Fortunately, the legal system in Arizona has a number of tools available to help custodial parents collect unpaid child support. These options aren’t always perfect, but they can be a more effective way to resolve the issue without sacrificing your child’s relationship with their other parent or violating other court orders.

Be sure to document all instances of missed or incomplete child support payments. As soon as your payments are 30 days overdue, you should alert the court by filing a motion of contempt. The court will then issue a summons to the non-custodial parent requiring them to appear in court. If the non-custodial parent fails to comply with this summons, they could be found in contempt of court and face a range of possible consequences, including jail time and fines.

If the non-custodial parent does appear in court, they’ll be given the chance to explain why their child support payments are late. If the parent can prove financial hardship due to an involuntary change in circumstances, such as a job loss or illness, the court may take this into account and modify the child support order accordingly.

On the other hand, if the court finds that the non-custodial parent is capable of making timely payments, it may impose harsher penalties, such as wage garnishment, to ensure that the parent follows through on their obligations in the future. In some cases, the court may also attempt to recover past-due payments by seizing bank accounts, placing liens on property, or withholding tax refunds.

Consult a family law attorney

While it can take time and effort to recoup missed payments and get back on your feet, it’s possible to enforce your rights as a custodial parent and receive the child support to which you’re entitled. With a Tempe child support lawyer in your corner, you can take the necessary steps to ensure that the non-custodial parent fulfills their obligations without interfering with the parent-child relationship.

Let Blanchette Law PLLC be your guide through this difficult process. Call (602) 881-1748 to schedule a consultation to learn more.

What happens to the family pet in a divorce or separation?

A divorce is the unraveling of a shared life — a life that may have involved a beloved family pet. Many people view their pets as members of their family, and those going through a divorce or separation may have to make heartbreaking decisions about who will be the pet’s primary caretaker.

If you’re getting divorced in Arizona and are concerned about your pet, you need the guidance of a compassionate divorce lawyer in Tempe. Adriana Blanchette, founder of Blanchette Law PLLC, can provide you with the guidance and support you need to make the decision that’s best for you, your children, and your pet. Call (602) 881-1748 to schedule your consultation today.

divorce or separation what happens to the family pet

How Arizona courts view pets in divorce cases

Under Arizona law, pets are treated as personal property rather than family members. As a result, if the parties fail to reach an agreement, the court may include the pet in the division of property. The court doesn’t have the jurisdiction to order shared custody arrangements, so the property division order might not be what you want or what you feel is best for your pet.

“Community property” includes all property that was acquired during the marriage. These assets are split equally between both parties in divorce proceedings, while separate property (any property acquired before the marriage) remains with the original owner.

In most cases, the court will look at when the pet was brought into the family to determine whether it’s community or separate property. If the pet came into the family after the couple got married, it’s likely community property. On the other hand, if the pet was purchased or adopted before the marriage began, the court may consider it separate property.

One might be able to make the argument that they are also an owner because they are listed on paperwork at the vet or doggy daycare, however, that outcome isn’t guaranteed. The court might not be convinced that a transmutation occurred and could label the pet as the separate property of the party named on the paperwork.

Including the pet in a settlement agreement

Working out an agreement with your former partner outside of court proceedings is always preferable to involving the legal system. If you can both communicate calmly and openly, you may be able to come up with a mutually beneficial solution for the pet using a settlement agreement. This is a document that both parties collaboratively draft and sign to avoid letting the court decide on the terms of the divorce, which may include what happens to the family pet.

This option gives you more flexibility than leaving the decision up to a judge. While the court may only award the pet to one of you, you can use the settlement agreement to compromise on visitation rights or outline a shared “custody” agreement. This can be particularly beneficial if you’re both very attached to the pet and want to keep your beloved companion involved in both of your lives.

Including the pet in a settlement agreement may also be the best way to keep the pet’s best interests in mind. Many animals experience significant distress when their environment changes, but they may also suffer if they’re forced to say goodbye to one of their caretakers.

On the other hand, one party may be better equipped to provide for the pet based on work schedules or living arrangements. A thoughtful settlement agreement can be the best way to consider these factors and honor the needs of all parties involved — humans and animals alike.

A divorce lawyer can help you weigh your options

Despite what the law says, pets aren’t just property. They’re family members that bring joy and comfort to their human companions, and they deserve special consideration in divorce proceedings.

If your divorce involves a family pet, a compassionate divorce lawyer in Tempe can help you explore the possible arrangements that may work best for your family’s situation. Call Blanchette Law PLLC at (602) 881-1748 to schedule a consultation and begin taking steps to protect your relationship with your pet.

What happens to frozen embryos in a divorce?

Divorce is complicated enough for most couples, but those who’ve chosen to freeze embryos for later use have an additional layer of issues to address — especially here in Arizona. If you currently have frozen embryos with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, it’s important to understand your legal rights, responsibilities, and options. 

Continue reading to learn what happens to frozen embryos in a divorce, then contact Blanchette Law PLLC at (602) 881-1748 for personalized guidance from a trusted divorce lawyer in Tempe.

what happens to frozen embryos in a divorce

What are frozen embryos?

LGBTQ couples and couples struggling with fertility challenges often pursue IVF (in vitro fertilization) in the hope to become parents.

In many cases, excess embryos are created during the IVF process. Couples often choose to save these embryos in case their current IVF cycle fails, or if they plan to have more children in the future.

Sometimes embryos are created and stored even if they aren’t going to be used until much later. The embryos can be frozen and stored in a fertility center for up to 10 years — or even longer in some instances.

The issue of frozen embryos and divorce

Unfortunately, a marriage may end before a couple has a chance to use their frozen embryos. When this happens, the decision of what to do with them may become a source of conflict.

The situation becomes particularly dicey when one spouse feels that the embryos are their only chance at having genetic children, while the other isn’t comfortable with the idea of becoming a genetic parent to their ex-spouse’s child. In other circumstances, neither spouse may want to use the embryos for a future pregnancy but can’t agree on what to do with them.

In an attempt to prevent this issue beforehand, most IVF clinics require couples to sign a contract specifying how they’d like the embryos to be used in the event of a divorce. The options may include:

  • Naming one spouse to gain ownership of the embryos and pursue implantation
  • Donating the embryos to another couple or individual in need of fertility treatments
  • Donating the embryos to a research facility
  • Destroying the embryos

While referring to this contract can be a great starting point for resolving the issue, the parties still might not be in agreement. Arizona has a unique law that may favor the wishes of one spouse over the other

— regardless of what the contract states.

How Arizona law approaches frozen embryos in divorce cases

In 2018, Arizona broke new ground by passing Senate Bill 1393. This first-of-its-kind state law allows frozen embryos to be awarded to the party who intends to use them to create a child when the parties can’t agree on how to use them.

Furthermore, this law states that if both parties wish to use the embryos for a future pregnancy, the court may choose the option that will give the embryos the best chance of success. In either case, any existing contracts between the parties will be overruled should it come to this.

While Senate Bill 1393 may require a nonconsenting party to become a genetic parent to the resulting child, it doesn’t require them to be a legal parent. This means they may not have any rights or obligations to the child, including child support payments and child custody.

Before this law was passed, judges usually referred to the decision the couple made in the original IVF contract. If the contract didn’t contain a divorce clause, or if the parties couldn’t agree on its interpretation, it was left to the judge’s discretion to decide what would happen to the embryos. Most would favor the party who didn’t want to use the embryos.

Seek advice from a family law attorney

Arizona’s unusual frozen embryo law might leave room for added stress and contention in a divorce. If you’re going through a divorce in Arizona and you and your spouse have frozen embryos, a knowledgeable divorce lawyer in Tempe can thoroughly assess your situation and help you make an informed decision about your options. 

Call Blanchette Law PLLC at (602) 881-1748 to learn more and discuss your case.

How Long Does Child Support Last?

Child support is designed to split fairly the financial responsibility of raising a child between parents who don’t live together. The purpose of child support is clear, but knowing how long support may last is less straightforward.

If you need to obtain or modify a child support order, or if you simply want to better understand your order, contact Blanchette Law PLLC today. Call 602-881-1748 or contact us online to schedule your consultation. 

In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about Arizona’s child support laws, including when child support payments typically end.

At what age does child support stop in Arizona?

In Arizona, a parent’s legal responsibility to pay child support generally ends on the last day of the month in which the child turns 18, however, there are some important exceptions.

Exception 1: Still in high school 

If the child turns 18 but is still attending high school, then the parent’s obligation to pay child support continues until the child graduates from high school or until they turn 19, whichever occurs first.

Exception 2: Disability

If your child is disabled to the extent that they are unable to support themselves and need to stay with a parent, then the child support obligation may extend past the month the child turns 18 years old or even beyond the age of 19, however, the exact date will need to be determined through either an agreement or a court order. 

In order for the court to order support for a disabled or dependent adult, the court must find the disability began before the individual reached the age of majority. The amount of support is then determined in the same manner as a standard child support order.

Will support be due if my child is in college?

Arizona law doesn’t require a parent to pay child support for a child who is over the age of 18 and attends college. However, the parents may voluntarily enter into their own agreement to financially support their child during college such as paying for certain college expenses.

What happens when one child turns 18 but there are other minor children? 

Just because one child turns 18 and is no longer eligible for support doesn’t mean a parent will automatically receive less money for other children.

In order to have a court-ordered child support payment reduced, the parent must file a request for a modification of child support. Support is then recalculated using the standard child support calculator which utilizes each parent’s income, the number of children, and the percentage of custody each parent has with the children.

What happens if there’s past due child support after my child turns 18?

When the obligation to pay child support ends, the paying parent isn’t off the hook yet. ordered to pay support isn’t off the hook for back payments or support that was previously due but wasn’t paid. Unless the court orders that all or part of the arrears are waived, it must be paid.

The Department of Child Support Services may levy bank accounts, place property liens, garnish wages, or suspend driver’s licenses and passports to recover unpaid support.

Will the wage assignment for child support automatically end when the child support duty ends?

In Arizona, unless both parents agree not to do so, the court will order that child support be paid through a wage assignment, meaning support is taken directly from the obligor’s paycheck and is sent to the Arizona Support Payment Clearinghouse, then it’s sent to the receiving parent.

If the child support order contains an expiration date, ideally the wage assignment will end on that date, however, the employer may need to be reminded to terminate the wage garnishment. If your child support order doesn’t have an expiration date, your attorney will need to file a motion to terminate the wage assignment. 

Know your rights regarding child support in Tempe, Arizona

If you have questions regarding child support, you need experienced Tempe child support lawyer Adriana Blanchette. The team at Blanchette Law Firm PLLC is ready to provide you with the compassionate representation you deserve.

Schedule your consultation by calling (602) 881-1748.