- When a mom and dad are able to effectively co-parent following a divorce, their children have an excellent chance of growing up to be healthy and well-adjusted adults;
- On the other hand, children who grow up with parents who are openly angry and hostile toward each other can develop long-term emotional problems that will plague them throughout their lives and could adversely affect their own relationships.
- But the good news is that parents who find it difficult or impossible to co-parent cooperatively can still raise happy, emotionally healthy children by effectively using a technique known as “Parallel Parenting.”
- Communication between parents must be by email, rather than by phone, text message, or in person. This allows the parents to think first and avoid making a knee-jerk comment that may be hurtful or angry — which is wise, because any remark you put in an email could later be read by a judge, and it might come back to bite you.
- The parenting-time schedule must be in writing and strictly enforced. No flexibility. No trading days or weekends. No negotiation. Just stick to the schedule. Since both parents know that they must stick to the schedule there is less opportunity for conflict and hostility.
- The parents may keep a log of the children’s activities and/or medical issues during their scheduled time. Then the parent who has the children will then give the updated log to the other parent at the end of his or her parenting time, when the children are exchanged. Sending a log back and forth is a good way for the parents to keep each other informed about how the children are doing, while at the same time minimizing personal contact. But the hard-and-fast rule for writing a log is this: No editorializing. No sarcastic comments. No put-downs. Just stick to the facts.
- Each parent is responsible for obtaining information from the children’s school, including report cards, schedules, etc. The parents should attend parent-teacher conference, performances, and events separately and have as little contact with each other as possible.
- The parents should take turns having the children for birthdays; or split the day so that each parent has his/her separate time with the birthday boy or girl. Parents should not attend birthday parties together if they cannot get along — and if they do they should remain cordial and have as little contact with each other as possible, so as to reduce conflict and spare the children the disappointment of having their special day ruined by their parents fighting.
- Each parent must come to terms with the fact that during the time the children are in the care of the other parent they may be on a different schedule, have different bedtimes, eat different foods, participate in different activities, and be disciplined in a different manner. Obviously, neglect or abuse by a parent cannot be tolerated. But, short of a dangerous situation, you may have to accept that your “ex” has a much different parenting style than your own, and that it’s OK. If you parent consistently, then the children will know what to expect when in your home.
- It can be helpful for the parents to meet on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly, or every six months) with a counselor, a child psychologist, or a Parenting Coordinator to discuss problem issues and/or to learn how to stay on the same page in parenting their mutual children. An expert can provide useful information and ideas, while helping the parents learn to communicate better and reduce the level of conflict
- Above all, the parents should not place the children in the middle of their marital or post-marital problems. Parents should not argue in the presence of the children. They should not badmouth the other parent to the children. They should not talk to them inappropriately about their legal case or show them court documents. And they should not use the children as messengers or go-betweens to communicate with the other parent. Remember, you are the parent. Your job is to protect the children. So, let the kids be kids, and keep them out of your adult disputes.
Under A.R.S. §25-403 if the court determines that a parent has abused drugs or alcohol or has been convicted of a substance abuse offense within twelve months before a petition or request for legal decision-making or parenting time is filed, there is a rebuttable presumption that sole or joint legal decision-making by that parent is not in the child’s best interests. What constitutes “abuse” of drugs or alcohol is not defined in the statute. The issue will surely be the subject of much litigation in 2013 and beyond.
The Arizona legislature made a number of other important changes, as well, especially in the area of Third Party Rights (such as grandparent and non-parent visitation and legal decision-making); and in the area of Sanctions for Litigation Misconduct.
Arizona’s new approach to what was formerly known as “custody” is groundbreaking. It is at the forefront of a growing national trend which views divorced parents as partners in raising children. But is this view realistic? Will it protect the best interests of children in divorce cases, or will it hurt them? The answers to these questions will be determined as the new law unfolds.
Gary J. Frank is a litigation attorney and mediator with over thirty years of Family Law experience in dealing in divorce, custody, and parenting issues. Mr. Frank has served on the Governor’s Task Force for Prevention of Child Abuse, and has received a Volunteer Lawyer award from the Maricopa County Bar Association for his work with children. For many years he acted as a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, which gave him an insight into the inner workings of the courts that many attorneys lack. He can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or by email at email@example.com; or through his website at www.garyfranklaw.com. If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to contact us today.
Gary Frank is an Arizona Family Law Attorney and a children’s advocate. He is a Family Law litigator and mediator, and for many years, he represented children in child abuse and neglect cases. He was appointed to serve on the Governor’s Arizona Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. He won a Maricopa County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyer of the Month award for representing a child in a Family Court Custody Action and successfully petitioning to have the case transferred to the Juvenile Court, where the child could be protected from her abusive parents. Our law firm focuses on a wide array of Family Law Matters, including Divorce, Custody, Parenting Time disputes, Relocation/Move-Away cases, Enforcement and Modification actions, Child and Spousal Support, Paternity/Maternity, Grandparent and Non-Parent rights, Mediation, and all other matters involving families and children. If you are in need of a consultation to learn about your rights, please call us today at 602-383-3610; or contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about our firm, check out our website at www.garyfranklaw.com. We’d be happy to help you.
Under Arizona law, where there is an incident of significant domestic violence, or a significant history of domestic violence, the Court is prohibited from making an award of joint custody to the offender. The law is outlined in Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25-403.03; and it was reiterated in a recent ruling handed down by the Arizona Court of Appeals in the case of Hurd v. Hurd, 1 CA-CV 07-0342, (2009). In custody matters, the Court is charged with protecting the best interests of the children. A parent who has a history of significant domestic violence, or who has committed a significant act of domestic violence, is deemed incapable of protecting the children’s interests. Therefore, he or she will not be given the responsibility, or the privilege, of acting as their joint custodian. Gary J. Frank has over 25 years of experience litigating high conflict custody matters, including domestic violence cases. Check out our web site at http://www.garyfranklaw.com/. You can always contact us by email or call our office at 602-383-3610.
A.R.S. §25-403.3, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND CHILD ABUSE, states, in pertinent part:
A. “ . . . joint custody shall not be awarded if the court makes a finding of the existence of significant domestic violence pursuant to §13-3601 or if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that there has been a significant history of domestic violence.
B. The court shall consider evidence of domestic violence as being contrary to the best interests of the child. The court shall consider the safety and well-being of the child and of the victim of the act of domestic violence to be of primary importance. The court shall consider a perpetrator’s history of causing or threatening to cause physical harm to another person.
C. To determine if a person has committed an act of domestic violence the court, subject to the rules of evidence, shall consider all relevant factors including the following:
1. Findings from another court of competent jurisdiction.
2. Police reports.
3. Medical reports.
4. Child protective services records.
5. Domestic violence shelter records
6. School records.
7. Witness testimony.
D. If the court determines that a parent who is seeking custody has committed an act of domestic violence against the other parent, there is a rebuttable presumption that an award of custody to the parent who committed the act of domestic violence is contrary to the child’s best interests . . . “