In this article, you will discover:
- How changes in circumstances can affect parenting time and child support.
- Why pre-nuptial agreements are not just for the wealthy.
- When to consider a post-nuptial agreement, even in a happy marriage.
What Final Family Court Orders Can Be Modified In Arizona?
Typically, the final family court orders we see being modified are child support, legal decision-making, and parenting time. With legal decision-making and parenting time, you can go back after a year has passed and see if circumstances have changed. In emergency circumstances, you can go back sooner. With child support, you can go back even earlier if finances have changed.
Spousal maintenance is one we also see being changed sometimes. If people don’t agree to a spousal maintenance settlement, it can be modified down the line, and we may see people trying to modify that in court. A good attorney will always try to negotiate a non-modifiable spousal maintenance settlement to prevent this from happening!
The only order we don’t see being changed is the division of property and debt. Those are pretty final. Barring something really unusual happening, that one usually is left alone.
What Must Be Proven In The Court To Obtain A Modification To A Family Court Order In Arizona?
To obtain a modification in Arizona, we have to show a substantial and continuing change in circumstances—it has to be substantial, it has to be a big deal, and it has to be continuing, meaning it’s not a one-time thing; it’s the new normal. For example, if one time, one parent is five minutes late to a parenting time change, that’s not substantial. They were late one time, but it’s not a huge deal, and it’s not continuing. If you try to go and modify your parenting time because someone was a few minutes late once, it is not going to work.
However, if someone is going to take a new job and they are going to need to move to a different county, that’s a pretty good reason to modify the parenting time. It’s a substantial change where we suddenly have a long-distance parenting situation. It’s continuing; they are expecting to have that job for many years. They have to go in and modify.
We usually know what substantial and continuing means in financial terms. The courts have been nice enough to tell us that a 15% child support change is substantial and continuing. It’s a little harder to define when it comes to parenting time and legal decision-making. Sometimes that is fact-specific, and you need some extra judgment to figure out if you are bringing a good case to the court.
Can The Court’s Decision To Grant A Modification Ever Be Appealed In Arizona?
In Arizona, once the court has issued a final judgment, it can be appealed. The word final judgment is key. You can’t really appeal something that isn’t a final judgment. That mostly comes into play when we are dealing with temporary orders – there’s a different procedure for that sort of thing.
Once the court issues that final judgment, you could conceivably appeal, though not many people do. It’s financially very expensive, and it’s hard to track down a good appellate attorney. It’s very rare to see an appeal in family law—the fact we don’t have a lot of case law coming from appeals backs that up.
Under Arizona Law, What Is A Pre-Nuptial Agreement And What Are The Benefits?
A pre-nuptial agreement takes place before marriage when a couple comes to an agreement on the terms of a divorce, should they need it. It’s really most useful for sorting out finances. They may agree, “If we get divorced, this is what spousal maintenance will be, and this is how property will get divided.”
It’s very easy to get married, and sometimes you rush into it. Then you suddenly realize that, as a result of getting married, you might be on the hook for spousal maintenance, or you have some property that you are going to lose that you didn’t plan for. Taking the time to actually talk to your spouse about those things and figuring out how you want that stuff to be treated in a marriage is an important step. I wish more people did it.
Many people think pre-nuptial agreements are only for the rich or that it means you don’t love somebody. Then they end up getting taken for a ride in their divorce because they never talked to their spouse about this financial stuff. Guess what? A lot of divorces happen because of finances! Getting married without talking about finances is not a great idea.
In Arizona, What Is A Post-Nuptial Agreement? What Are The Benefits?
The only difference between a pre-nuptial agreement (prenup) and a post-nuptial agreement (postnup) is that a postnup can’t be made based on a promise to get married because you already are. That’s why it’s a post-nuptial (that means “after marriage”). It’s still sort of the same thing.
With a postnup, you can make an agreement about finances, but you can’t make an agreement about kids. The court is always going to do what is in the best interest of the children. You can’t just agree the kids will be treated in this way and will always be in the care of this parent. If that parent turns out to be evil, the court won’t support that. It’s about the finances.
A great example of a postnup is if you are about to have kids and someone suggests one of you become a stay-at-home parent. Before you give up your career and raise the kids, you might want to think about how that is going to shake out if you get divorced. Having an agreement saying, “I gave up my career to become a stay-at-home parent. We both agree to that and agree that if we get divorced, I’m going to be compensated this way for that sacrifice.” It could be a lifesaver. Down the road, if you haven’t worked for 20 years and suddenly get divorced without an agreement in place, you may find yourself in a really bad situation. I wish more people did these. I can honestly count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement, but I can tell you they would have helped out a ton in so many cases I’ve had over the years.
For more information on Modification of Family Court Orders in Arizona, an initial consultation is your next best step.