IF OUR LEGAL SYSTEM WAS A GAME OF PING PONG, CHILDREN WOULD BE THE BALL

Ever since the Arizona legislature passed its new law replacing “custody” with “legal decision-making” and “parenting time” something has been bothering me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on — until today.  In reviewing the development of custody law for an upcoming trial, it occurred to me that the history of Family Law in America has always been a battle between “Mothers’ Rights” and “Fathers’ Rights.”  . . . But what about Children’s Rights?  Who speaks for them?

From the time this country began until the late 1800’s children were, from a legal standpoint, treated as property of their father.  Women had few legal rights, and when a divorce occurred, legal custody of the children was almost certain to be awarded to the father (despite the fact that the children had been raised by their mother).


That all changed at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was during this era when courts began accepting the view that children of tender years need the nurturing that only a mother could provide.  The vast majority of mothers, during that time period, remained in the home to care for children as their primary responsibility. (Of course, this was not necessarily by choice — social and legal barriers were entrenched in our society and women had few opportunities in the workforce.  As late as 1970 only 27 percent of women with children under the age of three were working.)  The “Tender Years Doctrine” almost assured that mothers would receive custody of young children in a divorce proceeding. However, it ignored the fact that fathers could be nurturers, too; and that in any particular case, the children’s father might be the better parent.


The Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements of the 1960’s created a sea change in our society.  Barriers that had existed for centuries began to slowly crumble. Women were accepted into college and entered the workforce in increasing numbers.  As opportunities for women grew, it became more common to see families with two working parents, and by 1985 more than 50% of mothers with children under three were working at jobs outside the home.


In the 1970’s the concept of “Joint Custody” was introduced into the Family Law lexicon.  Joint Custody assumed that divorced parents should share the rights and responsibilities of raising their mutual children.  The law provided that, in making its decision, the Court was to consider the “best interests” of the children based on a laundry list of factors contained in the statute.  As joint custody gained acceptance and eventually became the norm, fathers were given a greater role in making legal decisions for their children.  The “Tender Years Doctrine” was shelved by the courts.  


Now it is 2013 and a seismic shift in Family Law has once again taken place.  Arizona has amended its statutes to remove the term “custody” altogether.  That term has been replaced with the words “legal decision-making” and “parenting time.”  This sounds innocuous, but the effect may well be that in every contested “custody” proceeding, a judge will start with the assumption (although not a legal presumption) that the parents should be awarded equal time and decision-making rights with respect to the children.  The Court is still required to make its decision based on the “best interests” of the children — but it could be assumed (unless proven otherwise) that it is in the children’s best interests to divide parenting time and decision-making equally between the father and mother.


Is this fair?  I say no.  Determining what is best for a child does not lend itself to a “template” decision-making process.  Every family is unique.  Every case is different. Therefore, every case involving children should be determined on its own merits.  Mothers should not be favored.  Fathers should not be favored.  Instead, the Court should look closely into the facts and family dynamics of each individual case to determine the outcome that best meets the needs of the children.


The children.  

What is in the best interests of THE CHILDREN? 

That should be the compass that guides the Court in making its decision.


 

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, spousal and child support, 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.

SAY GOODBYE TO CUSTODY

Custody is now a relic of the past.  The Arizona legislature has spoken, and the term “Custody” has been banished from our statutes.  Beginning on January 1, 2013 parents coming before our courts will not be awarded sole custody, or joint custody . . . or any kind of custody.  Custody is dead and buried.  It has been replaced by the terms: “Legal Decision-Making” and “Parenting Time.”  From now on, the Arizona courts will either enter an order awarding joint legal decision-making to both parents; or they will give one parent the right to make decisions regarding the children.  The court could also split the decision-making rights and responsibilities between the parents (for example, the mother might be given the right to make medical decisions while the father has the right to make educational decisions).
Some experts view this new arrangement as an earth-shaking philosophical shift that will lead to a significant change in the way the courts decide family law cases.  Other experts take the position that the wording of the statutes is merely a matter of semantics, and that things will not change much at all.  Only time will tell.  Over the next year, as the law unfolds, I will keep you apprised of how the courts are interpreting the newly revised statutes.
For several years now, there has been a trend in this and many other states to award joint custody (rather than sole custody) in the typical family law case; and, today, court orders for equal parenting time and decision-making have become commonplace.  This represents a real departure from the past, when the vast majority of cases ended up with the children living primarily with one parent.  The recent changes to Arizona family law seem to reflect an extension of this trend.  While the statute does not contain a specific “presumption” of equal time and decision-making, at least one judge who has worked on the new law believes that joint decision-making and equal parenting time will now be the “starting point” for judges in determining family law disputes. 
This new philosophy is revealed in the language added to A.R.S. §25-403.02.  Section B of the statute states: “Consistent with the child’s best interests in section 25-403 and sections 25-403.03, 25-403.04, and 25-403.05, the court shall adopt a parenting plan that provides for both parents to share legal decision-making regarding their child and that maximizes their respective parenting time.  The court shall not prefer a parent’s proposed plan because of the parent’s or child’s gender.” (Emphasis added.)
A.R.S. §25-403 contains the factors that the Court will use in deciding what type of parenting arrangement is in the best interests of a child.  In the past, the court considered, as a factor, “whether one parent, both parents or neither parent has provided primary care of the child.”  However, that factor has been removed from the new statute.  Instead, the court will now consider “the past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.”  Some experts are disturbed by this change.  They argue that a parent’s track-record of providing primary care is important evidence that should be considered by the court in determining the type of parenting arrangement that would be in a child’s best interests.  Other experts disagree and point out that after the divorce, both the father and the mother will probably have to work full-time, and each of them will be required to “step-up” and become single parents. Therefore, in making its decision, the court should consider not only the past and present, but also the anticipated future relationship between the parents and the children.  They argue that because a parent was not the primary caregiver in the past does not mean that he/she is incapable of nurturing and providing excellent care of the children in the future.  This issue will certainly be a hotly contested one in family law litigation during the coming year.
Another new factor for the court to consider in applying A.R.S. §25-403 is contained in Section 7.  This section states that, in deciding which type of parenting arrangement is in the children’s best interests, the judge shall consider “whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent.”   The apparent purpose of the new provision is to place both parents on notice that if either one of them makes a false or improper allegation, or attempts to expand or delay the litigation, or acts in an unreasonable manner, it could be a basis for the court to take legal decision-making and/or parenting time away from that parent.  (To put it in terms of the old statute, if the judge believes you have acted unreasonably during the litigation, it could result in you losing custody of your children.)
Domestic violence continues to be an important factor that the court will consider in making its determination of legal decision-making and parenting time.  But based on the language of the new statute, the presence of domestic violence now takes on even greater importance.  The legislature has added a new factor to A.R.S. §25-403 which requires that the court shall consider “whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to section 25-402.03.”  That section mandates that “joint legal decision-making shall not be awarded if the court makes a finding of the existence of significant domestic violence pursuant to section 13-3601 or if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that there has been a significant history of domestic violence.  The statute also states that “the court shall consider evidence of domestic violence as being contrary to the best interests of the child.”  Under the law, abuse of a spouse is considered to be akin to child abuse, leading to “a rebuttable presumption that that an award of sole or joint legal decision-making to the parent who committed the act of domestic violence is contrary to the child’s best interests.”
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 gary.frank@azbar.org; 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.


 

PARENTING CLASSES ARE FUN AND HELPFUL


I know a woman who has a degree in Early Childhood Education & Child Development.  She graduated from college with high honors.  Yet, she attended parenting classes throughout the entire time she was raising her children – classes on parenting toddlers; young children; “tweens”; and teenagers.  She could have taught the class.  Why did she join a parenting group and continue to classes go all those years?  The reason – because it made her a better parent. 

WHAT CAN A PARENTING GROUP OFFER?

There is a common misconception that parenting classes are for bad parents.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  People who join parenting groups are generally excellent parents who love their children enough to want to become even better.

I recommend to all my clients that they consider joining a parenting group and signing up for a class.  Once they’ve done it, the reaction I usually get is:  I love this group!  I’ve met some great new people who have kids the same age as mine.  They’re really supportive and we’re becoming friends.  And the class is so interesting — and FUN!”

Parenting classes are not like going to school.  (No boring lectures.  No homework.  No tests.)  Instead, it’s a chance to get together with other parents who are going through similar experiences with their children.  It’s a chance to talk and share ideas.  

Many of the best Valley parenting groups meet for an hour or so, once a week or every other week, at times that are convenient for parents.  Some classes are held at night.  Most of the parenting groups provide babysitting and serve food or refreshments.  The groups are generally run by a child development expert.  A different topic is covered for each class period (such as how to deal with tantrums, how to get your kids to do their homework, kids and computers, etc. – the range of topics is wide open, and many are suggested by the parents, themselves).  The “teacher” will give a brief overview of the topic, and then the rest of the session will be an open-ended, free-flowing discussion with the parents sharing their ideas and input.  It’s exciting to know that other families are dealing with the same issues that you are.  You can get some excellent tips on what works, and what doesn’t, from other parents – and you can make suggestions of your own.  This is a great way to learn new ideas and make new friends.  Both Mothers and Fathers are welcome.

HOW A PARENTING CLASS CAN HELP YOU IN A CONTESTED CUSTODY CASE

As a Family Law Attorney, I sometimes have an ulterior motive for recommending a parenting class to a client (even for the ones whom I know are excellent parents).  In a contested divorce and/or custody case, the power to decide which parent will be awarded custody rests in the hands of the Family Court Judge.   It is the Judge who will determine which parent is the “better parent” for custody purposes, and whether it would be in the best interests of the child to live with Mother or Father.  The Judge will decide whether joint custody or sole custody is the best arrangement; whether there should be a “primary residential parent,” or whether the parenting time should be shared equally; whether one parent or both parents should make medical, educational, religious, and other major decisions affecting the child, etc.  By joining a parenting group, you are not only going to gain new skills that will make you a better parent – but you will send a message to the Judge that you are a highly motivated parent, and that you care enough about the children to make an extra effort.  So, it’s a “Win-Win” situation.  You can enhance your chances of impressing the Judge and, at the same time, become a more skilled, competent parent.  What could be better?

WHERE DO I FIND A GOOD PARENTING GROUP

There are a number of excellent parenting groups around the Valley.  Two of the best, and most well-established, are:

Scottsdale Parenting Group 
http://www.scottsdaleparentinggroup.com/
North Central Parenting Group
http://www.ncpgaz.org/

If you are interested in having fun, meeting new people with like-interests, and becoming a better parent, look into joining a parenting group today.
Gary J. Frank has a wealth of experience dealing with parents and parenting issues in the Family Court.  If you would like some ideas on parenting classes, or if you are in need of a consultation regarding any other area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to contact us by telephone (602-383-3610) or by email through our website.  We look forward to hearing from you. 

YOU CAN OBTAIN A DIVORCE WITHOUT EVER STEPPING FOOT IN A COURTROOM

For many people, the scariest part of getting a divorce is having to walk into court and appear before a judge.  But did you know that there is a way to obtain a divorce without ever stepping foot in a courtroom?  It’s true.
When I began practicing law, it was impossible to obtain a divorce without at least one party appearing in court and providing testimony.  Even when a couple had reached an agreement on all their issues, one of them was required to appear before a judge and testify under oath.  But that is no longer necessary.

Resolving a divorce case can involve having to negotiate many different issues.  These could include division of property, division of debts, legal decision-making (custody), parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, and other matters.  Parties who cannot come to an agreement have no choice but to battle it out at trial.  This can be a long and expensive process, with the final decision being left to the judge.  However, for those who are able to take matters into their own hands and negotiate a resolution of the issues, finalizing their divorce can be a simple matter.
The Maricopa County Superior Court has a “Consent Decree” procedure which allows parties to submit their final Decree / Settlement Agreement to the judge without having to make a personal appearance in court.  In order to use this procedure, the parties must be in complete agreement on all the terms of their divorce.  A written Consent Decree must be prepared, and it must be signed and notarized by the parties.  The Consent Decree must contain the terms of the parties’ agreement, as well as the necessary jurisdictional language required by Arizona law.  Both parties must have paid an appearance fee to the Clerk of Court, or had the fee waived.  The signed Consent Decree must then be delivered to the judge assigned to the case.  If the judge deems the terms of the Consent Decree to be fair and reasonable then she/he will sign the document, the Consent Decree will then be filed with the Clerk — and the divorce will be finalized without the parties ever having to appear in court.

For couples who are able to negotiate a resolution of their issues, the “Consent Decree” procedure can make divorce a relatively painless process.


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, please do not hesitate to contact us today.


WHY IS STEVE NASH TRYING TO STOP HIS EX-WIFE FROM MOVING WITH THE CHILDREN?

At first it sounds like a typical “Relocation” battle:  A father is asking the Court to prevent his ex-wife from moving out of Arizona with the children.  But this is not a typical Relocation case.  This one involves basketball superstar, Steve Nash.  And he isn’t trying to stop his ex-wife from moving the children further away from him – He’s trying to prevent her from moving them to Los Angeles, where he lives! 

Nash wants the judge to prevent the mother of his children from moving the kids closerto his home!

Sadly, this case isn’t about the children.  It’s about money.  You see, when Steve and Alejandra Nash divorced in Arizona, the former Mrs. Nash received millions in the settlement and, therefore, the Decree did not award her child support.

But now the mother of the Nash children wants to move them to California, where their father plays for the Los Angeles Lakers.  Alejandra Nash claims that the children miss their father and would like to spend more time with him.  Steve Nash, on the other hand, claims that the mother is an out-of-control spender, and that she wants to relocate purely for selfish reasons.  He believes that once she settles in Los Angeles, she will ask the California Court for an order requiring him to pay substantial child support, which was not contemplated in the divorce settlement, and which the children do not need.  (Indeed, at a recent court hearing, Alejandra admitted that if allowed to move to California, she will seek child support.)

So, what we have here is a mother who wants to relocate with the children for the purpose of obtaining child support, on top of the millions she already has in the bank . . . and a father who is attempting to keep the children further away from him, so as to prevent their mother from from asking for more money.

In the end, we’re left with one simple question:  
Is anyone thinking about what is best for the kids?”

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/showusat.php?id=2373997



Gary J. Frank is an Arizona attorney and former Judge Pro Tem with over thirty years of experience in dealing with parenting issues in Family Court.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding divorce, child custody, or any other area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to contact us by telephone (602-383-3610) or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org, or through our websiteat garyfranklaw.com.  We look forward to hearing from you. 


FIVE TIPS FOR MAKING A GOOD IMPRESSION IN COURT

When you walk into a courtroom for your divorce or custody trial, you are literally placing your future, and everything that is important to you, in the hands of a stranger.  The judge doesn’t know you, but over the next few hours she/he is going to listen to your testimony and consider the evidence you present – and weigh it against the testimony and evidence presented by your opponent.  Then the judge will make a ruling that could alter the course of your life in a good way – or maybe a not-so-good way.
Obviously, having an experienced, skillful attorney is critically important.  But is there anything that you, personally, can do to increase the odds of winning your case?  The answer is a resounding “Yes.”
Here are five tips for making a good impression in court:
1.         DRESS NICELY:      All your life, you’ve heard about “the importance of making a good impression.”  It has been repeated so often that it has pretty much become a trite phrase.  But ignore it at your peril – because that old, worn-out saying happens to be true.  Judges are human.  Your judge will form an impression of you, and the initial impression might be based on your appearance.  Whether that is fair or unfair – right or wrong – doesn’t matter.  It’s a fact.  So, why take a chance?  Dress nicely.  You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) look like you’re ready for a walk down the “Red-Carpet” – that would be overdoing it.  Just a clean, attractive attire is sufficient.  Something a judge would see as appropriate and respectful.  Why should you care?  Because it is the judge who will decide your fate.
2.           BE PREPARED:     There is no substitute for being prepared when you take the witness stand.  In Arizona, Family Law cases are tried to the judge.  In other words, your judge will be acting as both judge and jury.  The Family Court judge’s role is not only apply the law, but also to determine the facts.  You can increase your odds of prevailing by being well-organized and well-prepared.  If you are represented by counsel, your attorney will assist you in preparing for your case.  He or she should spend a great deal of time, before the trial, discussing your objectives, and preparing you for your testimony, so that you can effectively tell your story.  The attorney should also prepare you to withstand the opposing attorney’s cross-examination.  If you are well-prepared, you will be more confident, and you will be much more likely to create a good impression.
3.         BE ATTENTIVE:        Paying attention to the proceedings, and listening to what the attorneys and the judge are saying, can give you an important edge in your court case.  Trying to follow what is happening in the courtroom can give you important clues into what the judge is thinking, and the type of evidence that he or she is looking for.  When you know how the judge is leaning, or what she/he wants to hear, then you can make adjustments “on the fly” and tailor your presentation to achieve the best results.  Not uncommonly, it is the client who picks up on something important that her (or his) ex- says on the witness stand – and by pointing it out to the attorney, the client might be able to change the outcome of the case.  An attentive and engaged client can help the attorney immensely.  So be attentive.
4.         CONDUCT YOURSELF APPROPRIATELY:       How you conduct yourself in the courtroom can determine whether you win or lose.  Keep in mind that throughout the proceedings, the judge is sitting up there on the bench looking down at the participants — and watching you.  Your attorney may be making a strong legal argument, but if you are slouching in your chair, signaling to a spectator in the gallery, sending a text message on your cell phone, not paying attention, or acting in a manner that the judge feels is inappropriate, you are undermining your lawyer’s efforts to represent you.  There is one particular type of behavior that judges roundly hate:  and that is when a client sits at the table and makes faces as the opposing party testifies from the witness stand.  If you think that vigorously shaking your head or laughing derisively will help the judge understand that the other party is lying, you are dead-wrong.  This type of behavior is much more likely to turn the judge against you.  So when in the courtroom, conduct yourself appropriately at all times.
5.         CREDIBILITY IS THE KEY.            The most important asset you have in a court case is your integrity and your credibility.  Where two parties to a litigation are telling stories that are contradictory, a judge will tend to rule in favor of the litigant that is the most believable.  Have you ever watched Judge Judy, or another of the TV judge shows?  While those shows are not at all similar to a real court case, there is still something that can be learned from watching them.  The lure of these shows is that when you are watching the people present their cases, it is as though you are seeing the matter from the same perspective as the judge.  Two people come before the Court.  Each has a completely different story and we, the viewers, are the “trier of fact.”  We know that one of the parties is twisting the facts, but we don’t know which one.  We listen intently and try to determine the truth.  If one of the parties is caught in a lie, or if a party is unprepared and doesn’t seem to be consistent in reciting the facts, then we start thinking that this person cannot be believed.  On the other hand, if a party is well-organized and appears sincere, we tend to lean in her favor.  In the end, we will rule in favor of the person who seems to be telling the truth.  And that is what the judge will tend to do in your Family Law case.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of telling the truth; of being well-prepared; and of dressing and acting appropriately and respectfully.  It all comes down to credibility.  When you step into that courtroom, make sure that you are the one the judge sees as being the most credible and believable litigant.

Hiring a strong, experienced attorney to represent you is important — but always keep in mind that you and your lawyer are a team.  You can help yourself, and increase the odds of winning your case, by simply making a good impression. 


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 gary.frank@azbar.org; 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.

CO-PARENTING vs. PARALLEL PARENTING – WHICH IS BEST FOR YOU?

In every divorce, parents must strive to keep the needs of the children as their #1 priority.  Children benefit most when they have relationships with both parents and tend to adjust better to divorce when:
·       They have healthy and happy relationships with both of their parents;
·       Parents don’t argue in the presence of their children;
·       Parents don’t place their children in the middle of disputes; and
·       Both parents are responsive to the needs of their children.
CO-PARENTING
“Co-parenting” describes a situation where the parents are not married, cohabitating or in a romantic relationship with one another.  Co-parenting often involves a parenting situation in which two separated or divorced parents communicate and work together to take care of their children.  Co-parenting can also describe a situation where, after a divorce, the child’s parents desire to maintain equal or equivalent responsibility for their children’s upbringing.  When successful, Co-parenting is a wonderful opportunity for children of divorce to still have access to both parents and retain a sense of family dynamic.  To come to a workable co-parenting arrangement, the parents must consider various factors, including:
·  What decisions need to be made? These commonly consist of decisions regarding education, extracurricular activities, medical treatment, sporting and social activities, religion, etc.
·      How will you make the decisions?  Will you meet in person to discuss decisions?  Will you communicate over the phone?  Email?  Text?
·     How will you share schedules?  How flexible do you want to be in scheduling?  When will the children see each of their parents?  What if one parent is late —  how will you deal with this?  Will the schedule remain the same as the children get older?
·     How will you handle discipline? How can you try to be on the same page when it comes to discipline? How will you communicate when a problem arises? Will each parent handle discipline on his and her own? If a child misbehaves at mom’s house, should he be disciplined by both parents or just mom?  If a child misbehaves in class, should she receive discipline from both parents or just the one she is returning home to?
·   What will happen in an emergency?  Have you provided your ex-spouse with all emergency contact information?  Will the parents notify one another before emergency medical treatment?
·      How will you handle disputes? If the parents cannot agree on a disciplinary issue, how will you deal with it? Is there a mutually-trusted family member or a friend who can help you discuss the matter? If the disagreement involves a medical decision, can you ask the doctor for guidance and advice? Or, if the dispute is an especially difficult one, will you seek the help of a professional mediator?
Because parenting involves a substantial number of decisions in all aspects of the child’s life, it is helpful to draw up a chart listing certain decisions and who should make them.  Here’s a brief example:
Who makes decisions regarding:
Mom
Dad
Together
HOUSEHOLD RULES & CHILDCARE
Allowances
Bedtime
Clothing
Grooming
Computer, software, and video game use
Television shows (which shows, what time)
Cell Phone, Computer, & Internet use
Meals
Toys
Handling behavior problems
RESIDENTIAL
Living situation
Transportation
SOCIAL LIFE
Dating
Driving
Friends
Sports & Social Activities
Sharing Cost of Activities
EDUCATION & MORAL TRAINING
Morals, values
Religion
Choice of Schools
Helping with homework
After school care
Extracurricular Activies &
Expense Sharing
HEALTH
Dentist
Doctor
Medication
Major medical issues
Psychological counseling, if applicable
Unfortunately, harmony cannot be achieved in every case despite both parents’ best efforts to cooperate.  When parents are unable to co-parent in a healthy, effective way that is in the best interests of their children — or when one of the parents refuses to cooperate — it can be a source of great conflict and stress for everyone involved. Many studies have found that most children of divorce grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults; however, children who are raised in corrosive, high-conflict parental situations are at risk to develop emotional problems that can last a lifetime. Sometimes, divorced or separated parents simply cannot work together, despite all their efforts. When that is the case, they should consider using a technique known as “Parallel Parenting.”
PARALLEL PARENTING
Parallel Parenting is a type of parenting arrangement that is best in situations of high conflict where parents have different parenting styles and can’t see eye-to-eye on even the most basic issues.  It is a form of co-parenting where a mother and father reduce the level of conflict through disengagement.  Specifically, they have limited direct contact with each other. And when they do communicate, it takes place in a more structured manner, such as through email.  Each parent sets rules for his/her own household (bedtimes, homework, TV or computer times, discipline, etc.), without concern that they may be different than the rules that are in place in the other parent’s household.  Some principles to keep in mind include:
·       Parents must never use their children as messengers to communicate back and forth; 
·       All communication must be business-like in nature and relate to information relevant only to the children’s well-being;
·       Schedules should be shared via a calendar or in writing;
·       No changes to the parenting-time schedule should be made without written agreement.
Parallel parenting, if done the right way, can provide children of divorce or separation with the same sense of fulfillment and happiness as a healthy co-parenting relationship.  Because parallel parenting is normally employed when parents disagree with one another to the point that they cannot communicate effectively, those in parallel parenting arrangements should remember that their exes are their children’s parents and, for that reason alone, they deserve respect.  Keeping differences with one’s ex away from the children will open opportunities to move beyond divorce in the future. 

Whether one decides to co-parent or try out parallel parenting, the main concern should always be what is in the children’sbest interests.  



Gary Frank & Jacinda Chen


At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., both Gary Frank and attorney Hanna Juncaj are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator, which includes having acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court; and serving on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Hanna Juncaj is a highly-skilled attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. We handle Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate to call our office at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email at gary.frank@azbar.org, or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.


TEN TIPS FOR SURVIVING YOUR DIVORCE — AND THRIVING

This year is coming to a close.   If you are in the middle of a divorce – or if you are getting ready to go through one – the next twelve months could be tough.  So, here are some simple guidelines to make the journey less difficult.

1.   Keep your children out of the middle of your dispute

Research shows that children of divorce can grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults.  However, the research also shows that children of high-conflict divorces can develop emotional problems that last a lifetime.  It can be devastating for a child to be caught in the middle of a dispute between parents.  You love your children.  That’s a given.  But loving your children is not enough.  You need to protect them from the emotional turmoil that you, as parents, may be going through.  This is an enormous challenge.  The key is to keep the children out of the middle of your dispute.  Don’t use them as messengers.  Don’t make them witness angry arguments between the parents.  Let them know the divorce is not their fault, and that both parents will continue to love them and take care of them, even after the divorce.

2.            Allow your child to love the other parent

When a marriage comes apart and emotions are at a boiling point, it is easy for a parent to make the mistake of voicing his or her displeasure with the other parent to the children.  Sometimes this leads to a war of words, with each parent feeling the need to “defend” himself / herself by badmouthing the other.  But here’s a warning:  Clinical research shows that this type of behavior can cause serious emotional problems for children.  They need to be able to love both of their parents.  So give them your permission.  You would probably place your life on the line to protect your children from a stranger who tried to hurt them.  Then why wouldn’t you make every effort to protect your children from your own anger and toxic feelings toward their other parent?    

3.            Don’t give your child too much information 


Of course, it is important to be honest with your children – but giving them information that is not age-appropriate, or talking to them about details of your divorce that they are incapable of emotionally processing, can be harmful and destructive.   Don’t talk to your children about the legal issues of your divorce.  Don’t show them your court paperwork.  Don’t share adult information with young children.  If you need to vent or get your feelings off your chest, turn to a trusted friend, a family member, or a therapist.  Keep your children out of the loop.  Let them be children.    

4.            Try to be flexible 

Parenting-time disputes can be the cause of much stress, especially during the holidays.  You can save yourself a lot of grief by trying to be flexible.  Being flexible is not a sign of weakness.  It sends a message that you are willing to compromise.  Extending an olive branch often leads to the other parenting being willing to compromise, too.  Parents who refuse to be flexible can find themselves locked in a never-ending battle; and instead of being able to solve their own problems they tend to return to court over-and-over again, putting their fate in the hands of lawyers and judges. 

 

5.            Don’t rely on “legal advice” from your friends 

Don’t believe everything your hear, especially when it comes from a friend or family member who is trying to give you advice about legal matters.  Everyone knows a friend whose own divorce was a nightmare and promises that your outcome will be terrible, too; or one who insists that your judge will give you everything you want because your custody case is a “slam-dunk.”  Receiving legal advice from a friend or family member can be a huge mistake, since tends to give you false expectations.  If you want good, solid legal advice about your divorce or custody case, talk to a lawyer who specializes in Family Law.

 
6.            Choose a lawyer wisely 


One of the most important decisions you will ever make is finding the right attorney.   Many people who are embroiled in a family law dispute say, “I’m going to hire the meanest, most aggressive, attorney I can find.”   That usually works – for the lawyer.  If the lawyer is only mean, or only aggressive, then the result will probably be a long, contentious, and expensive litigation.  That means more money for the lawyer.  Your money!  What you really want is a highly qualified attorney, one who is looking out for your interests.  The best attorney is someone who is skilled and experienced; someone who will fight for your rights — but who is also looking for ways to resolve the matter peacefully, if at all possible.  Most importantly, you should select an attorney who is a good match for you, and who makes you feel comfortable and confident.

 

7.            Be willing to compromise


Court litigation is, by nature, an adversarial process.  It can take a long time and cost a lot of money – and in the end, the final decision will be made by a judge who is a stranger to both parties.   Therefore, in any divorce or custody litigation, your goal should be to negotiate a solution that meets your needs and the needs of the children.  You can save yourself a great deal of time and money, and avoid much stress, by being willing to make reasonable compromises.  People who are able to negotiate a fair resolution of their dispute tend to be much happier with the arrangement in the long run.


8.            Talk to someone you can trust


A person going through the turmoil of divorce or custody case can benefit from a strong support system.  If you are struggling with a divorce, or if you are caught in a highly contested custody case, find someone to talk to. Whether it is with a family member, a friend, someone from your church, or a therapist, talking about your feelings is a healthy outlet.   There are also many divorce and single-parent support groups in your community that will welcome you and help you understand that you are not alone.  

9.            Take care of yourself

You can’t take proper care of your family if you don’t take care of yourself.  So take time to exercise.  Join a yoga class.  Meet a friend for dinner.  Or just spend some “down-time” relaxing at home. — Good nutrition, vigorous exercise, plenty of sleep and relaxation, lots of love and laughter — these are the keys to surviving a divorce and thriving.  Taking care of yourself will help you get through this tough time in your life.  It’s a wise investment.

 

10.         Know that there is life after divorce


It may not seem like it now, but rest assured that there is, indeed, life after divorce – and it can be great.  It will certainly be an adjustment, and it will take a commitment on your part, but getting out of an unhappy marriage, making new friends, and taking control of your physical and mental health, can give you a new perspective and lead to a happier life.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year!

 

The law firm of Gary J. Frank P.C. offers strong advocacy for clients involved in all areas of Family Law, including disputes involving divorce, custody (legal decision-making), parenting time, interstate custody or visitation, grandparent and non-parent custody and visitation, division of property and businesses, spousal and child support, modification of existing orders, enforcement of orders, relocation / move-away cases, paternity, guardianships, and other matters involving children and families.  Gary Frank is also an experienced Family Law Mediator who can help you resolve your dispute without the need for fighting in court.  With more than thirty years of experience as a courtroom litigator, as well as a mediator and a former Judge Pro Tem, Mr. Frank brings skill, compassion, and a depth of understanding to each matter he handles, and each client that he represents.  Our office is located in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona, and we have satellite office in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley to more conveniently serve our clients.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610 or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.  You can also check us out on our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.

HOW TO USE AN ATTORNEY AS A CONSULTANT, AND SAVE MONEY

It is true that a lawyer can provide useful legal advice, helpful guidance, and strong representation for anyone involved in a Family Law case,  However, not everyone chooses to retain and attorney — and not everyone can afford one.  Fortunately, there are a number of options for obtaining the services of an attorney, and some of those options are very affordable.  One of the most effective, and least expensive, ways to utilize an attorney is to use him or her as a consultant on an as-needed basis.
OBTAINING A LEGAL CONSULTATION
Representing yourself in a contested Family Law action presents an enormous challenge.  Parties to litigation are expected to understand the law and rules of Family Law procedure.  The fact that you are a layman, and not a lawyer, is no excuse for violating procedural rules.  Imagine trying to play in a basketball game without knowing the rules.  The coach calls your name, but when you walk on the court you don’t know how to dribble or pass the ball, or even which basket to shoot at.  That’s the kind of disadvantage you have when you walk into a courtroom as a “pro se” (self-represented) litigant.  You may wind up losing your case without ever knowing why, or how, it happened.  Obviously, it is best to be represented by legal counsel.  But not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to afford to retain an attorney on an ongoing basis.  So, what is the next best thing?  Seek a one-time consultation with an attorney.  In that meeting, which customarily takes place in the lawyer’s office, you will have the opportunity to discuss your specific matter with an expert.  The attorney will describe how the court process works and talk to you about your legal rights. He or she can help you identify the documents (called “exhibits”) and the witnesses that you will need to prove your case.  The attorney can also devise a “game plan” and help you map out a strategy for making a strong argument in court.  This is the time to ask questions, so that you can feel confident going forward.  When the consultation is over and you walk out of that lawyer’s office you should have a much better idea of the law, your legal rights, and how to present your case in the best possible light.
FOLLOW-UP CONSULTATIONS
During the course of the litigation (which can last for several months, or even a year or more) new issues, and new questions, will likely arise.  When this happens, you can follow up by obtaining additional consultations with an attorney, as necessary.  It is important to remember that since the attorney is not representing you in the litigation, he or she will have no obligation to stay updated with the facts and legal issues of your case or perform work on your behalf.  However, by using an attorney to provide you with basic advice from time to time, you will still be far better off than if you were to try to figure things out by yourself, without any legal guidance.

ASSISTANCE IN PREPARING FOR MEDIATION OR SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS
Parties to a divorce or custody dispute would be well-advised to explore the possibility of resolving their issues through mediation or settlement negotiations, rather than fighting it out in court.  No matter how strong your case may be, there is always a risk that the judge might see things differently, and you may lose.  Resolving the case through negotiation gives you the opportunity to carve out the terms of your own agreement, rather than allowing a judge to decide what is best for you and your family.  People who are able to negotiate their own agreement tend to be happier with the arrangement.  Why?  Because it is their agreement.  They made it.  And they “own” it.  It wasn’t imposed upon them by a judge who is a stranger to the parents and the children.  
Although mediation (or a settlement conference) is a great alternative to battling it out in court, many people reduce their chances for success by walking into the negotiation session without proper preparation.  This is a serious mistake.  In that meeting you will be dealing with crucial issues, such as custody of children, legal decision-making, parenting time, financial support, and division of property.  Lack of preparation could cause you to overlook things that are important, or it could lead you to make compromises that are not in your best interest.  Not being prepared could also cause you to become so fearful of making a bad deal that you are unable to make a deal at all — and then you miss an opportunity to avoid a contentious trial and reach an agreement that is fair for everybody.  These types of mistakes, due to lack of preparation, can have drastic long-term consequences.   As the old saying goes, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
For an affordable fee you can obtain a consultation with an attorney to help you prepare for your upcoming mediation or settlement conference.  The attorney will review your legal paperwork, financial documents, and/or other important information, and talk to you about the facts of your case, as well as your needs, your goals, and your wishes.  The attorney can also help you formulate your settlement position and devise a negotiating strategy.  By the time you walk out of that lawyer’s office, you should feel more confident in your ability to negotiate on your own behalf.  
USING AN ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU PREPARE DOCUMENTS
For someone going through a simple uncontested divorce, the Maricopa County Superior Court Self Service Center provides forms that can be downloaded online, for free.  These forms can be found at www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/ssc.  Hard copies of the forms can be picked up at the courthouse.  However, figuring out how to fill out those forms and navigate your way through the court process can be a daunting and confusing task.  A certified document preparer can fill out your forms but is not allowed to give you legal advice. On the other hand, for the price of an affordable consultation, you can meet with a licensed attorney who will not only check to make sure you have filled out your forms properly, but will also explain your legal rights and describe how the court process works.  You may not have the resources to retain an attorney on an ongoing basis in your Family Law matter, but by using an attorney from time-to-time as a consultant you will have an expert to help guide you through the process.
YOU CAN AFFORD AN ATTORNEY
Utilizing an attorney as a consultant on an as-needed basis allows you to control your costs.  For someone who does not wish to hire a full-time attorney, or for someone who cannot afford one, obtaining legal consultations from time-to-time can pay great dividends.  The attorney can assist you in many ways, including explaining the law; advising you of your legal rights; guiding you through the court process; assisting you in planning your strategy; drafting motions or other documents that you may need to file; and helping you to prepare for mediation, court hearings and/or the trial.  Using an attorney as a consultant is an affordable option, and a very good one.
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.  In addition to representing Family Law clients in litigation, we are also willing to help people by working with them on a Limited-Scope or Consultation-Only basis.  Our office is located in the Biltmore area of central Phoenix, with satellite offices in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Arizona.  We can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.  You can also reach us through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, contact us today.  We’d be happy to help.
  
        

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.