Tis the Season….to Check Your Child Support Payment History

Every parent paying child support should have one item on his or her to-do list beyond wrapping the Christmas presents and planning the holiday celebrations – check to make sure that you are current on your child support obligation for the year.

            The Arizona Child Support Guidelines and the vast majority of Child Support Orders entitle a parent to claim a dependency exemption when it is the parent’s turn for that exemption ONLY IF all support payments due during the year have been made by December 31.  This means that if you are supposed to claim your kid on taxes for 2017, your right to do so is conditioned on being current in your support obligation.  If December 31 comes and goes with a support obligation outstanding, the other parent will get to claim the exemption, and you will still owe the support (plus ten percent interest!).

            For parents that owe child support arrears or past care and support obligations, be aware that this limitation does not mean that you have to pay the entire judgment within the year to be allowed to claim a dependency exemption.  Instead, the court looks at whether you have paid the monthly amount due on the obligation to decide if you are entitled to the dependency exemption.

            Even parents who pay through Income Withholding Orders where the money is automatically deducted through paychecks should be wary, particularly if child support has been adjusted during the year.  It is very common for a payment to be missed or be incomplete when new support paperwork is being entered, and often time the paying parent has no idea that the total amount of support due was not paid.

            Do yourself a favor and give yourself the gift of ensuring your entitlement to a dependency exemption.  Check to make sure you are current in your support obligation for the year now so you have enough time to correct any problems before the end of the year.

Erin K. Fox certified by the State Bar of Arizona

        McNorton Fox PLLC is pleased to announce that Erin K. Fox has been certified by the State Bar of Arizona as a Family Law Specialist.  The State Bar of Arizona states that this designation “identifies lawyers who have demonstrated superior knowledge, skill, integrity, professionalism, and competence” in the area of family law.  Ms. Fox joins a select group of attorneys (including Lisa C. McNorton) who have achieved this recognition.

Domestic Violence Lethality Assessment

Domestic Violence Lethality Assessments

            In our practice, it is sadly all too common for our clients to be involved a relationship where domestic violence has been present.  Domestic violence is commonly misunderstood to be merely physical encounters caused by an anger management problems.  In fact, domestic violence is instead the control a partner or other members of the family unit through different methods of coercion.  Physical violence or the threat of such actions can certainly play a role in the perpetrator maintaining that control, but more subtle and invidious methods are also common.  This can include financial control, emotional belittlement, isolation from other loved ones, and psychological conditioning to believe that the domestic violence is the victim’s fault.

            Leaving a relationship characterized by domestic violence can be dangerous, as the choice to leave is the ultimate rebellion against the control exerted by the partner.  It is essential to assess the risk and put safeguards in place to provide protection during this dangerous time.  One tool that is becoming more prevalent across the country to assess the risk of leaving a relationship the Domestic Violence Screening Questionnaire.  The Questionnaire was originally developed by first responders in Maryland but has since spread nationwide.  It is recognized by law enforcement, mental health professionals, and attorneys as a useful aid in evaluating the level of risk faced by the client in leaving the relationship.

Domestic Violence Screening Questions

1.  Has he/she ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon?

2.  Has he/she threatened to kill you or your children? 

3.  Do you think he/she might try to kill you?

4.  Does he/she have a run or can he/she get one easily

5.  Has he/she ever tried to choke you?

6.  Is he/she violently or constantly jealous, or does he/she try to control most of your daily activities?

7.  Have you left or separated from him/her after living together or being married?

8.  Is he/she unemployed?

9.  Has he/she ever tried to kill himself/herself?

10.  Do you have a child living with you that is not his/hers?

11.  Does he/she follow or spy on you or leave threatening messages?

12.  Has he/she ever avoided arrest for domestic violence?

13.  Is he/she an alcoholic or problem drinker, or does he.she use illegal drugs?  Specific drugs that tend to be more problematic are stimulants, including amphetamines, methamphetamines, cocaine, speed, and crack.

14.  Is there anything else that worries you about your safety?

15.  Have you immigrated to this country?

            A.  Do you not have any children living with you in your home?

            B.        Do you have any children in common with him/her living?

            The more “yes” answers that a client has in this questionnaire, the greater the concern about lethality.  Additionally, the highest risk for homicide is when “yes” answers are given to certain sets of questions, including where the partner has both gun access/ownership and is also abusing a substance; if there is a recent separation and also stalking behavior; and where stalking and threats are combined.

            Take these behaviors and threats seriously and work with your attorney to formulate a plan to leave the relationship while simultaneously taking steps to ensure your safety and that of your children and pets.