There are 2 ways we can learn about trends in the courts:  We can read about them, or we can experience them first hand.  Since I have been experiencing two major trends in family court first hand, I thought you should know about both.

Trend #1: Equal Parenting Time:

In 2013, the Arizona law about parenting time was changed.  The legislature added words to the effect that the court should endeavor to maximize each parent’s respective parenting time.  The courts have interpreted these changes to mean that the default parenting plan is equal time for each parent.  In my experience, the judges are pretty serious about this.  They will not deviate from an equal time arrangement without an agreement by the parties or some really compelling evidence that an equal time arrangement is not in the best interest of the children, for instance, one parent is a drug addict.  Otherwise, even if one parent has borne the primary responsibility for raising the children, has spent significantly more time with them, or even very recently breastfed one of the children, the court will award equal parenting time.

Trend #2:  Smaller  And Shorter Spousal Maintenance Awards:

This may be a product of recent more difficult economic times, or the result of too many obligors failing to make payment, but regardless of the cause, judges are not automatically awarding spousal maintenance (alimony), and when they are, it is typically for less money and for a shorter period of time.  I hear time and time again from judges that two households cannot live as cheaply as one.  The potential obligor’s defense that the dependent spouse must find gainful or more substantial employment has become increasingly more effective of late.  Even when a judge awards spousal maintenance at a temporary orders hearing, months in advance of the final trial, the judge will warn the receiving party that he or she should not count on receiving spousal maintenance at trial…i.e. “Better go out and find a good job in the next couple of months.”

What This Means For You:

In my view, the courts are telling all family court litigants that if you come to court, you had better be prepared to become financially self-sufficient very soon, because most likely you will not be able to count on your “Ex” for very much, or for very long.  For instance, with equal parenting time, the parent who receives child support will receive only a fraction of what he would have received as the primary residential parent.  I’ve seen child support go from $1,500.00 per month down to $300.00 per month when equal parenting time started.  This is unfortunate, because the positive economic effect on the parent now sharing the time can be minimal.   Similarly, the spouse who would have received spousal maintenance often simply does not have the earning capacity to replace the spousal maintenance award which would previously have applied.

Facing A Family Law Or Other Legal Issue?:

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