COURTS ARE BEGINNING TO RECOGNIZE THE CONTRIBUTION OF FATHERS

There was a time when fathers were typically given “visitation” with their children, and rarely received custody. But things are changing. Today, joint custody is becoming the norm. Courts are beginning to realize that, like mothers, fathers can be nurturers, and that children benefit from the contributions of both parents.

But as the law evolves, we need to take care not to attempt to fit custody cases into a one-size-fits-all model.  For instance, some states are considering a “cookie-cutter” approach that would become the “default” custody arrangement in every case. In my opinion, that would be unfair to all concerned. Every family is unique.  Every custody matter is different.  Therefore, each case should be judged on its own facts; each parent should be judged on his or her own merits; and the Court should fashion a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the children.

Gary Frank is an Arizona Family Law Attorney who has been a fixture in the prestigious Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  The law Office of Gary J. Frank handles divorce cases, as well as custody, relocation/move-away, spousal support, child support, Paternity, Grandparents’ and Non-Parents’ rights cases, modification actions, enforcement actions, and all other matters related to Family Law.  If you are in need of a consultation, we’d love to talk to you.  Please call us today.  You can reach us at 602-383-3610, or contact us by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.  To learn more about our firm, take a look at our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We look forward to helping you.

FIVE TIPS ON BECOMING THE BEST DAD YOU CAN BE

Being a divorced dad isn’t easy.  You are now a single parent.  You no longer have another parent to lean on.  When the kids are with you, they are really with you.  That’s the tough part.  But it’s also the great part.  You have not only the responsibility, but the opportunity, to develop a loving and lasting relationship with the most important people in your life – your children.
Here are five tips to help you become the best dad you can be:  
1.            Listen attentively. 
When your children are talking to you, put down what you are doing, look them in the eye, and actively listen.  Show your kids that you care about what they have to say.  Let them know that they are important.
2.           Attend school conferences, open-houses, and functions. 
School is a big part of your children’s lives.  Going to school conferences, open-houses, and other functions shows your kids that their education is important to you.
3.            Learn what interests your child, and become interested in it, too.
Sharing a common interest is a great way to build a strong bond.  It gives you something fun to talk about, and to do together.  But many dads insist that their sons and daughters participate in activities that the dad likes, even after it is clear that the child is not particularly interested.  This can lead to stress and conflict.  Try doing things differently.  Find out what your child is interested in, and become interested in it, too.
4.            Create memories.
You don’t have to take your kids on an African Safari.  Creating memories can be simple and easy.  The most precious gift you can give your children is your time.  So, set aside some time to be with them on a regular basis.  Look for fun activities . . .  A hike in the woods.  A bike ride.  Playing catch.  A game of bowling.  An evening playing Monopoly. These are the types of things that create memories your sons and daughters will remember for a lifetime.
5.            Tell your children you love them. 
Don’t leave it unsaid.  Don’t make your children wonder.  Don’t assume they know.  Tell them you love them – and do it often.
Gary Frank has represented dads in divorce, custody, and parenting-time cases for over 30 years, and is a strong advocate for fathers’ rights.  Mr. Frank is an expert courtroom litigator, as well as a mediator, and a former Superior Court Judge Pro Tem.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding divorce, child custody, parenting-time, or any other area of Family Law, call us today at 602-383-3610; or contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’re always happy to talk to you.

DWAYNE WADE IS LEARNING ABOUT FATHERHOOD – JUST LIKE YOU

Today is Father’s Day.  So, here is a story about a father.  Someone who loves his children, just like you love your children.  Someone who wakes up every day and works hard to be a better dad, just like you do . . .
Dwayne Wade is a basketball legend.  He’s a fierce competitor who has been criticized for complaining when a referee makes a call he doesn’t like.  It never bothered him that his every move on and off the basketball court is dissected by critics, and emulated by children who look up to him — until now. . . . Because now the children who are emulating his behavior are his own. 
Not long ago, a court awarded Dwayne Wade sole custody of his two sons after a contentious custody battle.  He is also raising a nephew.  By all accounts, the guy’s a great father.  But it wasn’t until he went to a youth league basketball game and saw his own son complaining to a referee that it hit him:  A kid will model his behavior after his father.  And if you don’t like how your kid is acting, it may be because he learned it from you.
That’s when Dwayne Wade knew he needed to make a change. 
“I’m a role model for Zaire, Zion, and Dahveon,” Wade said in an interview.  “So I go to their games and I hate, I hate, to see them talking back to the ref.  I hate it.  It burns me up inside every time.  I’m like “Get back on defense.’ And then I look in the mirror and say, ‘Well, how can you tell him not to do something when you’re doing it?’ I look at that and I think that’s helped me understand.”
* * *
Here’s some advice that I received as a young father: 
“You’re children are watching you.  They look up to you.  They want to grow up to be just like you.  And, if you’re not careful, they will.”
My mentor may have been joking, but the words ring true.  We are shaping our children not only through our love and discipline, but also by how we act when we think they’re not looking.  So, we need to try to continually improve ourselves.  We need to try to be better people – for their benefit.
I’ll let Dwayne Wade have the last word about fatherhood, on Father’s Day:
“I’m a role model . . . I can’t tell my son to do something if I’m not leading by example.  So I’m trying to be better at it.”
Gary Frank has represented dads in divorce, custody, and parenting-time cases for over 30 years, and is a strong advocate.  Mr. Frank is an expert courtroom litigator, as well as a mediator, and a former Superior Court Judge Pro Tem.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding divorce, child custody, parenting-time, or any other area of Family Law, call us today at 602-383-3610; or contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’re always happy to talk to you.

BABY VERONICA CASE TAKES A HEARTBREAKING TWIST

I have written several times over the past year about the Baby Veronica case.  As an infant, little Veronica was given up for adoption by her birth mother after it appeared that the father had abandoned her.  However, the father. who was part Native American, later asserted his custodial rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act.  In 2011, a South Carolina family court judge ruled in favor of the father.  As a result, the child – who had now lived with her adoptive family for almost all of her two years – was ripped out of the arms of the only mother and father she had ever known.  She was placed in the car of a man who was a stranger, and was driven away.  

The adoptive parents appealed, and the decision was ultimately overturned.  An appeals court ruled that the child must be returned to the adoptive parents.  The father then appealed to the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided not to intervene.  That meant the prior ruling would stand.  It was final.  The case was over. 

Baby Veronica – who had by now lived with her biological father for more than a year, and had probably bonded with him – would have to be returned to her adoptive parents.

But that’s not the end of the story.

When the time came for the biological father to hand the child over, he was nowhere to be found.  The Sheriff’s Office in Charleston, South Carolina issued a warrant for his arrest.  On Monday, the father turned himself in.  He was taken into custody and later released on a $10,000 bond.  

Then, after his release, the father once again, disappeared — and Baby Veronica is missing.

Over the weekend, the father told CNN that he is willing to go to jail.  “I’m going to fight till I have no fight left in me and till they say you can’t fight no more. This is my daughter.  It’s not a yo-yo that I can just say, hey, I borrowed it for two years and here’s it back.”

The adoptive parents are grief-stricken.  They recently gave this statement:  “With every passing hour, we fear more and more for her safety and well-being.  If anything should happen to our daughter while she’s being left in the hands of those who hold her captive from us, the responsibility will be shared by many.”

Meanwhile, Baby Veronica remains in the eye of the hurricane.  She is the innocent victim here.  This poor child has been bounced back and forth like a ping pong ball.  Each time she has the chance to bond with an adult caregiver, she is yanked away and handed to someone else.  By now, she may have developed emotional scars that could last a lifetime.

This is a stunning example of how children can fall through the cracks of the legal system.  Father’s have rights.  Mother’s have rights.  Grandparents, and step-parents, and biological parents, and adoptive parents all have rights.  But in the process of asserting those rights, sometimes the best interests of the child are forgotten.  Sometimes, while the war is being waged in one courtroom after another, children like Baby Veronica are damaged.  And when that happens, it affects us all. 


Gary Frank, has been a courtroom litigator in the Family Law arena for over thirty years, and is a strong and committed advocate for his clients.  In addition to being a litigation attorney, Mr. Frank has acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tem in the Maricopa County Superior Court.  This has given him an understanding of the inner-workings of the court, and a unique perspective  that most attorneys lack.  He has also acted, for many years, as a professional mediator of Family Law disputes.   We handle a full range of Family Law matters, including divorce, custody / legal decision-making, parenting-time, child support, spousal maintenance, division of property and assets, modification and enforcement actions, as well paternity/maternity cases, grandparent or non-parent custody and visitation actions, and relocation/move-away cases.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to give our office a call today at 602-383-3610; or feel free to contact us through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com; or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.   We’d be happy to help you.


TODAY’S PARENTS CAN DO IT ALL

It should come as no surprise that fathers can be loving, caring, and nurturing parents – just as mothers were always expected to be.

It should come as no surprise that mothers can excel in the business world and be family breadwinners – just as fathers were always expected to be.

In today’s society, women can be not only nurturers, but also breadwinners.  Men can be not only breadwinners, but also nurturers.  And our children are all the better for it.

The Law Office of Gary J. Frank has been a fixture in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Gary Frank is a Family Law litigator, a mediator, and a former Judge Pro Tem.  Our firm handles a wide array of cases, such as divorce, custody, relocation, paternity, child and spousal support, division of property and businesses, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all matters relating to families and children.  If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate.  Contact us today.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org, or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’d be honored to help you.

THE BABY VERONICA CASE IS NOW BEFORE THE U.S. SUPREME COURT

The case involving the adoption of Veronica is before the U.S. Supreme Court.  It is a heartbreaking case that pits state adoption law against the Indian Child Welfare Act.  There are legitimate legal interests on all sides.  Until the 1960’s Native American children were often stolen from their mothers in hospitals shortly after birth, and given up to Anglo families for adoption. Sometimes the “kidnappers” were state agencies.  The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted for the purpose of correcting this injustice.  The Act takes precedence over state adoption laws and gives tribal courts the right to determine adoption placement of children of Native American heritage.

But in the case of baby Veronica, did the sharp focus on legal issues, jurisdiction, public policy, and politics cause the courts to lose sight of the most important thing of all – the best interests of a child?

This case starts out like many others: A woman becomes pregnant.  The father isn’t interested in taking responsibility for parenthood.  The mother decides to place the baby for adoption. The father signs away his parental rights.  The baby is born and is placed with adoptive parents.  But four months after the baby’s birth, this case takes an abrupt turn.  The father changes his mind, claiming that he thought he was signing away his rights to the biological mother, and that he never knew the baby would be placed for adoption (note: he had abandoned the mother during her pregnancy and made no effort to see the child, or pay support, after the child was born). 

Because the father was a member of the Cherokee Nation, he invoked his rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act and asserted that he was entitled to full custody.  (The mother was not Native-American.)  In December, 2011 the South Carolina Courts ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act trumped state law.  Baby Veronica, now two years old, was ripped out of the arms of the adoptive parents who had loved her and bonded with her; and she was handed, screaming hysterically, to a man she had never met.

The adoptive parents appealed, and today the case is before the U.S. Supreme Court.  This is a matter in which the interests on both sides are legitimate and compelling.  You can read an excellent examination of the competing views in the NPR article at the following link:  http://www.npr.org/2013/04/16/177327391/adoption-case-brings-rare-family-law-dispute-to-high-court?utm_source=NPR&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=20130416=.

Hopefully, the nine Supreme Court justices will be able to cut through the thick fog of politics and legal issues, and come up with the best solution for this one young, innocent, child – Baby Veronica.




Gary Frank is an Arizona Family Law Attorney and a children’s advocate.  For many years, he represented children in child abuse and neglect cases in Superior Court.  He has been appointed to serve on the Governor’s 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 Juvenile Court, where the child could be protected from her abusive parents.  Our law firm focuses on Family Law Matters, including Divorce, contested Custody matters, 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 gary.frank@azbar.org.  To learn more about our firm, check out our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’d be happy to help you.

IS ARIZONA’S NEW “CUSTODY” LAW HURTING CHILDREN?

During the past year, Arizona Family Law statues were revised.  Some legal experts believe the changes reflect a trend in Arizona, and in many other states, to use 50/50 decision-making and parenting-time as a starting point in assessing the parenting arrangement. 

In Arizona, the new revisions removed the word “custody” from the Family Law statutes entirely, and replaced it with the terms “legal decision-making” and “parenting-time.”  Other significant revisions to the law were made, as well.  For instance, both the old statute and the new one provide a list of factors that the court shall consider in deciding legal decision-making and parenting time.  For many years, the judge would consider “whether one parent, both parents, or neither parent has provided primary care of the child.”  But that factor was removed when the statute was revised.  Now the judge is required to consider “the past, present, and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.”  
The reason this is important is that while, in the past, the judge would consider which parent had actually provided “primary care” of the children, the new statute places an emphasis on other parent’s potentialfor being able to care for them.  There is some logic to the change.  When two people are married they may have the luxury of being able to have one parent stay at home, or work part-time, and provide primary care of the children; however, after the divorce both parents will probably have to work full-time, and each will become a “single parent.”  If both parents are working full-time, then an equal parenting arrangement might make sense.  But, in my opinion, there is a danger in making a blanket assumption that such an arrangement would be best for the children.  Examining a parent’s capability is fine; but relying on a parent’s “potential” can be speculative, since it is based on supposition and not fact.  The reason one parent was primarily in charge of parenting during the marriage may have had less to do with work schedules than the fact that the “other parent” was not as interested in, or not as capable of, being an active and engaged parent.  To give that parent equal decision-making, and equal parenting-time, would be contrary to the children’s best interests.
The big question is whether Arizona’s statutory revision will have the effect of making 50/50 the “default” parenting arrangement, or the “starting point” in the Court’s analysis.  In my own experience – and according to attorneys with whom I have spoken — that is exactly what is happening in many cases.  Today a judge might start with a 50/50 arrangement in mind, and move from there to more parenting- time and/or decision-making for mother, or for father, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. 
The change brings Arizona in line with many other states, but I believe this shift in philosophy is a mistake.  While “best interests of the child” is still the deciding factor in a judge’s decision, I am concerned that courts are increasingly moving in the direction of a “template” decision that applies across the board and will be ordered unless a litigant can prove that using the template would be harmful to the children.  Rather than using a “template,” or a “starting point,” or “default” option, the Court should judge each case on its own merits, without any preconceived notions.  To do otherwise could lead to a decision that does not truly serve the “best interests” of the children.  It might even lead to a decision that hurts them.
We must keep in mind that “Children’s Rights” should always trump “Parents’ Rights.” 

Gary J. Frank is an attorney and mediator with over thirty years of Family Law experience in dealing in divorcecustody, and parenting issues. 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.  His office is located in the Biltmore area of central Phoenix, with satellite offices in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Arizona.  He can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.  You can also reach him through his website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, contact us today. 

“COUNCIL ON SHARED PARENTING” CONCLUDES THAT SHARED PARENTING IS GOOD . . . REALLY?


What’s wrong with this picture? . . . 

The First International Conference on Shared Parenting” has published a “Research Consensus Statement” following a July, 2014 conference organized by the International Council on Shared Parenting (ICSP).  In their report, the experts concluded that shared parenting is in the best interest of the majority of children whose parents divorce.  Psychology Today refers to the study as “groundbreaking” . . .
Really?  Should be we surprised that the “International Conference on Shared Parenting” would conclude that shared parenting is a good thing?  Isn’t that a little like the “Conference for Legalization of Marijuana” concluding that marijuana should be legalized?  It doesn’t mean they’re wrong.  It’s just that their conclusions are . . . well . . . not all that astounding.  I mean, hey, is the Council on Shared Parenting going to say that shared parenting is harmful? 
I’m all for shared parenting.  But I also believe that in determining an appropriate parenting plan, the Court should make its decision on a case-by-case basis, without the use of blanket presumptions.  Where children are involved, a one-size-fits-all approach is not always wise.
This “groundbreaking” conference was organized by the “International Council on Shared Parenting” – that, in itself, could lead one to believe that the findings may have been tainted by bias. 

. . . Just saying . . . 

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/co-parenting-after-divorce/201407/research-consensus-statement-co-parenting-after-divorce


 The Law Office of Gary J. Frank has been a fixture in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Gary Frank is a Family Law litigator, a mediator, and a former Judge Pro Tem.  Our firm handles a wide array of cases, such as divorce, domestic partnerships, custody, relocation, paternity, child and spousal support, division of property and businesses, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all matters relating to families and children.  If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate.  Contact us today.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org, or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’d be honored to help