Child Custody: Customizing a Parenting Plan

Child Custody Advice from a Child Custody Attorney in Phoenix

help from Child Custody Attorney in Phoenix

Bishop Law Office is a notable family law firm in Phoenix, earning recognition for its genuine desire to help people move past these difficult situations. Our lawyers understand the terrible feeling of uncertainty during family law proceedings, and child custody issues can be an enormous source of stress for everyone concerned. However, things quickly get a lot better and brighter when you’re empowered with the right information.

I’m extremely proud of the recognitions I’ve earned, like Certified Family Law Specialist, Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers and Arizona Top Attorneys. But I’ve learned one of my greatest strengths is delivering practical advice, in plain language, when my clients need it most.
— William Bishop

A family law attorney in Phoenix explains legal decision-making

One of the first things you should know about establishing child custody is that legal terminology has changed. Although the term custody remains in common usage, today the term legal decision-making refers to the right and responsibility to determine things like education, healthcare and religious practice. This can present a big challenge right from the start, as a family law attorney needs to take time to ensure clients are aware of what legal terms mean and why they’re important.

Our attorneys understand that during family law proceedings clients are more concerned with outcomes rather than legal language. The ability to present the most important information in a calm and reassuring way is just one of the things that sets the team at Bishop Law Office apart as Phoenix divorce lawyers.

Getting through misconceptions with a family law attorney in Phoenix

Many people still hold an outdated view when it comes to things like child support, post-decree modification and other aspects of establishing legal decision-making. Let’s take a moment to clear up three of the most common misconceptions that clutter family law matters:

  1. The better parent gets more time with children — It seems to make sense that children will spend more time with the parent they like better, or the one who demonstrates better parenting skills. But a good Phoenix child custody lawyer will tell you that’s not necessarily the case. Both parents enter a divorce with equal rights to their children, and it’s up to them to prove it to a court if they feel they’re entitled to more time.
  2. Time with children is determined by gender — Even with very young children, a father is presumed to have just as much a right as the mother when it comes to parenting time. This, again, represents the responsibility held by family law practitioners to be honest and up front with their clients. It’s critical to clear up these types of misunderstandings early in order to avoid the disadvantages they create.
  3. There’s no forgiveness for past mistakes — Everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet, and that doesn’t necessarily mean it bars them from joint custody or parenting time. One of the greatest advantages of working with a family law specialist is getting through issues like substance abuse or past crimes in a supportive environment free of judgment.

The importance of finding a family law attorney in Phoenix

As we’ve learned, there are quite a few pitfalls when it comes to establishing legal decision-making. That’s why it’s crucial to find an attorney with solid experience in even the most complex facets of family law. You’ll find the best attorneys offer a number of options for representation in order to meet your individual needs. Bishop Law Office will be honored to represent you in your family law matter, but urges you to seek out quality representation regardless of who you choose.

Contact Bishop Law Offices, P.C.

Don’t leave your family law matter to chance. To schedule an initial consultation with an experienced family law attorney, contact Bishop Law Offices today.

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Raushanah Daniels

Education & Experience

Raushanah Daniels became an attorney for one reason: to help people. At Bishop Law Office, she does just that – primarily practicing family law. Her approach to family law is to have an open mind and gain an understanding of the big picture from her client’s perspective. She prefers to think through her client’s entire situation in order to determine the best options so that she can aim for the best outcome. She also litigates personal injury cases and gives them the care that they deserve.

Raushanah is a well-rounded attorney, who has also practiced contract law, wills, trusts and estates, criminal law, and commercial property tax law.

Through her years of experience, Raushanah has gained excellent research, analytical, and writing skills. She has successfully written numerous appellate briefs filed with the Arizona Court of Appeals and several petitions for review accepted by the Arizona Supreme Court, as well as many motions that were filed and argued before the Arizona Superior Court. Raushanah also has significant trial experience, which she first gained as a prosecutor for the City of Phoenix Prosecutor’s Office.

Raushanah earned her J.D. in 2004 from Boston College Law School and her B.A., magna cum laude, in 2000 from Arizona State University. She seeks to give back to the legal profession and the public which they serve and to that end has been active on several committees. She was a member of the State Bar of Arizona’s Ethics Committee and Legal Services Committee. In addition, she was selected to serve on an ad hoc committee organized by the Arizona Supreme Court and there assisted in developing policies for the retention, destruction and access to electronic court records available to the public and legal profession.

In her free time, she enjoys reading and spending time with family and friends. Her goals for the next year are to play the violin again and become fluent in Spanish with her husband.

 

Heather Stewart

Heather Stewart is an accomplished attorney with more than seventeen years of experience with almost all of these exclusively dedicated to the practice of family law. These years have allowed her to fine tune and showcase her exceptional writing skills that reveal her English and literary background and her intent to “win on paper before the judge even sees the client.”

Ms. Stewart is well versed in all areas of family law, including, but not limited to: divorce and separation, division of assets and debts, spousal maintenance, paternity, parenting time, school choice, holiday schedules, relocation, legal decision making, grandparents’ rights and child support and child support arrears. To increase her education and knowledge, Ms. Stewart has attended multiple seminars and extensive training programs including 40 hours of mediation training and 40 hours of education and training dealing with the issues of domestic and sexual violence. She is also proficient in many areas of juvenile law and enjoys adoptions referring to them as one of the “joyful days” in Court.

Her strong devotion to the legal community is noted by her years of pro bono work including earning distinction by receiving a nod as one of the Top 50 Pro Bono Attorneys in the State of Arizona (2015) and being a multiple recipient of the East Valley Attorney of the Year for the Family Law Assistance Project including most recently in 2015.

Ms. Stewart believes that the parties feel more in control when they are able to assist in brokering a solution to their family law needs themselves instead of just waiting for the dictates of the Court. Thus, the myriad of family law issues faced by a client should first attempt to be resolved by alternative dispute resolution such as a settlement conferences or mediation. However, there are many times when evidentiary hearings and trials are the only solution and at such time, Ms. Stewart will work tirelessly on your behalf to be well prepared, effective and ultimately successful. It should be stated that Ms. Stewart is well known for her tenacity and loyalty to her clients. She has extensive litigation experience and has even been hired as the “trial attorney” to step in the shoes of another attorney at the time of trial.

Ms. Stewart is a native of Pennsylvania but spent many years in the Deep South including graduating from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of the Arts and attending law school in New Orleans, Louisiana at Loyola University. At Loyola, she was part of a pilot program to teach young children the basic tenets and rights of the law by spending one morning a week in the local public schools. Ms. Stewart has also taught civil litigation and alternative dispute resolution at the college level.

Ms. Stewart previously had her own boutique law firm for many years before joining Bill in his practice. She is a member of the Arizona State Bar’s Family and Juvenile Sections, Maricopa County Association of Family Mediators as well as a member of the prestigious Lorna Lockwood Inn of Court,

In her spare time, Ms. Stewart enjoys volunteering across the Valley including with Fresh Start Women’s Resource Center, the Volunteer Lawyer’s Program and Helen’s Hope Chest a foster care resource center. She enjoys spending time with her family, her two book clubs and her dogs.

Initial Consultation

In Preparation for your Initial Consultation

Our initial consultation is much more than a “meet and greet”, or a marketing pitch. Rather, it is the intent of our family law attorneys to learn the material facts of your case, to answer your questions, and to provide you with expert feedback regarding your specific questions and goals. It is our intent to provide you with a suggested game plan and options on how best to proceed forward with your case.

Being involved in a family law or divorce case can be very intimidating to people that are not familiar with the court system and the legal process.  With that being said, below are some recommended steps and information to help you prepare for your initial consultation:

*If you have a telephonic consultation, you will need to submit at least the last page with signature in order to proceed with your consultation. You can complete this through RightSignature or print, sign and fax or email the form.

Children – It is best if your minor children do not come to the consultation with you. It is good practice to not speak of certain matters in front of your minor children, especially if they are involved. They do not need to hear any of the confidential information addressed during the consult. However, we are aware sometimes you do not have childcare or other options, and we will accommodate your children. In such event, please bring books, an electronic tablet or other items to keep them busy while you are meeting with the attorney.

 

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Phoenix Divorce Lawyer

 

Bishop Law Offices, P.C. has five very experienced divorce lawyers, and an experienced and welcoming support staff. Our firm provides divorce and family law services throughout Arizona with three convenient locations for our divorce clients, including Phoenix (off Northern & the 51 Freeway), Tempe (by Ikea off Priest Dr. & Warner Rd.), and Scottsdale Fashion Park.

Only a limited number of divorce law firms in the State of Arizona have Certified Family Law Specialists in their offices. Such is the only certification by the State Bar of Arizona that designates proven specialists in divorce and family law. William Bishop is a Certified Specialist.

Divorce cases can be extremely emotional, and factually and legally complex. The last thing you need is a Phoenix divorce attorney that unnecessarily complicates your divorce case, or throws fuel on the fire without your knowledge or permission. At Bishop Law Offices, P.C., our divorce attorneys put their egos aside and represent you based upon your best interests. You will be involved in all aspects of the proceedings. Our attorneys will ensure that you make all important final decisions regarding your divorce proceedings after being informed of your rights and chances of success. We make sure you understand the “why’s” and “how’s” of your case.

You do not just write a blank check at our firm. Not all divorce cases fit one mold. You should not be charged for services that are not reasonable and necessary for your case. At Bishop Law Offices, P.C., we tailor your representation to your specific needs. Sometimes our clients are involved in a very nasty divorce, and need assertive and diligent representation on an almost daily basis. Others may be in a situation that a reasonable settlement can be reached very quickly in the proceedings. All of our divorce attorneys have been practicing for over ten years (William Bishop and Dan Beeks over 25 years each). Your case is not going to be passed off onto a young and inexperienced associate. Our attorneys pride themselves on being able to take an approach that serves our client’s best interests, whether such means litigation, or a quick and inexpensive settlement.

To learn more about our Firm’s top credentials and our numerous awards and recognitions click here.

Arizona Divorce Process


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ARIZONA DIVORCE LAW

It does not matter what city or county in Arizona that you reside as far as the divorce laws that apply to your case. Most of the laws that apply in divorce cases are found in two places – (1) Title 25 of the Arizona Revised Statutes and (2) the Arizon a Rules Of Family Law Procedure. Cases published by the Supreme Court of Arizona and the Arizona Court of Appeals interpret these laws and apply them to many varying factual scenarios that help our attorneys make the appropriate arguments that help persuade the Court to make decisions that are fair and appropriate in your divorce case. New laws and rules are added every year, and changes are made to some of the laws and rules every year. The statutes and rules set forth specific laws and regulations applicable to child custody (legal decision making), parenting time, grandparent and other third party visitation, community property, sole and separate property, spousal maintenance (alimony), and other areas of family law.

At Bishop Law Offices, P.C., we meet as a team regularly to discuss new laws and the application of the law to our clients’ cases in order to obtain the best results possible.

DIVISION OF PROPERTY AND DEBTS IN DIVORCE CASES

Identifying and Locating Assets in Divorce Cases:

Sometimes the division of assets and debts in a divorce case is fairly straight forward. On other occasions, one of the parties may be hiding assets. Not only must all assets be identified, sometimes it is necessary to make sure that the assets are properly valued so that our clients receive their fair share. This includes real estate, personal property, business interests, retirement plans, pensions, and other tangible and intangible assets. Our divorce lawyers take the necessary steps to make sure that all marital assets are identified and properly divided. This often includes issuing subpoenas, taking depositions, and other methods of discovery to obtain necessary information and documents. If the value of property is disputed, we obtain the necessary evidence so that proper values can be applied to ensure that you receive your fair share.

We have much more information about the division of property and debts (including what constitutes community property and sole and separate property) on our website, so click here if you want to learn more.

Waste And Improper Transfers Of Funds And Assets In Divorce Cases.

Sometimes a spouse may improperly transfer or ‘waste’ assets or funds acquired during the marriage. In such cases, the spouse that wasted community assets or funds should be required to reimburse the innocent spouse for such waste. Such wasteful or improper spending may include money spent on an illicit extramarital affair, gambling, drugs and or other improper spending or transfers. If such has taken place for a long period of time, such wasteful spending or transfers may be very substantial. In such cases, we take the necessary measures to receive additional property, extra spousal maintenance or other types of compensation for our clients.

Valuation And Division Of The Family Business in Divorce Cases.

In cases where a business is started during the marriage, a valuation of the business may be necessary. Even if a business was started prior to marriage, the community may have a claim to at least part of the increase in value, funds or other assets held within the company. Our divorce attorneys are very experienced in business valuation cases and other complex property cases. In cases that we represent the spouse that runs the business, we will advocate to make sure that the business is not ‘over-valued’. Business valuations can be subjective, and a good family law attorney can persuade the Court to apply logic and reasonableness in order to avoid excessive valuations.

In cases that we represent the spouse that will not be retaining the business, we take the necessary measures to ensure that all assets within the business are identified, and that a fair valuation is obtained.

We have much more information about business valuations on our website, so click here if you want to learn more.

CHILD CUSTODY / LEGAL DECISION MAKING AND PARENTING TIME

Often the biggest issues in a divorce case regard custody (legal decision making) and parenting time. Factors such as domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, metal health issues or improper parental behavior may have a big impact on custody and parenting time orders. In other cases, the issues may be more subtle. In some cases, equal parenting time and decision making is appropriate. In other cases, parenting time should be restricted (including supervised parenting time where the child is endangered physically or emotionally by one of the parents).

How parents behave during the divorce proceeding can be crucial to the Court’s final decision regarding parenting time and legal custody. This seems to be lost on many attorneys, who fail to properly advise their clients on how to approach daily issues as the case progresses.

At Bishop Law Offices, P.C., we not only fight to obtain the results that serve the best interests of your children, we provide you with our honest and experienced feedback during your proceedings to make sure that you do not make mistakes that may impact the Court’s decisions.

We have much more information about legal custody and parenting time on our website. Click here if you want to learn more.

CHILD SUPPORT

In divorce cases involving children, one party is generally ordered to pay at least some child support to the other parent. Considerations include each party’s income, expenses for the child’s health care insurance and uncovered health care expenses, the parties’ respective parenting time and other considerations. Arizona has Child Support Guidelines that are presumed to apply. However, in some cases where the children have a different standard of living in each household, the Court may deviate from the presumed amount (upward or downward).

Our website has very detailed information regarding the application and calculation of child support. For more information regarding child support, click here.

Will I have To Pay My Spouse’s Attorney Fees, Or Will My Spouse Have To Pay My Attorney Fees?

One of the most overlooked issues during the early stages of the divorce proceedings is the possibility that one spouse will have to pay all or a portion of the other spouse’s attorney fees and costs. This can become very costly if you not only have to pay your own fees, but end up having to pay your ex’s fees as well. Talk about salt in the wound!

A good divorce lawyer will keep this in mind at all times. The two main factors that a Court looks at when awarding attorney fees is the parties’ comparable financial resources (does one spouse make more income or have more property etc.) and whether either spouse took unreasonable positions. Thus, it is important for the lawyer to behave ethically and reasonably while at the same time fighting for your rights. Sometimes people say they want a “junkyard dog” for an attorney. Such an attorney does more harm than good. The Judges often know who these attorneys are and place little credibility on the arguments presented by such attorneys. An attorney who writes scathing and nasty letters to the other side, and makes false accusations without any evidence behind such claims, often sets their own clients up for failure.

At Bishop Law Offices, P.C., we pride ourselves on advocating strongly for our clients and placing them in the best position for success while also keeping in mind the cost of litigation. During the proceedings, we take the appropriate steps and counsel our clients in a manner that increases the possibility to recover all or a portion of their attorney fees, or that limits their exposure to paying the other party’s attorney fees.

Extramarital Affairs – Does An Affair Affect My Divorce?

It is no secret that many marriages are destroyed by extramarital affairs. If extramarital affairs were relevant in divorce cases, we would need many more judges.
Arizona is a no fault state. This means that a spouse is not punished simply for the fact that he or she had an affair.

However, as explained above, a spouse may engage in waste or make improper transfers by spending money on the affair. This may include gifts to the girlfriend or boyfriend, money spent on vacations, hotel rooms or other funds spent. In such cases, the spouse who spent such funds should be ordered to reimburse the innocent spouse for their share of such funds.
Similarly, in child custody and parenting time cases an illicit affair by itself does not mean that a person is not going to be awarded joint legal custody / decision making or maximum parenting time. However, there may be circumstances in which the Court may frown upon a party’s conduct that is relevant to the children’s best interests. For example, the judge may conclude it is poor parental decision making to allow a girlfriend or boyfriend too spend significant time with the children before the children have a chance to heal from the split between their parents.

Do I have to go to Trial?

If you and your spouse agree to all issues regarding your divorce proceedings, Bishop Law Offices, P.C. can draft settlement documents in order to avoid going to trial. Our firm attempts to identify and resolve all of the issues in your case without expensive legal fees associated with a trial so long as the issues can be settled in a manner that is fair to you.

Our website has excellent information regarding alternate dispute resolution and mediation services designed to assist you in settling your case, which you can access by clicking here.

TYPES OF CASES WE REPRESENT

Divorce & Related Cases

At Bishop Law Offices, P.C., we only represent clients in divorce and other family law cases, which means we dedicate our time to just one broad area of law. Our attorneys are more knowledgeable and have more experience than many Phoenix divorce lawyers, because we do not divide our time among several different practice areas.

SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE (ALIMONY)
There are no specific guidelines that Arizona courts must follow in spousal maintenance cases; all judgments are largely discretionary. Therefore, it is extremely beneficial to both parties meet with an experienced divorce attorney as early in the process as possible.

PROPERTY DIVISION
Generally divorced couples equally divide between them all community property and debts. There are some exceptions.

LEGAL SEPARATION / ANNULMENT
Legal separation and annulment are 2 alternatives to divorce that can, in some cases help save you a significant amount of time and money. Find out if this is an option for you and the benefits involved.

Have You Considered Mediation?

If you are interested, please call (602) 749-8500 and we’ll explain all the benefits of arbitration and mediation services in divorce cases.
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Still Searching?

Visit our FAQ section for answers to many more divorce-related questions, or give us a call at (602) 749-8500 to speak with a divorce attorney.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Common Divorce Related Questions

DO I NEED A REASON TO FILE FOR DIVORCE?

Arizona is a “no-fault state.” In other words, you do not need to state any specific reason why you want a divorce, nor does your spouse have to agree to a divorce.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO GET A DIVORCE?

Once the divorce petition and other documents have been served on the other party, you need only wait 60 days if you and your spouse agree on all issues. This can be done through a “default hearing,” or you can obtain a “consent decree” without ever having to go to court. Even if you and your spouse do not agree to all terms in the beginning, Bishop Law Offices, P.C. has been successful in settling the vast majority of its clients’ cases. Bishop Law Offices, P.C. commits itself to settling your case if the issues can be settled in your best interests.

If you and your spouse cannot agree on all issues, the only other way to obtain a divorce is through a trial. Most trials in divorce cases generally last about four hours. In such event, the judge makes all decisions (there is no jury in divorce cases). How long it takes to get to trial depends upon the complexity of your case and how backed up the court is.

The attorneys at Bishop Law Offices, P.C. are committed to expedite your case and to conclude the proceedings for you as soon as possible so that you can get on with your life.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GET A DIVORCE?

The total fees and costs in divorce proceedings vary depending upon a number of factors. If you and your spouse agree to most or all terms, the fees and costs should be minimal. It is our belief that no matter how simple the divorce, it is always in your best interests to consult with an attorney. This does not mean that you cannot do your divorce yourself. However, many people who do not consult with attorneys may leave out certain very important provisions that can come back to haunt them later on, and cost them a great deal. A little “preventive medicine” may save you a lot of headaches in the future. Bishop Law Offices, P.C. is committed to providing its clients with quality representation at an affordable cost.

Learn more about our fee structure & payment options.

SHOULD I TALK TO A LAWYER BEFORE I FILE FOR DIVORCE AND/OR BEFORE I MOVE OUT OF THE HOUSE?

If possible, it is always in your best interests to consult with a family law attorney before you move out of your residence or file for divorce, even if you decide to represent yourself. What happens early on in a case may turn out to be very important.

Each case is different, and many of our clients have special circumstances. Again, some “preventive medicine” may save you a lot of heartache and headaches in the future.

WHATS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PARALEGAL SERVICE AND AN ATTORNEY?

One does not have to have any special training or certification to call themselves a paralegal in Arizona. Some people who call themselves paralegals have never even worked for a law firm. Although there are schools for paralegals and certifications, one does not need to go to school or obtain any certifications to call themselves a paralegal. Although there are undoubtedly some excellent paralegals, it is difficult to find out who has the experience and training necessary to assist you. Paralegals are precluded by the Supreme Court Rules from providing any legal advice, although some do – often-poor advice, which leads to major problems.

Many people have had very bad experiences with independent paralegal services. Often the forms are not prepared properly, causing unnecessary delays. Paralegals sometimes attempt to represent both sides, which is a conflict of interest, or align themselves with one side. Many people are not protected in the end. The biggest insult is that people sometimes end up paying more for a paralegal than they would have paid for a family law attorney to take care of them properly. Paralegals cannot represent you in court.

Paralegals are not subject to the jurisdiction of the State Bar of Arizona. If your attorney does something wrong, he or she may be subject to discipline. There are strict rules of conduct which govern attorneys. There are no such safeguards with regard to paralegal services.

The Supreme Court of Arizona has adopted certification requirements for “document preparers”. Document preparers cannot by law provide you with legal advice. Bishop Law Offices, P.C. recommends that you consult with a family law attorney first to assess your case and circumstances.

Like many family law firms, Bishop Law Offices, P.C. has paralegals on staff. Our paralegals have been trained by our attorneys and are under the direct supervision of our attorneys. Our use of paralegals generally save our clients fees based on their lower hourly rates. At the same time our attorneys are involved in all aspects of your case.

SHOULD I FILL OUT THE DIVORCE FORMS MYSELF?

In many cases, especially ones that are uncontested, you may be able to represent yourself. The Supreme Court Office of Administration has family law and other forms available online at the Self Service Center. You can obtain forms and packets in person from at the Self Service Center located in the Superior Court facilities in downtown Phoenix or the east-side Superior Court facilities in Mesa. Maricopa County forms are available online at the Maricopa County Superior Court website.

These forms are free of charge or provided for a nominal sum. There is often no reason to hire a paralegal to simply fill out your forms, nor is there any reason to purchase forms at a “forms store.” If you have questions regarding your forms, you can simply schedule a ½ or 1-hour conference with our firm or another family law attorney and make sure you receive proper advice.

As we have stated, we highly recommend that you at least consult with an attorney. A little bit of preventive medicine may save you a lot of money, heartache and headaches. In many cases, Bishop Law Offices, P.C. provides consult services without the necessity of formally retaining the firm and without having to pay a deposit or retainer fee. See Legal Fees for more information.

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