IT’S NOT OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER

It is not at all surprising that when one spouse files for a divorce, the other sometimes continues to hold out hope for a reconciliation, believing that the marriage is not irretrievably broken.  But what may surprise you is that Arizona law gives that person an opportunity to make one last stab at fixing the relationship.

Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25-329 provides that the Court shall not hold a trial, nor finalize a divorce, within sixty (60) days from the date that the divorce papers are served.  Attorneys and judges often refer to this as a “cooling off” period, since it is intended to prevent people from angrily rushing into a divorce that they might later regret.  This mandatory “cooling off” period allows the parties to take some time to reflect, to talk, and to consider other options, such as marital counseling.  This sometimes leads to the parties getting back together and dropping the divorce action.  Just today, in the news, was a report of basketball player Kobe Bryant and his wife putting their California divorce “on-hold” after having used the statutory “cooling off” period to work on their problems.

A spouse wishing to avoid a divorce has another alternative under Arizona law:  A.R.S., Section 25-381.09, states that a person who wants to try to salvage his or her marriage may file “a petition invoking the jurisdiction of the Conciliation Court for the purpose of preserving the marriage by effecting a conciliation between the parties.”  Filing a motion under this statute will result in the case being transferred to the Conciliation Court.  The divorce case will be placed on hold for a period of time, and the parties will be required to attend what amounts to a marital counseling session.

Arizona is a no-fault divorce state.  Thus, if one party to a marriage wishes to be divorced, there is little the other spouse can do to prevent it.  However, the statutory “cooling off” period, and the ability to ask for a transfer of the case to the Conciliation Court for counseling, are ways in which a spouse can make one final effort to repair the relationship and put the marriage back together.

Gary Frank has practiced Family Law in the prestigious Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  In addition to representing clients in divorce, custody, paternity, enforcement, modification, move-away, grandparent rights, non-parent rights, and other Family Law matters, Mr. Frank has also acted as a Mediator and a Superior Court Judge Pro Tem.  If you are in need of a consultation, please give us a call today at 602-383-3610.  You can contact us by email at gary.frank@azbar.org, or through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’d be happy to help you.

OUR MISSION STATEMENT FOR 2012

Here is our mission statement for the new year: 
Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney who cares about his clients.  Whether they are going through a divorce, or dealing with contested custody or other family law issues, we understand that our clients are in the midst of a difficult period in their lives.  By accepting their case, we have made a commitment to be there for our clients; to help them, to support them, and to fight for them.  We will apply the legal knowledge, litigation skills, and powers of persuasion, gained over thirty years of Family Law experience, to tenaciously protect our clients’ interests.  Mr. Frank will work with each client to creatively explore options for settling the dispute in a healthy, amicable, and inexpensive manner if possible.  These options could include the use of mediation, settlement conferences, collaborative divorce, or other dispute resolution measures.  However, if a fair settlement cannot be achieved,  then Mr. Frank can always be counted on to aggressively assert his clients’ rights, utilizing the skills he has honed over his many years as a courtroom litigator.  Our goal is to protect our clients; to preserve their relationship with their children; to assure that they receive a fair division of assets; and, when necessary, to obtain the financial support they need to provide for a secure future.   Gary Frank will continue to be a caring, compassionate attorney, and a fierce advocate for the best interests of his clients.

Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience in the areas of domestic relations, divorce, custody, division of property, support, modification actions, enforcement actions, Grandparents and non-parents 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.

CO-PARENTING IS A TOUGH CHALLENGE, BUT IT’S WORTH THE EFFORT

Co-parenting is often the most difficult challenge that parents face following a divorce.

Poor co-parenting can not only be a source of extreme and ongoing stress for the parents but, worse yet, it can be emotionally devastating to the children.  It can lead to repeated trips back to the courthouse, and many thousands of dollars in legal fees.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Disagreements over discipline, supervision, parental involvement, or parenting styles are factors which contribute to countless divorces.  So, it is not surprising that, in many of those cases, the problem only gets worse when the divorce becomes final.  After all, if the parents could not agree on parenting issues when they were married, why would they expect things to get better after they divorce and are living apart?

Co-parenting is essential, but it is not easy.  It requires placing the best interests of the children ahead of your own needs.  It requires managing your emotions, and finding a way to deal with your fear, anger, and negative feelings in a healthy and positive manner.  Finally,  it requires a commitment to always take the “high-road,” even when the other parent is refusing to cooperate or co-parent.

Taking the high-road is not a sign of weakness.  It doesn’t mean giving in or compromising the safety of your child.  What it means is not “taking the bait” when the other parent is pushing your buttons.  It means not “defending yourself” by badmouthing the other parent to your children when the other parent may be playing that game.  It means not putting your children in the middle of the dispute by forcing them to witness angry or violent arguments.  It means not making a child choose one parent over the other.  It means not using children as messengers or spies, or as weapons to hurt the other parent.  It means not sabotaging your child’s relationship with your ex-spouse, even though he or she might not be such a great parent.  It also means never allowing yourself to become so emotionally needy that your child feels that it is his or her responsibility to take care of you.  Taking the high-road is a sign of strength.  It is something you can do to assure that the child whom you love so much can grow up to be happy and well-adjusted.

The first step in learning to co-parent is realizing that, after the divorce, there will be times when your children are with your ex- and, during those times, you will no longer have control.  Therefore, it is not only in your children’s best interest — but it is to your own advantage to make sure that you and your ex- are communicating when it comes to parenting.

Co-parenting doesn’t mean that you and your ex- need to be friends.  You just need to be able to communicate in a business-like manner for the purpose of making decisions affecting your common children.  Your communication should be direct and to the point.  No sniping.  No angry comments meant to hurt the other’s feelings.  Stick to the matter at hand.  Don’t bring up tangential issues that have little or nothing to do with the children.  By focusing on the issue before you, and keeping the children in mind, you will be able to communicate effectively, and the children’s needs will be met.  Eventually, all of the emotion arising from the divorce will fade and you will find it much easier to deal with each other — but the time to start working on communication is now.  It’s hard, I know, but it is certainly worth the effort  The end result will be children who feel safe, secure, happy, and loved.

An important part of successful co-parenting is sharing information about the children with the other parent:  “Sally came home from school today with a fever”;  “Billy is in a play next week in Ms. Hollister’s classroom”;  “Meagan has a dentist appointment on Thursday”; “Justin’s high school report card came out yesterday – here’s a copy.”  Sharing information is easy.  If you don’t feel comfortable talking on the phone, then you can do it by mail, email, or a text message.  Sharing information allows parents stay on the same page, and it helps to assure that the children have two parents who are both involved in their lives. 

One of the biggest challenges of co-parenting is when a divorcing couple has very different parenting styles.  This is not only a common problem, but I’d venture to say that it is the case in the majority of divorces (and marriages, too).  “She’s too strict.”  “He’s a Disneyland dad.”  “He doesn’t supervise the children like I do.”  “She’s too controlling with the children.”  “He won’t let the children be children.”  “She doesn’t set limits.”   The fact is that there is no one right way to parent.  You will have to get used to the idea that when the divorce is final, there will be blocks of time when the children are alone with the other parent.  Co-parenting does not mean imposing your will on the other parent.  Attempting to do so will lead to disagreements and anger, and will likely be futile in the end.  But by communicating respectfully and effectively, you can share ideas and avoid many misunderstandings and problems.  Co-parenting may sometimes involve respecting the other parent’s right to do things her/his way when the children are in her/his care.  Obviously, if your child is being abused or neglected in the home of the other parent, then it is your duty to take the necessary measures to stop it.  But where the issue is simply differing parenting styles, you should try to cooperate to the best of your ability and be as consistent as possible; and you may need to let the children know that the rules at Dad’s house are slightly different from those at Mom’s. 

Over the years, I have found that “Post-Divorce Counseling” can be very helpful.  This is not marital counseling, and it is not therapy.  Rather, post-divorce counseling consists of both parents meeting together with a counselor (such as a child psychologist or child-development specialist) on a quarterly basis, or every six months, or once a year, or only as-needed — in order to discuss issues involving the children.  In the sessions, the parents can bring up any concerns they may have, discuss any problems the children are experiencing, and examine different solutions with the help of an expert.

Co-parenting after divorce is an ongoing process.  It can be difficult and sometimes frustrating.  As much as you might like to put the relationship with your ex-spouse behind you and move on following a divorce, you have to realize that the two of you share a child.  You always will.  And by communicating and co-parenting, you will increase the odds that your child — this person whom you both love — will grow up to be  a happy, productive, and well-adjusted adult.

Gary Frank has been a well-respected Custody and Family Law Attorney, and a Family Mediator, in the Phoenix, Arizona for more than thirty years.  The Law Office of Gary J. Frank P.C. handles a wide array of family law issues, including divorce, custody, modification actions, paternity and maternity cases, and other matters involving children and families.  If you would like 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 web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.

Divorce Lawyer or Mediator? — You Can’t Have It Both Ways

A friend recently told me about what a bad deal she got in her divorce.  She entered into a mediated settlement but the terms turned out to be very unfair.  When I asked whom she used to conduct the mediation, she told me that her husband’s attorney acted as the mediator.  No wonder the settlement was one-sided!  It certainly wasn’t my friend’s fault.  How was she to have known that it is improper and unethical for an attorney who represents one party to also act as a mediator for both sides in a divorce?  She trusted the lawyer when he said that he could act as an impartial mediator.  But, in actuality, that lawyer had a serious conflict of interest.  He was retained to represent the husband and, as such, his job was to act as a zealous advocate for his client – to take his client’s side and fight for him, if necessary.  A mediator, on the other hand, must be completely impartial.  He or she must act as a neutral third party; someone who doesn’t take sides.  The job of the mediator is to help the parties negotiate an agreement that is as fair to everyone as possible.
It is unethical for a lawyer to represent both parties to a divorce, or to act as a mediator while he is representing one of the parties.  The attorney is allowed to meet with both sides and discuss the issues, or even try to settle the case, but he must make it clear that he is acting in the best interests of his client and that he is not a neutral third party.
I have represented clients in divorce cases for almost thirty years.  As an attorney, I am a zealous advocate for my client’s best interests.  My family law practice also includes mediation; and as a mediator, I am a compassionate, impartial professional who works hard to help the parties fashion a fair settlement.  But we can’t wear two hats at once:  We can act as an advocate — or a mediator — but not both.  Don’t be fooled by any lawyer who tries to tell you differently. 

If you have a family law question, contact by email, call us at 602-383-3610, or just check out our website at http://www.garyfranklaw.com/     

WITH AN ATTORNEY, YOU HAVE AN ADVANTAGE IN FAMILY COURT — If You Can’t Afford One, There Are Options

Imagine walking up to bat in a baseball game – and you don’t know the rules.  You don’t know the difference between a “ball” and a “strike.”  You don’t know that three strikes is an “out,” or that three outs ends the “inning.”  You are aware that you’re supposed to swing at the pitch, but once you hit the ball, you don’t know which way to run.  No matter how hard you try or how athletic you are, the fact that you don’t know the rules of the game puts you at a huge disadvantage.


If you decide to represent yourself in a divorce, custody, or other Family Law case – especially if there is an attorney on the other side – then you may find yourself at a similar disadvantage, one that is hard to overcome. When you step into the courtroom as a litigant, you are expected to know the rules of procedure and the rules of evidence.  That you are a layman and not a lawyer is no excuse.  Your lack of knowledge can prevent you from being able to properly question a witness, or present evidence, or tell your side of the story in court.  In a matter involving custody or parenting time, the end-result can be devastating.

Attorneys go through years of schooling and training, followed by continuing education, in order to be able to understand the nuances of the law and the rules of court.  They know how the game is played.  This is why, in the courtroom, a person representing himself is no match for a trained-lawyer.

Obviously, hiring a qualified attorney in a Family Law case gives a party the best chance of obtaining a favorable outcome.  But what happens if you simply cannot afford ongoing legal representation?  Thankfully, there are a number of options:

1. LEGAL CONSULTATION WITH AN ATTORNEY:

If you cannot afford to hire an attorney to represent you on an ongoing basis in your Family Law dispute, then at least you may be able to pay a lawyer to provide a one-time legal consultation.  Much important information can be obtained from a one or two-hour meeting with a lawyer.  For instance, in a consultation at the law office of Gary J. Frank P.C, I will carefully listen to the client’s concerns and ask questions about the client’s family history, so that I can identify the issues that apply to that particular case.   Once I have sufficient background information, I will discuss the applicable law and help the client understand his or her legal rights.  Then I will talk about how the court process works, and I’ll give the client a “game plan” and tips on how to present his/her case in the best possible light. 

If you are representing yourself in a contested custody or other family law matter, then during the course of the case you may wish to return to the attorney’s office from time to time for additional consultations.  Although the attorney is not representing you in the legal action, additional consultations will provide you with updated information and a better understanding of what you need to do at various stages of the proceeding.  For someone who cannot afford an attorney, a legal consultation can be a useful tool to help navigate the difficult terrain of litigation.

2. LIMITED SCOPE REPRESENTATION:

In Arizona, a person who does not have the resources to retain an attorney on an ongoing basis in a Family Law litigation can now hire an attorney to perform a particular, and limited, task.  This is called Limited Scope Representation.  For instance, you might need an attorney to prepare a written motion or some other legal document for you; or appear and represent you at a single court hearing; or maybe attend and conduct a deposition.  This type of limited representation requires a written agreement, signed by both the party and the attorney, which describes in detail the task to be performed.  The attorney will file a Notice of Limited Scope Appearance with the court before performing the task.  When the task has been completed, the attorney will file a Notice of Withdrawal and the representation is terminated.  Thereafter, you will continue representing yourself.  If you need further assistance later on in the litigation, a new Limited Scope Agreement must be signed before the attorney can work on your behalf.

Of course, you can always obtain a consultation with an attorney at any time without having to sign a Limited Scope or an Attorney-Client Agreement

3. MEDIATION:

Mediation is the “peaceful path.”  It is a voluntary and confidential process in which the parties to a dispute sit down with a neutral 3rd party (the mediator) who helps them negotiate a settlement that is acceptable to everyone.  While litigation can be adversarial and expensive, mediation is more collaborative and less expensive.  So, it is worth a try.  If, after using their best efforts, the parties are unable to reach a settlement in mediation, then they can still litigate the matter in court.  Attempting to mediate a Family Law dispute is good alternative for everyone, but for someone who cannot afford an attorney, it may provide the best shot at a fair and inexpensive resolution of the problem.


 I have represented people, and provided strong advocacy, in all types of Family Law disputes for nearly thirty years.  For almost twenty of those years, I have acted as a Family Law Mediator, helping people to negotiate the terms of their own settlement.  I do my best to assist people who cannot afford to retain a full-time attorney by providing legal consultations and Limited Scope Representation.  If you are in need of help and would like to set up an appointment with an attorney, you can contact us by telephone at 602-383-3610 or through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.

WHY FEAR & ANGER ARE YOUR WORST ENEMY IN FAMILY COURT

In my thirty-plus years as a Family Law attorney, I have found that the predominant and most destructive emotion among parties to a divorce or custody case is FEAR

Fear is a primal human emotion.  It comes into play when we feel threatened – and when a marriage is crumbling and people are considering divorce, there is plenty to feel threatened about:  “How am I going to survive without my spouse’s income?  Do I have to give her half of my money and property?”  “Will he be able to take proper care of the children when I am no longer there to supervise?”  “Who gets to stay in the house?”  “What will happen when my spousal support ends?” . . .   

It’s no wonder why people are fearful – when a marriage is unraveling, both the husband and wife face a scary and uncertain future, and so do the children.  Add to that the adversarial nature of a court proceeding, and you have a very combustible mix.  All it takes is one little spark to ignite a raging fire.

When people are feeling out of control and not communicating (as is the case with most divorcing couples), the fear that is building up inside them can easily morph into another human emotion – ANGER – and that anger can manifest itself in any number of ways:  Discussions can deteriorate into shouting matches; a spouse can “shut down” and become unwilling to talk; a person can become obstinate and unreasonable; or one spouse may seek to hurt or punish the other.  Anger can lead to territorial battles over money or property, or even time with the children. 

We are all human, and these responses to fear are certainly understandable, but they are unhealthy and can lead to contentiousness and long-term problems.  I’ve seen it a thousand times:  An angry spouse runs out and gets an attorney to use as a “hired-gun,” with the goal of inflicting maximum damage. — The other spouse retaliates by bringing in their own “hired-gun.” — And before they know it, the parties are waging an all-out litigation war, with money spilling to the ground like water from a barrel shot full of holes.  In a war like that, nobody wins.  Often, given the parties’ seething anger and lack of communication, the stage is set for a series of future battles, where the former husband and wife return to court over-and-over again, during the course of many years, to re-litigate issues involving custody of children, or parenting time, or support.  Hard-earned money that could have been used for retirement, or the kids’ college education, now goes to pay attorneys in an endless war of attrition.

A divorce may include very complicated issues, such as custody; parenting time; child support; alimony; division of property and debts; appraisal of real estate; or valuation of businesses, stock options, and retirement plans – just to name a few.  Working through these types of issues takes patience and emotional intelligence.  It takes a willingness to put aside fear and anger and address the needs of the parties and the children in a calm, business-like manner.

As I see it, the job of the attorneys in a divorce case is to help the parties carefully untangle the twisted web of issues involving custody, support, property division, and finances without ripping the fabric of “family” (the children will still have two parents, even after the divorce is finalized).  Where children are involved, the lawyers’ primary responsibility is to help the parents build a bridge so that when the divorce is over they will be able to communicate effectively for the benefit of the children.  If the divorce does not involve children, then our job is to find a way to divide assets and debts in a manner that leaves both parties as financially intact as possible.  Obviously, the lawyers cannot accomplish these goals without a buy-in from both parties.  If their actions are ruled by fear and anger, then they will be unable to make responsible decisions, and settlement discussions may be out of the question.  In representing clients over the years, I have seen instances where a party or his attorney elects to take a “slash-and-burn” approach.  When that happens, my job is to aggressively protect and defend my client’s interests.  That means getting tough.  However, even in the midst of the most hotly contested legal dispute, it is in everyone’s best interest to keep the door open to reasonable settlement negotiations – because, in the end, it is the client’s life, and the client’s future, that are at stake – and, in too many cases, when the battle is over and decisions were dictated by fear and anger, the only winners are the lawyers.  But that doesn’t have to happen.  Take charge of your emotions.  Keep your cool.  And approach divorce as if it were a business negotiation.  If you can do that, then you are in control.


Gary J. Frank, is an Arizona Family Law Attorney and former Judge Pro Tem with over thirty years of experience in dealing with divorce, custody, parenting time, support, and all other issues in Family Court.  He also has many years of experience as a Family Law Mediator.  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 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.


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.  

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 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.