THE ASHLEY MADISON HACK AND NO-FAULT DIVORCE

A brunette with perfectly applied lipstick holds a single finger to her lips in a “shh” motion. Her beautifully manicured hands display a golden wedding band. Next to her are the words “Life is short. Have an affair.”
This controversial logo represents Ashley Madison, an online dating service and social networking site marketed to people who are married or in a committed relationship. It offers affair guidelines and even provides advice on how to cover one’s tracks when pursuing an adulterous affair. In mid-August of this year, the identities of the 37 million users registered on the database were released by hackers. This release included data from customers who had paid a $19 fee to Ashley Madison to allegedly have their data deleted. Now, there are multiple online search engines allowing you to check if your data or the data of someone you know was leaked in the release.
As more high-profile names surface among the millions of users of Ashley Madison, speculation continues about the divorce consequences for the adulterous users of the site. It is a popular opinion that divorce rates will undoubtedly increase as more cheaters are exposed; but if they do, how will the matter be handled by the courts?
Actually, the consequences would have been greater under historical family laws, which governed a “fault” regime. For instance, back then, a divorce was only permissible if a spouse could prove one of several fault grounds; adultery was one of them. But today, in Arizona and many other states, a spouse can petition for a divorce without the necessity of proving fault on the part of the other spouse: Arizona requires only that the spouse cite an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.  Thus, Arizona is a “no-fault” divorce state.
In most divorces, property division and child custody are the primary concerns of the spouses. Under a “fault” regime, a cheating spouse may have had to pay in the property division or alimony award for an extramarital affair.  Today, however, Arizona and many other “no-fault” states do not consider who caused the breakdown of the marriage when dividing property; nor is “fault” a factor that the Court considers in determining spousal maintenance.  However, if the spouse implicated in the Ashley Madison leak misused marital finances (termed “community property” in the legal world), then economic fault can be a factor the Court considers in both the division of property and spousal maintenance. 
Regarding child custody (now called “legal decision-making and parenting time”), the court will rule based on what is in the best interests of the children. This is more of a “gray area,” or case-by-case situation, as it may be difficult to prove how the parent’s sexual activities negatively impacted the best interest of the children.  If it can be shown that a parent’s inappropriate behavior directly affected the children (such as taking them on dates, or exposing them to the paramour, etc.) then it is possible that the Court would consider the parent’s conduct in making a “custody” award.

If the Ashley Madison hack had happened in a previous era of family law, the evidence obtained would have been much more useful in initiating divorces and awarding assets to the “victimized” spouse. However today, due to the dominant “no-fault” regime of the United States, even if a spouse wanted to initiate a divorce based on the data from the Ashley Madison hack, it is unclear whether it would have much of an effect; since, aside from embarrassment, the cheating spouse would almost assuredly suffer less financial and custodial consequences than in earlier times.

G.Frank & J.Chen


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.

WHO CARES HOW I DRESS FOR COURT? — WELL . . . MAYBE THE JUDGE.

A person came into my office the other day for a “second opinion.”  And he asked me this:

“My attorney advised me that for my custody trial next month, I should cut my hair, trim my beard, and trade my T-shirt and jeans for a nice shirt and slacks.  I find that advice insulting.  I’m a good guy and a good parent, so why should it matter?”

Here was the answer I gave him:

“I believe you, and I would accept you just the way you are.  On the other hand, I’m not the one holding your fate in his hands.  Your future as a parent is in the hands of the person in the long, black robe – the Superior Court Judge.  

It’s true that we should never form an impression of others based upon appearance alone – but people do it all the time.  It’s human nature.  And judges are human.  Some judges may not be concerned about your appearance – but other judges might.  There are judges who view it as disrespectful when a litigant walks into the courtroom in jeans and a T-shirt.   If you happen to appear before a judge who feels that way, then you could find yourself “behind-the-eight-ball” before you ever open your mouth.

So, why take the chance?   

Your lawyer gave you good advice.  It’s probably not because the lawyer doesn’t like the way you look.  It’s because your lawyer is your advocate and he or she wants to assure that you do everything possible to make a good impression on the Court. 

Here’s myadvice . . . It’s up to you, but before you make your decision, keep this in mind:  Like it or not, the judge is the person who has the power to determine your fate, and your children’s future.”
Gary Frank, has been a courtroom litigator in the Family Law arena for over thirty years, and is a strong and committed advocate for his clients.  In addition to being a litigation attorney, Mr. Frank has acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tem in the Maricopa County Superior Court.  This has given him an understanding of the inner-workings of the court, and a unique perspective  that most attorneys lack.  He has also acted, for many years, as a professional mediator of Family Law disputes.   We handle a full range of Family Law matters, including divorce, custody, legal decision-making, parenting time, spousal maintenance, 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.

I WITNESSED THE MURDER OF JFK’s ASSASSIN

On November, 22, 1963, I was sitting in my fifth grade classroom in Phoenix, Arizona when a voice came on the intercom informing us that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.  The children sat in stunned, frightened silence at the news.  Some began to cry.  Some became panicky.  I remember turning to my best friend, Steve.  Tears were streaming down his face.  I stood up, walked over to the window, and looked out.  The scene may have been the same one I witnessed every day but now our President was dead and I was peering out into an uncertain future.
John F. Kennedy was the first U.S. President of the television age.  He was young, handsome, athletic, and charismatic.  He had a beautiful wife and two children – one of them, Caroline, was just my age.  In 1963, John F. Kennedy was a national hero.  An inspiration.  A rock star of massive proportions.  And now he was dead, killed by a sniper’s bullet.  Our world was shattered.  For us, the age of innocence was over.
Two days later, I was sick (or at least convincingly pretended to be) and my mom let me stay home from school.   I recall turning on the television.  TV was still a fairly new medium, and most shows were broadcast live.  On this day, a special news report was on the tube.  Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was being transported from the jail.  I watched as a handcuffed Oswald came down a long, narrow corridor toward the camera, accompanied by two jailers on either side of him.   All of a sudden, a man in a dark suit and fedora hat burst into the picture.  He stuck a gun in the prisoner’s gut and fired.  Oswald went down.  Then there was bedlam.  People were running in every direction.  Some of them jumped on the man.   The television announcers were as surprised and confused as the amazed audience.  Lee Harvey Oswald, the President’s assassin, had just been killed on live television with millions watching, including one small eleven year-old boy in Phoenix, Arizona.

Almost all Americans who were alive during that time remember where they were when they heard the news of President Kennedy being shot.  Many of them recall witnessing the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who killed the President.  Fifty years later, conspiracy theories abound regarding who was actually behind the assassination.  Was it simply one deranged man?  Was it the Mafia?  The CIA?  Russia?  We’ll probably never know, because when Lee Harvey Oswald went to his grave, the truth went with him.



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 is also a fair and compassionate mediator of Family Law disputes, with many years of experience.   Our law firm handles a full range of Family Law matters, including divorcecustody / legal decision-making, parenting-time, child support, spousal maintenance, division of property and assets, modification and enforcement actions, as well paternity/maternity cases, grandparent or non-parent custody and visitation actions, and relocation/move-away cases.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to give our office a call today at 602-383-3610; or feel free to contact us through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com; or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.   We’d be happy to help you.


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.

ANN SCOTT TIMMER APPOINTED TO ARIZONA SUPREME COURT

I am leaving in a few minutes to attend the investiture ceremony for Arizona’s newest Supreme Court Justice, Ann Scott Timmer.  Judge Timmer was my first law clerk while she was still a student at Arizona State University School of Law.  Upon graduating from law school, she went on to work for a prestigious law firm in the Phoenix area.  After proving her worth as an attorney, she became a Maricopa County Superior Court judge and, later, was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals.  Now she will be a judge on the Arizona Supreme Court, making decisions of great import to our state and our country.

Judge Timmer has excelled at every level, and I’m confident that with her on Arizona’s highest court, we are all in good hands.  Congratulations Judge Timmer.

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 the majority of attorneys lack. He has also acted, for many years, as a professional mediator of Family Law disputes. 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 look forward to hearing from you.

OUR TOP-TEN LIST FOR GETTING THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS

Let’s face it, the holidays are stressful under the best of circumstances.  But for a divorced parent, or someone going through a custody dispute, the holidays can be a grueling experience.  The good news is that there are proven strategies that can help make the holidays bearable and . . . (dare I say?) . . . even fun.  Here is my Top Ten List for getting through the holidays:
1.         Plan in Advance
            Going into the holiday season with your parenting plans up in the air can be a source of stress not only for parents, but for the children, too.  Solidifying your schedules well in advance – and letting your children know what to expect – will allow parents and children to relax and look forward to their time together.  Planning in advance is the best way to avoid conflict, misunderstandings, and arguments. 
            Last-minute shopping is a also recipe for stress.  Slogging through traffic, searching in vain for parking spaces, and jostling masses of shoppers in malls and stores is not my idea of enjoying the “holiday spirit.”  Avoid desperation shopping.  Shop early.
2.         Be Flexible
            During the holidays, things can change on a moment’s notice.  A child gets sick.  Family comes into town unexpectedly.  The other parent calls and wants the kids for a special, but unscheduled, activity.  All of these things are sure to make the Stress-O-Meter rise.  Learn to go with the flow, when possible.  Doing so will make for a more relaxed you.  You might find that being flexible, or even spontaneous, is fun.
3.         Keep It About The Kids
            Divorced parents sometimes become so embroiled in their own problems that they can forget that the holidays are about the children.   Remind yourself every day that the children are your top priority.  They deserve a fun holiday, one that they will always remember – and you have the power to make it happen.  So, keep the children out of the middle of your adult holiday disputes.  Make an effort to communicate and compromise with the other parent.   Never badmouth the other parent in front of the children.   Let your kids look forward to their time with both parents.  Remember:  It’s all about the children.
4.         Enjoy Alone-Time
            The thought of spending time alone over the holidays can be frightening and depressing.   You may have never dreamed that you would be separated from your children during the holiday season.  But you will survive.  You might even find your time alone to be a nice break from the normal holiday chaos.  Look for ways to relax and enjoy yourself.  Staying home with a good book can be refreshing.  Hiking in the mountains, walking, riding a bicycle, or going to the gym may renew your spirit.  Attending a party, or meeting a friend for dinner or a movie, could be fun and exciting.   You will learn to relish your alone-time.  And the kids will be back before you know it. 
5.         Connect with Friends
            The holidays are a great time to connect with friends.  Plan a holiday party and invite your friends; or accept an invitation to another’s party.  Get together with a friend to go shopping.  Or simply pick up the phone and call a friend.  Friends are a blessing.  They are a source of enjoyment and support.  Just what you need to help you get through the holidays.  Connecting with a friend can help you to re-connect with the real you.
6.         Make New Family Traditions
            During the holidays, we tend to spend a lot of time trying to give our children the same wonderful experiences that we had when we were young.  Often, this is difficult or impossible.  For a divorced parent (or any parent, for that matter) trying to re-create the “holidays of old” only leads to stress and disappointment.  So, what the heck!  Try something new!  Make your own unique family tradition.  Take a ride around the neighborhood at midnight, looking for Santa.  Let the kids make Christmas dinner (hot dogs and pizza?  Sure, why not!).   Use your imagination.  Be creative.  Give the kids their own loving memory that they will always cherish.
7.         Exercise!
            I recently read that the average person gains 7 to 12 pounds during the holiday season.  Don’t be a couch potato.  Take some time out of every busy day to exercise.  Not only will it keep you in shape, but exercising will kick in the endorphins and give you a sense of well-being that will last throughout the entire day. 
8.         Avoid Toxic People
            The holiday season can be stressful and depressing enough on its own.  Spending time with people who put you down – or bring you down – will only make it worse.  So, to the extent possible, make an effort to avoid (or reduce the time you spend with) toxic people. 
9.         Stay Positive; And If You Need Counseling, Get It
            Self-talk is sometimes the enemy of happiness.  Listen to the things you say to yourself.  Pay attention to the messages you send to yourself.  You might find that that the data you are inputting into your internal computer (your brain) is undermining your own well-being.  So, eliminate the negative.  Try focusing on the positive.  When you catch yourself lapsing into negative thinking, stop, delete the negative message, and insert a positive statement.  For instance, if you hear your internal voice saying:  “I’ll never get my Christmas shopping done!”– delete that statement and insert a new message:  “I’ll get as much done as I can today, and if I’m not finished, I’ll try again tomorrow.”   Putting a positive spin on things is a simple and easy way to maintain a good frame of mind.
If you are sad or depressed and just can’t shake the feeling, then get counseling.  A good therapist can help you work through the fear, anxiety, and conflicted feelings, so that you can get back to being confident and in control.
10.       Cut Yourself Some Slack
            If you are separated or divorced and trying to make it through the holidays, there’s a pretty good chance that you will be struggling with your emotions.  Why?  Because you’re human.  Just like the rest of us.  What you’re feeling is perfectly natural.  So, don’t try to be a super-hero.  Cut yourself some slack.  The holidays are tough . . . and you’re human.  You will get through this, and things will get better.
Happy holidays!

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 look forward to hearing from you.

FIVE TIPS ON BECOMING THE BEST DAD YOU CAN BE

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

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.

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR DIVORCED PARENTS

It takes courage. 
Making it through the holidays can be stressful for any family.  But for newly divorced couples, or those who are in the midst of a divorce, it can feel almost traumatic.  The thought of not having your children throughout Christmas, or of being alone on the holidays, can cause feelings of anxiety and despair.  The disruption of what has become a family tradition can cause sadness.  Worries about how the children will fare while in the care the other parent (especially when that other parent was not the primary caregiver) can lead to panicky emotions.  Dealing with the loss of a marriage, and concerns about your children and your uncertain future, can be a recipe for fear and anger.  All too often, these are the types of emotions that come to the forefront during the holidays.  And the result can be arguments, disagreements . . . Conflict.  It is important for you to be able to acknowledge the emotions you are feeling, and decide to take control of them (rather than allowing them to control you).  It takes courage.  But by rising to the challenge, you will be taking your first steps toward building a healthy future for yourself and the children.   
It takes patience.
Not surprisingly, family law attorneys are busy during the holidays.  When communication between parents shuts down, fear takes over.  When moms and dads become unwilling to discuss and compromise, anger flares.  That’s when people turn to their lawyers and the courts.  Sometimes emergency motions and court appearances are necessary, however, in many cases they are caused by a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived slight or threat; something said in the heat of the moment which neither party really intended to turn into an expensive legal skirmish.  In these instances, a little patience can go a long way.  When conflict occurs during the holidays, rather than jumping right in and engaging in a war of words, it helps to sit back, take a deep breath, and consider the alternatives.  This doesn’t mean giving in.  It simply means not “taking the bait” and escalating an already volatile situation.  It means keeping your composure and calmly examining your options before reacting.  Most problems can be worked out when people are able to think clearly and rationally. 
It takes faith.
Statistics show that the vast majority of family law disputes are resolved out of court, before trial.  And following the divorce, most people will eventually settle into a time sharing routine that works for both the parents and the children.  If you can control the panicky emotions now, and make an effort to communicate respectfully with your ex (or soon-to-be ex), then you will be setting the stage for better communication in the future, and a healthier way of handling problems when they do arise.  Try to have a little faith that things will work out.
Here are ten tips for handling the stress and making sure that the children will enjoy the holidays:
1.         Allow yourself to grieve:
If this is your first holiday having to share the children, it doesn’t help to pretend that it isn’t difficult.  You can’t deny your emotions, but you can look for healthy ways to deal with them.  This might include talking to a friend or family member, finding some alone time, looking for a support group, or even seeking the help of a good therapist.
2.         Make time for social activities and exercise:
There will be times when you do not have the children over the holidays.  So, make the best of it.  Spend more time with friends and family.  Look for activities that you enjoy, and do them.  Take time to exercise — it will get your endorphins pumping and help you to feel good physically and mentally.
3.         Plan ahead:
Planning early for how time with the children will be shared during the holidays reduces the chances for miscommunication, and it allows you time to iron out potential problems before they occur. 
4.         Put the needs of the children first:
When putting together a time-share schedule, make sure to consider the age of the children, as well as their developmental and social needs.  The goal is for the children to be able to enjoy the holidays, and this takes precedence over the convenience of the parents.  For very young children, it may be necessary to set up short periods of time with each parent.  For older kids and teens, longer time periods with each parent (such as a week with one, followed by a week with the other, during the school break) may be the best alternative.
5.         Be flexible:
If there is one thing I’ve learned about the holidays, it is to “expect the unexpected.”  It happens every year:  A favorite aunt, uncle, or cousin decides to visit at the last minute; a kid gets sick; plans for a family dinner get changed to an earlier, or later, time, etc.  Despite our best planning, these things happen.  So, be willing to be flexible.  It will not only make the holiday more fun for the children, and reduce conflict between parents, but it will make things less stressful (and more enjoyable) for you.  
6.         Allow for open communication:
Lack of communication between children and a parent is a frequent cause of conflict during the holidays.  “I haven’t been able to speak to my kids for a week, and their mom won’t pick up the phone when I call.” — “Whenever Meagan calls me, I can hear her dad listening on the other line.” —  “My kids told me that my ex won’t let them talk to me on the phone.”   When children are in the home of a parent, they should be allowed to have reasonable telephone contact with the other parent, especially during the holidays.  This eases the children’s fears and shows them that their parents are willing to work together for their best interests. Problems can be avoided if the parents are willing to discuss this issue prior to the holidays and work out a reasonable schedule for phone calls – and, of course, it is important to be flexible.
7.         Don’t try to outdo the other parent:
There is sometimes a tendency for divorced parents to try to outdo each other during the holidays . . .  More fun.  Bigger gifts. Later bedtimes.  Less discipline . . .  Of course, this type of competition is understandable, but it is a trap.  Not only does it make life unnecessarily stressful for the parents, but it is certainly not in the best interests of the children.  Your children love you.  You don’t need to buy their affection.  If you want the kids to enjoy being with you, all you need to do is to give them your love and attention.
8.         Keep the children out of the middle of your dispute:
One sure way to ruin the holidays for your children is to make them feel as though they are in the middle of a battle between their parents.  Don’t make children choose.  Don’t complain to them about the other parent.  Don’t use them as messengers to communicate with your ex.  Don’t let them hear their parents arguing about issues involving them.  They are children, so let them be children.  They deserve to have a nice holiday and, as their parent, it’s up to you to make sure they do.
9.         Allow the children to love the other parent:
Children of divorce can feel torn.  They not only love each of their parents, but they often feel an allegiance and a responsibility to each.  The parents divorced each other, but they did not divorce the children.  Therefore, the children have a right to continue to love both parents after the divorce.  To deny them that right can lead to long term psychological problems.  You are the adult and it is up to you to let your kids know that, despite the divorce, it is ok for them to love the other parent.  You can do that by not badmouthing the other parent; by not interrogating the kids after visits; and by not putting them in the middle of your dispute.  Just taking these simple steps can help assure that your children will grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults, and that they will always look forward to the holidays with their family.      
10.       Start a new tradition:                                
One of the hardest things for parents to bear following a divorce is the loss of a beloved holiday tradition with their children.  So, start a new tradition: a party with family and friends; baking holiday goodies together; a fun trip; working with a charity.  The holidays are all about family, and giving.  You can sit down with your children and let them help choose a new activity that will become a beloved family tradition – something they will always remember.
Gary Frank is a Family Law attorney with more than thirty years of experience as a litigator, a mediator, a judge pro tempore, and a children’s advocate.  His practice includes divorce; custody; parenting time disputes; child support; spousal maintenance; actions to enforce and/or modify orders; grandparents’ and non-parents’ rights; move-away cases; division of property and debts; and all other matters pertaining to families and children.  We have offices around the Valley to better serve our clients.  If you would like a consultation, please do not hesitate to contact us by telephone at 602-383-3610; by email at gary.frank@azbar.org; or through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.

A MOVIE STARLET’S GREATEST SIN

Judy Lewis died of cancer last week, and the secret came spilling out.  She was the daughter of movie star Loretta Young and acting legend Clark Gable.  That was the secret, one which Loretta Young kept from the world — and even from her own daughter.
In the 1930’s Loretta Young and Clark Gable starred together in the movie “Call of the Wild.”  During the filming of that movie, the two had what would have been considered a lurid affair. Gable was married.  Young was a single woman and a devout Catholic.  When she discovered that she was pregnant, Young went to great lengths to hide the pregnancy in order to avoid a scandal.  A baby born out of wedlock to a Hollywood starlet would have been front-page news.
Loretta Young fled to Europe.  After the baby girl was born, she was kept sequestered with a nurse for months and then turned over to an orphanage.  When baby Judy turned two, she was adopted – by Loretta Young.  The child was never told that she was actually her mother’s biological daughter.  In fact, it was not until 1966, when Judy was 31 years old, that her mother divulged the secret to her — and Loretta Young insisted that her daughter keep quiet about her parentage.  By that time, Gable had died.  Twenty years later, during a heated argument between mother and daughter, Young threatened to sue Lewis if a book ever came out that revealed the truth.  The exchange ended with Young shouting, “Leave this house.  I never want to see you in my house again!”  
But Judy did write her memoir, which was finally published in 1994.  In it, she speaks of “all the years of hurt and abandonment, all the feelings of not belonging, of being an outsider in my own family, years of repressed emotions that couldn’t be contained any longer.”
While Loretta Young was alive, her daughter asked her if she would “ever acknowledge to the world that I am your child and that Clark Gable is my father?” 
The mother replied.  “No. I will never acknowledge what I consider a mortal sin – my mortal sin.”
But which was Loretta Young’s greatest sin?  A baby born out of wedlock – or thirty years of lying to, and deceiving, her own child?  
Gary Frank is an Arizona Family Law attorney with more than 30 years of experience in handling divorce, child custody, and all matters pertaining to children and families.  If you are in need of expert advice in the area of Family Law, please feel free to contact our office by phone at 602-383-3610; or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org; or you can reach us through our website at http://www.garyfranklaw.com/