BABY VERONICA – Did the Court Truly Consider the Best Interests of the Child?

The Indian Child Welfare Act, enacted in the 1970’s, was intended to protect Native American Children and their tribes. For decades, many Native American children were taken (some were literally stolen) from their parents and sent to Anglo families for adoption. (According to CNN, at one point, 30% of children on reservations were taken from their parents.) The Indian Child Welfare Act was meant to correct this horrible injustice, and others like it.

But in the 2012 case of Baby Veronica, this necessary and important law may have been applied unfairly. Veronica’s biological father abandoned the mother during the pregnancy. He did not attend the birth. He paid no support and made no effort to see the child after she was born. When Veronica turned four months old, he signed a waiver of his parental rights. However, two weeks later, he changed his mind and commenced legal action to have the child returned to him. This week, the South Carolina Supreme Court finally issued its ruling, requiring that Veronica be returned to the biological father.

Veronica is now two years old. She’s not a newborn baby, she is an intelligent little person. She was abandoned by her father, and voluntarily placed by her mother with an adoptive family who raised her with love and care. Now she is bonded with her adoptive parents. Yet, the Court required her to be handed to a stranger, who happens to be her biological father.  She was put in a car and driven away from the only family she has ever known, as if she were a puppy.

Did the South Carolina Supreme Court truly consider the “best interests” of this child? 

Gary Frank is an Arizona Family Law Attorney and a children’s advocate.  For many years, he represented children in child abuse and neglect cases in Superior Court.  He has been appointed to serve on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force.  He won a Maricopa County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyer of the Month Award for representing a child in a Family Court Custody Action and successfully petitioning to have the case transferred to Juvenile Court, where the child could be protected from her abusive parents.  Our law firm focuses on Family Law Matters, including Divorce, contested Custody matters, Parenting Time disputes, Relocation/move-away cases, Enforcement and Modification actions, Child and Spousal Support, Paternity/Maternity, Grandparent and Non-Parent rights, Mediation, and all other matters involving families and children.  If you are in need of a consultation to learn about your rights, please call us today at 602-383-3610; or contact us by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.  To learn more about our firm, check out our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’d be happy to help you.

Welcome

Welcome to my new blog.  In the days, weeks, and months to follow, I will be posting articles of interest; new laws handed down by the legislature; important cases decided by the Arizona Supreme Court and Court of Appeals; tips for clients and readers; and my thoughts on matters pertaining to Family Law in Arizona.  I hope you find this blog to be interesting and helpful.  Please let us know your thoughts.


Gary Frank


 Check out our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.

HELP SUPPORT “FOOTSTEPS FOR COREY”

Corey Vargas is a 21 year-old kid who was walking his dog in the desert outside of Phoenix, AZ and fell 30 feet into a dry riverbed.  He broke his back in several places and laid there, paralyzed and helpless, for three long days.

That Corey survived is a miracle.  He surely had a guardian angel watching over him (and sometimes guardian angels come in animal form).  It was his dog, Ace, who stayed by his side and kept him safe until he could be rescued.

Thankfully, Corey has his life back.  But now he is facing a new challenge — he is fighting to learn to walk again.  His medical bills are almost insurmountable.   His rehabilitation will be long and grueling, and will cost even more.  But Corey’s will to live, his positive attitude, and his determination to “make it all the way back” prove that anything is possible.

You can help.  Just by reading this post and sharing it with your friends, you will be making a difference in the lives of Corey and his devoted dog, Ace.

I’m supporting “Footsteps for Corey.”  I hope you will, too.
 

http://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/yb62/footstepsforcorey?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Share&utm_campaign=Isupport

OUR MISSION STATEMENT

Here is my personal mission statement:


I am a Family Law Attorney who cares about my clients.  I understand that my clients are in the midst of a difficult period in their lives.  And by accepting their case, I have made a commitment to be there for them — to help them, to advise them, to support them, and to fight for them.  I will tenaciously protect my clients’ interests by applying the legal knowledge, litigation and negotiation skills, and powers of persuasion that I have gained over my thirty-plus years of Family Law experience.  I will work with each client to creatively explore options for settling his or her dispute in a healthy, amicable, and inexpensive manner if possible.  These options may include the use of alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, settlement conferences, active negotiation, or collaborative divorce.  However, if a fair settlement cannot be achieved,  then I can be counted on to aggressively fight for my clients’ rights, utilizing the skills I have honed over many years as a courtroom litigator.  My goal is to protect my clients; to preserve their relationship with their children; to assure that they receive a fair division of assets; and to obtain the financial support they need to provide a secure future.   I will continue to be both a caring, compassionate attorney, and a fierce advocate for the best interests of my 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.  Mr. Frank’s experience includes acting 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.  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.

LEGAL CONSULTATIONS — WHAT TO EXPECT FROM AN INITIAL CONFERENCE AT OUR OFFICE

WHEN YOU COME IN for an initial conference at the Law Office of Gary J. Frank P.C., what you get is a real legal consultation. Not a short sales pitch, like you get from some other lawyers. In our first meeting, we will discuss your matter thoroughly and give you a solid understanding of your legal rights and how the court system works – and at the end of the meeting we’ll give you a “game-plan,” so that you will know what you can do to reach your goals.  Unlike most firms, our attorneys do not limit the initial consultation to one hour.  Instead, we will take as much time as is necessary to:

• Learn about your family history and the background facts of your matter;

• Obtain important information that can be used to help you with your case in court;

• Listen to your concerns and answer your questions;

• Talk to you about the law pertaining to your case;

• Explain your legal rights under the law;

• Discuss the court process – how it works, how long it takes, what documents must be filed; what information must be disclosed; what hearings are held, and how the judge will examine your dispute;

• Discuss options for peaceful resolution of your dispute outside of the court-system, such as Mediation, Conciliation Services Conferences, Settlement Conferences using a judge pro tem, round-table negotiations between the parties and their attorneys; and other healthy alternatives;

• Talk about legal fees and a range of how much your matter might cost; and

• We’ll give you a “game plan” tailored to your needs and the specific facts of your matter.  The “game plan” is our recommendations and advice regarding what must be done in your case and the steps that you can take to reach your goals.

An initial conference with an attorney is a critical step in the process of finding a solution to your problem. This is where you begin, for the first time, to put together a “road map” of where you want to go and how to get there.

By the time you leave our office after your first consultation, you should have a much better understanding of your legal rights; of how the court process works; of what your options are; and of what you will need to do to reach your goals and resolve your problem.  Many people walk into our office timid and afraid, and leave armed with knowledge and a sense of renewed confidence.

If you are in need of a legal consultation regarding a divorcecustody, or other family law matter, please check out our web site: http://www.garyfranklaw.com/ .  And do not hesitate to call us at 602-383-3610 or contact us by email.   We look forward to meeting you, and we’re happy to help.

Sincerely,

Gary Frank & Hanna Juncaj

How Spousal Maintenance is Determined in Arizona

Spousal Maintenance, known in many other states as “Alimony,” is the grayest of gray areas in Arizona Family Law.

Determining whether to award spousal maintenance is a matter of judicial discretion.  This means that it is up to the judge to decide whether an award of spousal maintenance would be appropriate, based on an examination of the facts of your particular case.  The amount and length of the spousal maintenance award is also determined by the judge.  An award of spousal maintenance may be granted in favor of either spouse, depending on whether it is the Husband or the Wife who is in need of support.

In making her/his decision, the judge will consider the factors listed in Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25-319(A).  Factors in that section include the length of the marriage; the age of the spouse seeking spousal support; whether that spouse is able to be self-sufficient through employment; whether she/he has sufficient property to provide for her/his reasonable needs; and whether she/he is caring for a child whose age or condition makes it difficult or impossible to work.  If the judge determines that one or more of the above factors applies, then spousal maintenance may be awarded.

But there is another important part of the equation —  How much should be paid in spousal maintenance?  . . . And for how long?

For the answer to these questions, the judge turns to section B of the statute.  The problem is that there is nothing in Section B that specifically tells the Court the amount, or the duration, of a spousal maintenance award.  Instead, there is a second list of factors for the judge to consider in making his or her decision.  Here are the factors:

1.      The standard of living established during the marriage;

2.      The duration of the marriage;

3.      The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;

4.      The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouses’ needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;

5.      The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market;

6.      The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse; 

7.      The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse;

8.      The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children;

9.      The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently;

10.    The time necessary to acquire sufficient education  or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available;

11.    Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common;

12.    The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved;

13.    All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim.

As you can see, there is absolutely nothing in the statute that tells the judge how much the spousal maintenance payment should be — or for how long it should be paid.  Unlike child support decisions where the Court has a set of guidelines that can be used to determine the monthly support amount, there is no set of guidelines for the determination and calculation of spousal maintenance.  Therefore, the final result will depend on how each judge views the facts, and how he or she applies the statutory factors.  This leaves the door open for wide variations in spousal maintenance awards.    

The bottom line is this:  It is important for a person seeking spousal maintenance to present a solid case using a “needs-based” analysis.  Thorough preparation, good organization, and a persuasive presentation will give you the best chance for success.  This is one area of law where a strong, experienced attorney can make an enormous difference.

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

IMMIGRATION – THE TIMES HAVE CHANGED BUT THE ISSUES REMAIN THE SAME

From 1981 to 1984 I represented a Guatemalan refugee and her two children in an attempt to help them gain political asylum. I am a Family Law Attorney — I don’t practice Immigration Law.  But this woman needed my help.  A member of her family had been killed by a government-backed “Death Squad” before her eyes.  She was then targeted as a “subversive” because of her association with him, and for being a member of a bible study group (Indians, poor farmers, and Catholics were all considered to be subversives. In fact, priests and nuns were among those murdered by the death squads.) 
Bands of armed-rebels roamed the Guatemalan hills. Their objective was to overthrow the government. But the rebels were killing innocent people, too, and kidnapping for ransom — much like the gangs that are running rampant in Central America today. For months after the death of her brother-in-law, my client was forced to hide in caves in the mountains, and sneak into town to pick food out of garbage cans so her children could survive. When the time was right, this brave woman fled. Carrying a two year-old toddler and a nineteen day-old baby, she made the dangerous trek through Mexico and across the U.S. border. However, it was not long before she was caught, and deportation proceedings began. 
I tried to find an attorney who would handle this woman’s case, but nobody I talked to was able or willing to help.  They said it was hopeless.  So, I took on her case myself.  After three long years of litigation, and over $100,000 in free legal services, I finally prevailed, and my client was allowed to remain in the U.S. with her children. We didn’t win our case for asylum (at the time, the U.S. was backing the governments of Guatemala and El Salvador, making a political asylum case almost impossible to prove). But we prevailed because I was able to keep my client here on appeal long enough for the winds of public opinion to shift. The President ultimately granted amnesty to undocumented workers who could prove that they had been in the U.S. for (I think it was) seven years. Anti-immigrant sentiment was rampant then, as it is now, but intense and unremitting pressure from both the sanctuary movement, and the business community, resulted in the grant of amnesty. The bottom line was that our economy needed those undocumented workers. Ironically, the President who granted amnesty to the “illegal aliens” was Ronald Reagan – a Republican.
BUT HERE’S THE BEST PART — The day I told my client that we had won and she and her children could stay in the U.S. . . . was the same day my wife surprised me with the news that she was pregnant with our first child!