DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AFFECTS CUSTODY UNDER ARIZONA LAW

Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).[1]This equates to more than 10 million victims per year, both women and men.  Domestic violence harms individuals of all ages in physical, emotional, and even economic ways, but what many people don’t know is that it also affects custody of children.

Victims of domestic violence are protected by Arizona’s laws, which provide that all of the following constitutes domestic violence:

·       Sexually assaulting or causing serious physical injury to a family or household member
·     Attempting to sexually assault or cause serious physical injury to a family or household member
·      Making family or household members afraid that they are about to suffer immediate physical injury
·      Engaging in a pattern of abusive behaviors that are serious enough to permit a court to issue a protective order for the victimized parent or child

Acts that qualify as domestic violence can include threats, harassment, intimidation, stalking, unlawful imprisonment, trespassing, damage to property, kidnapping, photographing and secretly watching victims without their consent, physical assault, and many other things.  In our modern society, abuse can also be inflicted through electronic means, including the telephone and Internet.  Those protected under the law include current and former spouses, people who live together or used to live together, people who have a child together, relationships in which one of the partners is pregnant with the other partner’s child, people related by blood or marriage, children, and those who are or were in a romantic or sexual relationship.

Arizona has enacted statutes creating “domestic violence presumptions” in child custody cases, essentially stating that an abuser’s actions and future potential actions would be harmful to the child.  In other words, if the court finds that a parent committed acts of domestic violence against the other parent, then it is akin to abusing the child, and the judge must presume that giving custody to the abuser is not in the child’s best interests.  However, the presumption is “rebuttable,” and the court may decide that the perpetrator has overcome the presumption by evaluating the following factors:

·      Whether the perpetrator proved that being awarded sole or joint custody is in the child’s best interests
·      Whether the perpetrator successfully completed a batterer’s prevention program
·    If applicable, whether the perpetrator successfully completed alcohol or drug abuse counseling ordered by the court
·     Whether the perpetrator successfully completed parenting classes ordered by the court
·    Whether the perpetrator has committed additional acts of domestic violence against anyone else,

In determining which parent should have custody of the child, Arizona judges must consider the best interests of the child, which necessarily involves the contemplation of domestic violence.  Specifically, two of the factors that Arizona judges consider are (1) whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse and (2) whether either parent was convicted of falsely reporting child abuse or neglect. 

The bottom line is this:  In Arizona, a parent who is guilty of domestic abuse is less likely to get custody.  In fact, if there is evidence of domestic violence, parents cannot share joint legal custody.  In very serious cases where there is a pattern of child abuse, a petition can be filed asking the court to terminate a parent’s rights.  Termination means that a parent loses all rights to both the physical and legal custody of a child.

The best interests of the child—and the protection of the child—is the Arizona Court’s main priority. Although Arizona has created a presumption that it is harmful to the child, and not in his/her best interest for the perpetrator of domestic violence to have sole or joint legal decision-making authority, some cases still slip through the cracks.  Therefore, if you are a victim of domestic violence, it is important to seek legal advice to better protect yourself and your family.

Jacinda Chen & Gary Frank
      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.   


[1]“Statistics.” National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2017. <http://ncadv.org/learn-more/statistics>

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

In every divorce involving legal decision-making and parenting time issues, 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.

 

SAME-SEX FAMILY LAW — WE CAN PROTECT YOUR INTERESTS

Our attorney, Gary Frank, has long been a staunch supporter of civil rights, including marital rights for the LGBT community.  Now that same-sex marriage is finally a reality, it is important for gay and lesbian couples to understand their new rights, and how to protect themselves in the unfortunate event that a divorce or separation occurs.

We can help you preserve your property before a marriage takes place by preparing a Prenuptial Agreement.  And we can protect you throughout the divorceprocess by making sure you receive a fair division of property; and that spousal maintenance is awarded if a party is entitled to it under Arizona law.  If you have children, we will work hard to ensure that you come away with a legal decision-makingand parenting-time plan that is in their best interests and yours, and that child support is included. 

If divorce is inevitable, it is always a good idea to explore peaceful alternatives as a first option, before jumping headlong into an adversarial and often expensive litigation.  Mediation and collaborative divorce are two such options.  Mr. Frank is a compassionate mediator with many years of experience working with families, including LGBT couples. 

When acting as a divorce attorney, Mr. Frank encourages his clients to engage in mediation.  He will help you choose a top-notch mediator and he’ll guide you through the process, giving you the best odds of a favorable outcome.  But while mediation is often successful it does not always result in a settlement, and sometimes divorcing parties have no choice but to turn to the courts to resolve their issues.  In that scenario, Mr. Frank is a strong and experienced Family Law litigator who will fight to protect your interests.   


If you are in need of representation, or even if you’d just like a consultation to learn about your legal rights, please do not hesitate to contact us. You can reach the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C. by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.  We’d be happy to help you.

THE POWER OF EMPATHY


You see, there’s this thing called “Empathy.”  And it’s a powerful force.  When I don’t see eye-to-eye with someone, I try very hard to understand why that person feels the way he does, and why his reality is so different from mine.  When I take that approach, I am usually able to comprehend the logic or at least catch a glimpse of where that person is coming from, even if I don’t agree with his or her reasoning or conclusions. 
Unfortunately, many people are unwilling or unable to see a problem through another person’s eyes.  Maybe they are afraid that doing so will, somehow, be a tacit admission that the other person is right.  Maybe they fear that conceding a point, even a small one, is tantamount to losing the debate.  Or maybe they’re just afraid of being wrong.  
But “Empathy” is not a weakness – it’s a strength.  Failing to consider a problem from the opposing point of view often leads to a stalemate and continued conflict.  Refusing to make even minimal concessions or reasonable compromises only assures that competing parties will never be able to bridge the gap and resolve their differences.  It can cause a small spark to become a raging fire.
When two people are going through a divorce, it’s a scary and emotional time in their lives.  They may wonder, “What’s going to happen to my children?” orHow can I protect theassets that I’ve worked my whole life to accumulate?”  It can feel as though the ground beneath themhas fallen away and they have nothing to hold onto.  Fear grips them.  And the fear morphs into anger.  They run out and hire the meanest, toughest attorneys they can find.  But they soon learn that their divorce litigation, which is an adversarial process to begin with, has only increased their fear and inflamed their anger.
In this state of mind, it is hard to make concessions.  It is difficult to put yourself in the shoes the other person (who, by now, may seem like an enemy).  But that is exactly what you need to do.  Because being able to view the situation through the eyes of that person will enable you to better understand their perspective – their fears, their insecurities, their unstated needs.  And that insight, along with a willingness to make reasonable concessions, might allow you to resolve your dispute amicably, and save thousands of dollars in the process.  
 
For instance, a father going through a divorce might be afraid that the mother is trying to take his children from him.  A wife who was a stay-at-home mom for many years might be afraid that she won’t be able to support herself after the divorce.  By trying to understand those fears, you are better able to address the problem.  Empathy also allows you control your own fear and insecurity.  You are less likely to be angry with your soon-to-be ex-spouse if you understand that his/her motives are not evil.  That person is just fearful, like you are.  
In the end, empathy enables you to comprehend the other party’s perspective, which may result in finding a solution that allows you to meet their needs without compromising your own.  


Gary J. Frank is an Arizona attorney and former Judge Pro Tem with over thirty years of experience in dealing with divorce, custody, parenting-time, and support issues in Family Court.  To schedule a legal consultation with Mr. Frank, you may contact us by email at gary.frank@azbar.org, or through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.

 The issues in this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice in your particular case, nor should it be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship.  Every Family Court case is unique.  If you have a matter that appears similar to any of the scenarios that you read in this blog, you should be aware that: (1) even a slight difference in a factual situation can lead to a vastly different result; and (2) the laws are constantly changing and new laws are continually being enacted.  Legal advice cannot be given without a full consideration of all relevant information relating to your individual situation.  Therefore, if you have an important legal issue, you should obtain a consultation with a qualified attorney.  

HOW A CHILD’S VOICE CAN BE HEARD IN A CUSTODY OR PARENTING TIME DISPUTE

I am frequently asked at what age children can decide where they’d like to live, and whether or not they want to spend time with a parent.  The answer to that question is that children under the age of majority are not allowed to make those kinds of choices on their own. Those are decisions for parents — and when the parents can’t agree, a judge will make the decision.  But although children are not given the right to make these crucial choices, their voices can be heard — and the courts are listening.

In determining parenting time and legal decision-making authority (formerly called “custody”), the courts in Arizona are guided by the law as set out in Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25-403.  When children get into their teens and closer to their 18th birthday, the courts will increasingly consider their desires regarding parenting time and where they want to live.  But judges must be careful, because although many teens are logical and mature and have good reasons for their point of view, others are immature and unable to make well-reasoned decisions.  For example, some children may simply want to live in the household of the parent who has less rules and supervision; or they might have been unduly influenced by a parent. 

Judges have the right to interview children, but they rarely do so.  It is even more rare for children to be allowed to testify in a Family Court trial or hearing.  However, it is common for a judge to appoint a behavioral health expert to interview the children (and sometimes the parents) and make a report and recommendation to the Court.  There are a number of different ways that this can be done.  For instance, the judge can order the parents to participate in a Parenting Conference, or a Family Assessment; or the judge can order a Custodial Evaluation (either limited or full-scale).  The custodial evaluation process results in an in-depth investigative report and recommendation to the Court, and it may include psychological testing.   The purpose of each of the above-options is to assist the Court in developing the best custody and parenting plan for the children.  In doing the interviews, the experts will also be on the look-out for signs that a parent is coaching the children and/or attempting to alienate them from the other parent.

In high-conflict cases, the Court may also appoint a Parenting Coordinator, or even a separate attorney to represent the children.  The option that the Court ultimately selects will depend on a number of factors, including the level of conflict; the types of issues presented; how complicated those issues are; what kind of evaluation the parents want; and, to some extent, what the parents can afford.  

The Court’s goal is to protect the best interests of the children.  Most judges are not mental health or child development experts, and they don’t have sufficient time to do an in-depth investigation of their own. Therefore, they utilize professional experts to help them determine the facts of the case, and the needs of the children.  In this way, the children’s voices can be heard. 

Gary J. Frank is an Arizona attorney and former Judge Pro Tem with over thirty years of experience in dealing with custody and parenting time issues in Family Court.  The issues in this blog are provided general informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice in your particular case, nor should it be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship.  Every Family Court case is unique.  If you have a matter that appears similar to any of the scenarios that you read in this blog, you should be aware that: (1) even a slight difference in a factual situation can lead to a vastly different result; and (2) the laws are constantly changing and new laws are continually being enacted.  
Legal advice cannot be given without a full consideration of all relevant information relating to your individual situation.  Therefore, if you have an important legal issue, you should obtain a consultation with a qualified attorney.  To schedule a personal consultation with Mr. Frank, you may contact us by email at gary.frank@azbar.org, or through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.



THE PEACEFUL PATH

Sometimes you have to get tough.  Sometimes you have to stand your ground and fight.  That’s when you need a strong lawyer.  But the strong lawyers, the truly excellent ones, will tell you that in most divorce cases it is best to start out by exploring the peaceful path.

Great lawyers will tell you that you can’t “win” a divorce in the same way you would win a business dispute over a contract.  In a business litigation, where someone has breached a contract, a judge or jury could award you the entire value of the contract.  Winning means getting the whole thing.  But divorce litigation is different.  In a divorce, a couple is dividing property.  They are divvying up property that they’ve accumulated over the course of their entire marriage.  The law provides that community property is to be split “equitably.”  In other words, each side will be given approximately equal portions.  In a divorce, you can’t win all the property.  You’re only going to come away with about 50%.  So, why not try to negotiate a fair resolution rather than battling it out in court?

To put it another way:  Imagine that all your community property is baked into a pie.  The judge is going to divide that pie.  And even if your share turned out to be more than half, it’s still going to be less than what you had when you were married – because when you were married you had the whole pie.  So, what’s the wisest thing you can do?  The answer is simple:  Make sure to give your attorneys the smallest slice of the pie.  Here’s how it works:  The more you fight, and the longer the litigation drags out, the larger the attorneys’ slice of the pie becomes.  But if you are able to successfully negotiate a fair division of your assets rather than slugging it out in court, you can reach a settlement early and amicably — and keep more of the pie for yourself.  You can do that by getting rid of the “I Win/You Lose” mentality.  You can do it by exploring mediation, settlement conferences, or other forms of dispute resolution.  You can do it by controlling your emotions and treating the division of property like a business negotiation rather than a tug of war between two angry people.  You can do it by being reasonable, and being willing to compromise.  That’s not being weak.  It’s being smart.

Too often, when divorcing couples become involved in a long, protracted litigation over property, the only winners are the lawyers.  That’s why you need a strong lawyer, someone who is looking out for your best interests.  A lawyer who knows how to fight, but is willing to help you explore the peaceful path.

Gary J. Frank is a Family Law Attorney, a litigator, and a mediator with over thirty years of experience in dealing with divorcepaternity, custody, 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.

“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 

PARALLEL PARENTING CAN HELP HIGH-CONFLICT MOMS & DADS PARENT EFFECTIVELY

I’m going to tell you three things that every divorced parent should know:

  • 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.”

If you are divorced, it’s likely that you and your former spouse didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things while you were married.  Communication is a difficult matter to begin with, and it doesn’t always get easier when a couple separates or divorces.  In a high-conflict parenting situation – where every phone call or text message can become a spark that ignites an angry explosion – communication after a separation or divorce often becomes worse rather than improving.

So how can a mother and father in a high-conflict relationship learn to effectively communicate after their marriage has ended and they are living apart?  Obviously, there is no easy answer.  The road might continue to be rocky in the days ahead, and you may never be able to communicate as well as you’d like — but by employing a concept known as “Parallel Parenting” you can learn how to communicate better, and co-parent more effectively.

WHAT IS PARALLEL PARENTING?

Parallel Parenting is a form of co-parenting where a mother and father learn how to reduce the level of conflict by disengaging from each other.  They actually communicate less, and the communication takes place in a more structured manner, such as by email.  Often, in a high-conflict child custody litigation, the Court will step in and order the mom and dad to abide by a parallel parenting arrangement.  But parents are also free to employ this method on their own, without a court order.  Typically, a parallel parenting arrangement includes some or all of the following:

  • 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.

Parallel Parenting is often the best and sometimes the only way for high-conflict couples to co-parent.  It is not uncommon that, with the passage of time, the conflict between the parties will calm and the situation will improve to the point where they are able to communicate without anger and begin to co-parent cooperatively.

If you are caught up in a high-conflict situation and want to increase the odds that your children will grow up to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adults then you should consider learning the technique of “Parallel Parenting.

 

 

Gary J. Frank is a Family Law Attorney and Mediator with over thirty years of experience in dealing in divorcecustody, legal decision-making, and parenting-time 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.

 

AS A FATHER’S ROLE HAS CHANGED, SO HAS THE LAW


It’s Father’s Day, and I plan to celebrate.  My children are now grown, but while they were growing up I was the type of father who changed diapers, stayed up with a sick kid in the middle of the night, attended every school conference and event, and went to all doctors’ appointments.  I helped with homework, coached my kids’ baseball and softball teams and, regardless of my workload, I made sure to spend lots of time with my family, including one-on-one time with each of the children.

I’m not alone.  There are plenty of dads out there who do the very same thing for their children.  And the courts are beginning to take notice.  Over the past year, Arizona and many other states have made revisions to their Family Law statutes to make it easier for involved fathers to obtain equal decision-making and parenting-time rights with their children.  

For decades, courts across the country almost automatically gave custody of young children to mothers, often applying what was known as the “Tender Years Doctrine” – a sexist legal theory based on the philosophy that mothers are, by nature, nurturers and fathers are breadwinners.  This viewpoint was not only flawed – it was discriminatory against both sexes.  It was unfair to the many loving, nurturing, fathers who were involved in every facet of their children’s lives, yet were not given equal parenting-time and decision-making rights.  It was also unfair to mothers, since this ignorant belief was used as a basis for oppressing women and depriving them of formal education and equality in the workplace.   

But society is changing.  Today’s fathers view themselves differently than fathers of past generations.  More and more, fathers today see themselves as equal partners in parenting their children. Fathers of my generation were locked into their role as providers.  They worked all day, and often late into the night, to support their family.  When they came home, they typically played with the kids and helped with discipline, but it was the mother’s responsibility to raise the children.  However, many of today’s fathers are different – they still play with their children and discipline them when necessary, but modern fathers also nurture their offspring and share in child care responsibilities.  A recent Pew Research study determined that there are currently more than two million stay-at-home dads in America — a number which is certain to grow as women continue to achieve equality in the workforce.  And that figure is dwarfed by the number of fathers who care for children in nuclear families, and single (divorced or never-married) fathers who co-parent with the children’s mother.

Study after study has been published over the past several years demonstrating the importance of fathers in their children’s lives.  Children without the benefit of involved fathers have a higher incidence of poverty, criminal activity and mental health problems.  Children whose fathers are part of their lives tend to graduate from college in higher numbers.  The importance of a father’s impact on his children cannot be overstated. 

Increasingly, today’s fathers are stepping up to the plate and sharing the responsibility of raising their children — and in response, modern divorce and custody laws are changing to reflect a father’s contribution.  Now, when fathers have been significantly involved in their children’s upbringing, they are much more likely to be awarded equal decision-making and parenting time by the courts.

Happy Father’s Day! 



Gary J. Frank is a Family Law Attorney, a litigator, and a mediator with over thirty years of experience in dealing with divorce, paternity, custody, 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.