A body of statutes on issues of marital and blood relationships, as well as domestic relations between two or more individuals in Arizona. The law also defines relationships, as well as the legal obligations and responsibilities members of a family have towards one another.
Furthermore, the law codifies the rules and regulations that oversee the formation of a family unit, and the fiduciary responsibilities or rights of existing family units. When a family unit breaks down, Arizona family law outlines the legal basis and procedure for the dissolution, requirements, and obligations of former members of the family unit. Arizona family law also includes statutes that protect the rights of children before and after they are born up till adulthood.
Generally, Arizona Family Law Applies to the Following Matters:
- Contract Rights of Married Persons
- Family Support (Child Support)
- Establishment of Maternity & Paternity
- Child Custody
- Legitimacy of Children
- Domestic abuse/violence
Marriage is the civil union of two eligible and consenting adults. Here, Arizona family law deals with the formalities that make a civil union legal in the state. These include pre-marriage requirements, the solemnization ceremony, and consent. Generally, the legal concern of persons who intend to get married in Arizona is getting a marriage license and marriage certificate after the solemnization.
The law is less concerned with the mode or setting of the solemnization ceremony – only that that the ceremony follows rules and regulations. A marriage must occur after notice to the county clerk, who issues a license. The clerk issues a marriage certificate specifying exactly where the couple solemnized the civil union. Furthermore, a marriage may not happen unless an authorized person and witnesses are present at the ceremony. Otherwise, such a civil union is void and not recognized under Arizona family law.
Consent is another important topic in Arizona family laws because marriage is a contract. A person who intends to marry must be legally eligible and capable of giving his/her consent to the civil union. Without consent, a marriage is null, void, or voidable. Common examples include the marriage of minors or anyone who is mentally incompetent, impaired, or forced.
Contract Rights of Married Persons
Again, Arizona considers marriage to be a civil contract. Intending couples may enter into a binding premarital agreement. The agreement specifies the rights and obligations of the parties if the marriage breaks down (Az. Rev. Stat. 25-202). State family laws make provisions to modify this agreement or enter into one after the marriage, i.e., postnuptial agreement.
Apart from this, married persons in Arizona have property rights and contract powers. Unless specified otherwise, either spouse may act in the stead of the other, and such contracts are legally binding (Az. Rev. Stat. 25-214). Nevertheless, spouses still maintain their individuality when they so wish, e.g., in acquiring separate property (Az. Rev. Stat. 213).
Family Law on the Dissolution of Marriage
Dissolution of marriage in Arizona is of two types: annulment and divorce. Both of these follow different procedures and have different implications for the parties involved. An annulment order effectively terminates the civil union and regards it as non-existent from the beginning. This means that the marriage never happened under the law or was void from the start. Due to the consequences of this order, Arizona family law outlines the grounds for annulment and procedure for requesting one.
On the other hand, is divorce, which is the dissolution of a legal marriage. Divorce also requires intending divorcees to specify the reason for the petition for termination. However, a couple may file for divorce on a no-fault basis due to an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Like an annulment, there are also requirements for filing a divorce in Arizona and a court procedure. Upon issuing a final decree of divorce, the court restores the parties to the social and legal status of unmarried persons in Arizona.
Family Support (Child Support)
Child support is the financial contribution of a non-custodial parent towards raising a child or children after divorce or annulment. The monthly payment covers food, clothing, housing, education, healthcare, and other miscellaneous expenses. Generally, Arizona family law outlines the guidelines for determining the payable amount and the consequences of defaulting on child support. Arizona Child Support Services is the government agency that handles payment and enforcement of child support in Arizona. This agency also works with the judiciary and other government agencies to accomplish its goals.
Establishment of Maternity & Paternity
Here, a person files a proceeding claiming that the respondent is the father or mother of a child conceived or born out of wedlock. Due to the nature of these cases, Arizona family law highlights the procedure for filing a petition. Generally, a person initiates these proceedings for child support and inheritance cases.
Child custody refers to the legal designation of a family member as the primary custodian of a minor. The family member has the primary responsibility of raising the child following divorce or annulment. Usually, this is either of the parents, but extended family members such as grandparents may also take custody under certain circumstances. The custodian parent is the one with whom the child primarily lives. The other parent shares parenting time, i.e., spends time with the children for specified periods of the day or week, depending on the arrangements. The custodian parent is also the primary decision-maker in matters concerning the child.
Legitimacy of Children
This section of the Arizona family law deals with children born out of wedlock. By law, such children have the same privileges and rights as children born after legal marriage (Az. Rev. Stat. 1401).
Domestic violence is the physical, psychological, and even financial abuse inflicted on persons in a family unit. Such abuse may be between spouses or spouses and their children; anyone may be a victim. Generally, Arizona laws regard domestic abuse as a civil case and make provisions to protect the victims, e.g., issuing a protective order. Under certain circumstances, however, a domestic abuse case may become a criminal case. In such cases, Arizona criminal law will apply.