Custody Issues at Holiday Time


With Halloween just around the corner, many families have started to make their plans for the holidays, including which relative is hosting Thanksgiving dinner to where to go for vacation. Unfortunately, with almost half of all marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce, the holidays can be a stressful time for both the parents and the children. Determining which parent will get the children on what holiday and in which year can cause any parent to want to bypass the holidays and dive right into March. This is why it is very important for parents going through a divorce or deciding whether or not to get divorced, to establish a specific holiday plan that will be included as part of the Parenting Plan submitted as part of the final Divorce Decree. A detailed holiday plan can mean the difference between a hectic holiday season spent trying to decipher who gets the kids on what day and time, and a holiday season spent enjoying the time with your family and friends. As with any possibly contentious and emotion drive matter such as divorce, it is important to try and do as much as one can to make the process as non-adversarial as possible. An attorney familiar with family law can help you reach that goal and attempt to make you and your family’s future holidays enjoyable.

Orders of Protection and Injunctions Against Harassment May Be Used in Family Law and Divorce Matters


Who Can I Request an Order of Protection Against? An Order of Protection may be requested of the court if the person you desire protection from is a person to whom you are related. This includes a parent, grandparent, brother, sister, child, grandchild, spouse (or their parent, grandparent, brother, sister, child or grandchild), former spouse or parent of your child. The order may also be sought against an individual married to your parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sister or brother. The person whom you name as the alleged offender is known as the “defendant” in the court case. The individual filing a case seeking an Order of Protection is called the “litigant.” What Do I have to Show to the Court to File for an Order of Protection? In order to file for a protective order, you must show that the defendant has threatened, assaulted, endangered, harassed, abused, stalked or otherwise shown the intent to commit such crimes against you. An Order of Protection may also be sought if the defendant committed (or is about to commit) a dangerous crime against a child younger than 15. If you have a Family Court case pending in Superior Court, you must obtain your order at Superior Court. Injunctions Against Harassment Unlike an Order of Protection, an Injunction Against Harassment is available if the conduct of any person is “harassment” as defined by Arizona law. The defendant can be anyone, whether or not related to you. The conduct can be any conduct which is harassment. Harassment is defined as a series of acts over any period of time that is directed at a specific person and that would cause a reasonable person to be seriously alarmed, annoyed or harassed and the conduct in fact seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person and serves no legitimate purpose.  If you are in need of legal service or help regarding a family law matter, divorce, custody or order of protection and/or injunction against harassment you may contact us at The Law Office of Scott J. McWilliams L.L.C. for a legal consultation our web site is

Budgeting with children after a divorce


Every parent knows how hard raising a child can be. It is also expensive, costing $226,920 on average. If a couple faces a divorce

one of the most important things to consider for life after divorce is budgeting as a single parent. In addition, it’s important for Arizona residents going through a divorce to have a full understanding of their legal rights to help them solve divorce issues.

As a single parent, it is vital to create a budget. The budget should consist of fixed costs like utility bills, Internet and TV and insurance, and variable costs like groceries, entertainment and travel. In addition, one-time annual costs like property taxes and car registration renewals should be included. Finally, child-care costs, rent or mortgage payments, and home repairs should be accounted for if necessary.

If expenses surpass available income, it might be necessary for parents who are not working to get a job or start a new career. Colleges offer many grants and scholarships to single parents to help them create a more financially stable future. Taking advantage of these opportunities can help.

Many other considerations such as special tax breaks, planning for a child’s future, and being a smart shopper all play a role in making a financially stable household with one parent. Taking the time to learn these skills can help make a single-parent home more comfortable for a child to live in.

Any parent going through a divorce should be aware of their legal rights throughout the process. This may help them get a fair settlement that can help improve the future of their family.  If you need legal help filing for a divorce please contact our firm at

Source: SF Gate, “Budgeting as a single parent,” Steven Merkel, Oct. 24, 2012

Judge Orders Mother in Prison Must Be Allowed to See Children


In what is sure to be a controversial ruling, Judge Nancy Whittenburg ordered that Tracy Richter, a mother serving life in prison for murder, must be allowed to see her children. The order requires that the Father of the children, Michael Roberts, to take his children from their home in California to visit Richter at the women’s prison in Iowa three times while she appeals her murder conviction. The order also prohibits Roberts from moving to his native Australia with the children while Richter’s appeal is pending.

Richter was convicted by a jury of shooting a 20 year old man at the home she shared with Roberts and the children in 2001. The children were present during the shooting of the 20 year old man by Richter. Prosecutors say that Richter shot the 20 year old man several times at close range in the back of the head in Richter’s bedroom as part of a plot to frame Richter’s first ex-husband.

In making her ruling, Judge Whittenburg said that the children have a “long, positive history with their mother” and that Richter was an excellent parent. The prosecutor said that he believed the decision did not consider Roberts’ rights as a father that it is unbelievable that Richter maintains parental rights after being convicted of murder, fraud and perjury. Richter’s attorney stated that they would most likely appeal the ruling as he did not believe the decision was in the best interest of the children.  If you need assistance with any family law matter please contact us at The Law Office of Scott J. McWilliams 602-237-5101.

How can Arizonans prevent divorce-related money disputes?


On a blog about divorce and family law, you may not expect to find financial tips for couples who are looking forward to getting married. After all, divorcing spouses have their own set of financial concerns regarding the division of marital property, child custody, child support and more. But some financial concerns are equally relevant for Arizona couples who are happy together and for those who aren’t.

Protecting premarital assets is a major concern for many people in Phoenix who are planning to marry. If what starts out as a good relationship does lead to divorce, the division of marital property can be a complicated matter, especially if high assets are involved. That is where a prenuptial agreement can come in handy.

If protecting premarital assets is your goal, then it’s a good idea to keep them separate from the assets your future spouse brings to the marriage. That means holding onto all financial statements dated before the marriage becomes official. You can still have shared accounts, of course, but keeping marital and premarital property separate could prove beneficial for both parties if the marriage happens not to work out.

These days many people are tying the knot later in life, and that means they likely have significant credit and debt histories. Knowing where each other stands in terms of those histories is also a good idea. In the unfortunate case that a divorce does happen, neither party will want to be saddled with the other person’s premarital debt.

Determining liability for ex-spouse debt in Arizona


An ex-spouse is usually not responsible for debts on accounts that list them as just an authorized user; however, joint accounts leave both parties liable. The couple’s state of residence is also a determining factor regarding the law. Arizona, being a community property state, presumes that both parties are liable.

According to community property laws, if one asserts the claim that the debt is not their responsibility, they must provide proof. This type of matter can be addressed in a court hearing. Court intervention might allow debts to be paid off as part of the divorce proceedings. A lawyer could review credit reports and accounts to ensure that all accounts are addressed during hearings.

Some couples voluntarily merge their assets. When significant assets are involved, the breadwinner of the two might be negatively impacted and experience a loss of financial status when the other spouse is financially irresponsible. This could result in negative credit markings against both. Creditors can also attempt to collect community debts from both spouses.

Divorces come with a slew of financial and familial issues. A divorce lawyer is a good resource for determining financial liability when in doubt. Lawyers might use investigative techniques to uncover hidden assets. They could also introduce evidence to the court of deceptive reporting of financial holdings. The court could rule to use financial holdings to settle outstanding debts incurred during the marriage. Lawyers can research state laws, and they might also be able to negotiate a fair settlement and property division. The legal documents associated with divorce proceedings are complex, and couples could benefit from having an attorney to explain and file legal paperwork.

Source: Fox Business, “Is Wife Liable for Ex’s Card Debt?”, Sally Herigstad, May 07, 2013

PLEASE NOTE: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney regarding your individual situation.

If you are in need of legal services for family law or divorce issues please contact The Law Office of Scott J. McWilliams L.L.C. to set up a consultation.

“Preglimony”: a Possible Look Into the Future of Support


PLEASE NOTE: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney regarding your individual situation.

In Arizona, the responsibility for a man to support his child does not begin until the child is born and paternity is established. Further, any “lying in” expenses the Mother incurred for the pregnancy or birth of the baby are usually addressed as a part of the child support obligation once the child is born. However, according to one law professor, developments in technology that make it possible to determine the father of the child during pregnancy, could change a Father’s financial responsibility. In an Op-Ed article in the New York Times, University of Richmond Law Professor Shari Motro states that “[o]ne of the potential ramifications” of the determining the paternity of the child during pregnancy “is that men might be called upon to help support their pregnant lovers before birth, even if the pregnancy is ultimately terminated or ends in miscarriage. They might be asked to chip in for medical bills, birthing classes and maternity clothes, to help to cover the loss of income that often comes with pregnancy, or to contribute to the cost of an abortion.” Professor Motro calls these financial responsibilities “preglimony”. In the article, Professor Motro discusses the potential pros and cons against instituting such a financial obligation upon men during pregnancy. She states that the biggest debate against “preglimony” is that it would give men a say over abortion, specifically that “[a] woman’s right to choose is sometimes eclipsed by an abusive partner who pressures her into terminating or continuing a pregnancy against her will, and preglimony could exacerbate this dynamic.” However, Professor Motro rebuts this argument by saying that “[i]n the name of protecting the most vulnerable, it sets the bar too low for the mainstream, casting lovers as strangers and pregnancy as only a woman’s problem.” Professor Motro believes that the positives that would come out of instituting “preglimony” far outweigh the negatives, such as that “Preglimony names and in that way honors the man’s role in caring for his pregnant lover.” Further, Professor Motro believes that “preglimony” could help “deter a different form of abuse by making men who pressure their partners into unprotected sex, on the assumption that the woman will terminate an unwanted pregnancy, financially liable for the potential result.” Until “preglimony” or some form of the same is enacted into law in Arizona, the financial responsibilities during pregnancy will continue to be the responsibility of the Mother.