Following a divorce, it is important for parents to follow the divorce decree to avoid penalties that range from license suspension to imprisonment. In Arizona, when a divorce involves children, the divorce decree will usually contain provisions regarding child support and custody. As long as the custody and support orders were approved by the court, as opposed to a verbal agreement between the parents, either parent may ask the court to enforce the divorce decree.
Child Support Enforcement
If a parent is not making child support payments that the divorce decree requires, the other parent may either initiate an independent court action against the nonpaying parent to enforce the order or seek help from the Arizona Division of Child Support Enforcement. A parent may file the "Enforce A Court Order for Support" document with the court in the county that initially awarded child support. Courts may take several actions against a nonpaying parent, including seizing tax refunds, lottery winnings and bank accounts, and reporting the non-payment of support to credit bureaus. Additionally, the state has the discretion to suspend driver's licenses, deny passport applications and order jail time for the nonpaying parent.
Enforcing Child Custody Order
If a parent does not follow the child custody order, including preventing a parent from spending time with his child during scheduled parenting time, the parent may ask the court to enforce the order. The parent may file a "Petition to Enforce Child Custody Order" in the county where child custody was originally determined. The court may schedule a hearing to hear each parent's side of the story and award additional parenting time to one parent to make up for missed visitations. The court also has the discretion to order one parent to attend counseling sessions or pay a fee for violating the court order.
When a parent has violated the custody order and threatened to harm the child or take the child out of the state, the court may issue a warrant to authorize law enforcement officials to take physical custody of the child. If a child does not have access to the medication or medical attention he needs, the parent who took the child is using drugs or alcohol, or the child is at risk of physical harm, the courts may consider this to be an emergency situation. Courts and law enforcement officials may step in, even if the original child custody order was issued in a different county or a different state.
Either parent may request a modification of child custody or support if circumstances have changed. Generally, child support may be modified if the income of either parent has substantially increased or decreased. For child custody, the court may modify the arrangement if it is in the best interest of the child. However, parents may not file a modification request until at least one year has passed since the original order was established, except in certain circumstances. These circumstances include when the child's physical or emotional health is endangered or there is evidence of domestic violence. If the request for modification is due to the other parent's failure to follow the custody order in a joint custody arrangement, the waiting period is six months.