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What are the “Best Interests of the Child” in Phoenix?

Most state laws refer to child custody decisions as being in the “best interests of the child” but this may be interpreted differently in each situation, and each case is unique. In Arizona, family courts take into consideration many factors to determine where the child’s best chance of a balanced life lies.

The court considers the preferences of the parents as well as the child, and evaluates the relationship between child and parent as well as siblings (if any) and significant others such as grandparents. It will also look into the current educational and community situation of the child to determine if it would be healthier for the child to maintain the status quo or to allow the child to be placed in a new situation. Another important factor would be the age, mental state, and physical health of the child.

An Arizona family court judge is just as likely to award sole custody as well as joint custody depending on the circumstances, and to award sole custody regardless of the parent’s gender if it is in the best interest of the child. Historically, family courts tended to favor awarding physical custody to the mother for very young children when the parents cannot reach an agreement on their own, but this is not supposed to be the case any longer. The court will also decide on a visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent.

The parents are encouraged propose a jointly-prepared parenting plan subject to the court’s approval. This includes a custodial schedule, plans for education, religion, and health as well as plans for vacations and holidays. Unless there is a case of domestic violence or false allegations of such, or the judge discerns a level of coercion or duress in the custody agreement, such parenting plans are considered favorably as long as it conforms to the law. It would be advisable to have family law attorneys like the San Jose lawyers of Daniel Jensen draft such agreements in accordance to the parents’ wishes to ensure that it is a legally binding and fair agreement.

Texas Child Support Laws

It is an unfortunate fact that when children are a factor in divorce, child support issues become a bone of contention, especially if the divorce is dissentious. As it is with child custody, the concern of the courts is to look out for the best interests of children of divorce, and to protect their rights to financial maintenance by their parents.

The laws governing child support in Texas is embodied in Title 5 Subtitle B Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code. In it, the laws are very specific on what the courts may and may not order based on the circumstances. It is possible that both parents will be assigned a certain amount of child support in cases when neither parent has physical conservatorship (which is what they call custody in Texas). In most cases, however, the parent who is the physical conservator is the one who will receive child support payments from the non-conservator parent.

There are many possible scenarios described under Chapter 154, but perhaps what would be an important point to know is that the failure of one parent to pay regularly court-ordered child support may be considered a quasi-criminal offense under Texas Penal Code §25.05 if that parent does so even if he or she has the financial capability to make payments. The penalty for this (considered contempt of court) can be as much as 180 days imprisonment each time the case is brought before the Texas Child Support Division as well as $500 in fines. According to the website of the BB Law Group PLLC, the non-paying parent may also risk losing state-issued licenses including professional, driver’s, business and recreational.

If you live in Texas and have been having difficulty in getting your spouse to pay child support regularly even though there is a financial capacity for it, consult with a lawyer in the area about your legal options. Your child or children should not have to suffer from your spouse’s refusal to fulfill legal and familial obligations.

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