What You Post on Social Media CAN Hurt You In a Family Law Case

These days, most teens and adults have at least one social media page, whether it be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, LinkedIn, or some other platform. Since so many adults have social media accounts, many attorneys have witnessed mistakes that have been made on social media which negatively impacted their family law case. In fact, we have won cases for our clients simply because of what an opposing party, in a moment of anger, posted on their social media.

You may wonder how what you post online can have a negative impact on your divorce or custody case. I’ll give you a few examples, some of which are based off of real cases that our firm has handled in the past:

  • In a spousal maintenance case, a husband claimed to be earning very little income, yet he posted on Match.com that he earned over $150,000 per year. This post was then used against him to show that he made more than he originally said he did.

 

  • In a custody case, a mother who denied doing drugs and partying was posting photos on Instagram in which she was at bars and nightclubs holding bottles of alcohol with others doing drugs in the background. This was then used against her in court when determining parenting time and legal decision making.

 

  • In a divorce case that started off amicably, a husband ranted on Facebook about his soon to be ex-wife after a heated argument. A mutual friend screenshotted the post and sent it to the wife, who became enraged and decided she no longer wanted to be amicable. This led to a litigation that went on for years and cost a great deal of money for both parties.

 

  • A mother posted photographs on Instagram of herself and her young daughter with Mother’s new boyfriend. An investigation turned up that the man had a long criminal record, including convictions for domestic violence and child abuse. Needless to say, the mother lost custody of that child.

 

  • In a high-conflict custody matter, an angry father made threats against the mother on his Facebook page, which resulted in the Court awarding mother sole custody with only limited supervised visitation for Father.

 

If you are active on social media, it’s important to learn the best practices while going through a family law case. Here are some important tips:

  1. Be careful who you add and accept on social media. We all want to have lots of friends and followers on social media, but some of these “friends” can hurt you. That follow-request that you accepted, despite not really knowing who they are, could be a private investigator or your ex on a burner account trying to see your posts. Consider making your accounts private and be careful whose requests you accept.
  2. Remove your ex from your social media page and consider removing their family and friends too. It is not uncommon for one of these types of “friends” or followers to pass along a copy of your comments or photos, and before you even suspect it, that post shows up in court and is used as evidence against you at trial. These types of “friends” or followers are often the ones who are looking into everything you say or do on social media and trying to find something damaging to your case.
  3. Don’t post when you are angry. Nothing good can come from posting while you are angry. Try and channel your anger into something positive, or vent to family, friends, or a mental health specialist. If you are concerned that you can’t control your posts when you are angry, it may be wise to take a break from social media until your case is over.
  4. Do not talk badly about your ex or their family and friends. It’s easy sometimes in the heat of the moment to post something negative about your ex. It may not even be something that is obviously towards them but could be something subtle and passive aggressive. These comments could be taken out of context, or otherwise used against you in a court hearing. No matter how subtle you think the message may be, it is never a good idea to post things about your ex or their family and friends.
  5. Do not talk badly about yourself, your family or friends, or provide information that could possibly be reflect negatively on you. Just as you shouldn’t post about your ex and their family and friends, you shouldn’t post about yourself and your family and friends either. Again, things can be misconstrued. I recently saw an old friend post something on Twitter to the effect of “the last year has taught me that nobody hates me more than I hate me.” If they were in a family law case, this post would absolutely be used against them, even if they were just joking and did not actually mean what they wrote.
  6. Do not post comments or photos of yourself, your family, or your friends doing anything illegal or which may appear to be illegal, inappropriate, or compromising. This pretty much speaks for itself, but don’t post anything that would very clearly negatively reflect on you, your family, or your friends. There is just no need to post the pictures of you at your office holiday party taking tequila shots with your boss. Keep those for yourself—or maybe don’t take those pictures at all.
  7. Do not post about your children. If you have kids, it’s best to keep them off of your social media pages altogether at this time. Of course, you should continue to share special moments and take photos with your kids. However, it may be beneficial to take a break from posting about them on social media until your case is over. While photos of you and your kids or posts about them may be totally acceptable at any other time, while there is a case going on, you are under a microscope. Certain photos could be misinterpreted or there could be something in them you don’t even notice that could be used to call your parenting into question. The same goes for the stories you tell or comments you make about your kids—you just never know how something may be interpreted.
  8. Do not post about your income, or really anything about money, at all. There is nothing good that can come from writing about your income or your money on social media! It’s really as simple as that!
  9. Do not discuss your case publicly on social media. Again, nothing good can come from posting about your case publicly on social media. It will not look good for you with the judge, and as always, something may be misinterpreted or taken the wrong way by your ex or their lawyer.
  10. Do not post information about conversations with your attorney. This could be construed as a waiver of your attorney-client privilege, making admissible things that were said in confidence to your lawyer. Just don’t do it!

Social media can be a really fun part of our lives. But as you can see, it can significantly impact many areas of a family law case in a negative way. As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t want a judge or your ex’s attorney seeing the post or photo, don’t post it! And if you are questioning whether you’d be okay with them seeing the post or photo, just don’t post it!

By Logan Matura

 

At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., our Arizona Family Law Attorneys Gary Frank, Hanna Amar, and Logan Matura are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Phoenix Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator. He has also acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and served on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Law firm Partner, Hanna Amar is a highly-skilled Arizona Family Law Attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna has also acted as the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association. Associate Attorney Logan Matura is an Arizona Family Law Attorney who received her Juris Doctor degree from New York Law School in Manhattan, NY. While in law school, she served as an intern for a Family Court judge in the Bronx, NY, and was a member of the Family Attorneys Mobilizing club. Our firm handles Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification actions, enforcement actions, grandparent and step-parent and non-parent rights, as well as other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

 

ARIZONA’S PRESUMPTION OF EQUAL PARENTING TIME

Is Arizona’s presumption of equal or near-equal parenting time in the best interests of children? We think not.

Several years ago, revisions were made to certain Arizona Family Law statutes that guide the Court in making custody decisions involving children. These revisions have had a tremendous impact on how the Court determines custody, and in our opinion, it is not a positive one. The changes have resulted in Arizona now having what is essentially a legal presumption of equal decision-making and parenting time in every case that comes before the court. We believe this approach hurts children significantly more than it helps them. It is also unfair to both mothers and fathers.

When the Arizona Family Law statutes were revised, the following changes, among others, were made:

  • The word “custody” was replaced with the terms “Legal Decision-Making” and “Parenting Time.” (A.R.S. §25-403)
  • A provision was added providing that the court shall adopt a parenting plan “that provides for both parents to share legal decision-making regarding their child and that maximizes their respective parenting time.” (A.R.S. §25-403.02)
  • The provision which, in determining custody, had previously required the Court to consider which parent had historically been the child’s primary caregiver, was removed, and replaced with a requirement for judges to consider: “the past, present, and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.” (A.R.S. §25-403[1])

On its face, the changes made might seem positive. It is absolutely true that children are more successful when both of their parents are loving, active, and involved. When a divorce or breakup occurs, the courts should work to make sure that loving, active, and involved parents share in decision-making, and that the children get to spend plenty of time with both of them. However, not all parents are loving, active, and involved, and unfortunately that is something the changes in the statutes failed to sufficiently address.

Since the changes were enacted, there has been a significant shift in the way decisions are made regarding legal decision-making authority and parenting time. Arizona Family Court judges do their very best to assure that the interests of children are protected, however, a judge is required to apply the law as it is written by the legislature and interpreted by the higher courts. In 2019 Woyton v. Ward, the Court of Appeals ruled that it was an error for the trial court to designate Mother as the primary residential parent of the child based on her historical role as the child’s primary caregiver. The court stated that “As a general rule equal or near-equal parenting time is presumed to be in the child’s best interests. Thus, the court errs, as a matter of law, when it applies a presumption against equal parenting time.”

This ruling was troubling, as it solidified the idea that there is a legal presumption of equal parenting time. If a presumption against equal parenting is wrong, why wouldn’t a presumption for equal parenting time be just as wrong? In our opinion, there should be no such presumption. The problem with a legal presumption is that it can only be rebutted by “clear and convincing evidence.” Proving a matter by clear and convincing evidence can be mountain to climb. As mentioned earlier, not all parents are created equal. Awarding parenting time based on a mere presumption, when one of the parents may not be nearly as nurturing, capable, or involved as the other is a serious mistake that can harm a child in the long run.

Although the ruling in the Woyton case was rather harsh, another Court of Appeals case published just this year, Gonzalez-Gunter v. Gunter, may ameliorate the presumption of equal parenting time to some degree. In that case, the Court affirmed that “as a general rule equal or near-equal parenting time is presumed to be in a child’s best interest,” but it then went on to state that: “The Family Court, however, has discretion to determine parenting time based on all the evidence before it.” The Court, in Gonzalez, explained that although judges may be limited on the conditions they can place on how a parent may exercise their parenting time (like ordering supervised visitation, for example), they are not limited in their right to unevenly allocate the amount of one parent’s parenting time, if necessary. In other words, judges are not required to order equal decision-making authority and parenting time if the parents are not equal in their ability to care for the child. But some judges still do.

The Gonzalez-Gunter case is an important departure from the ruling in the Woyton case. However, in many family law cases, the the distinction addressed in Gonzalez is being ignored and the courts are awarding equal parenting time, even where the parents are not equally competent, caring, and nurturing. This may be due to way some judges view the statutory requirement to consider the “potential” of the parent who has not provided equal care. But it can render the important “Best Interests of the Child” standard essentially a meaningless catchphrase. For now, it appears that that parents’ rights too often trump children’s rights in Arizona Family Court.

In addition to the fact that we do not believe equal parenting time should be a legal presumption, we also believe that a greater emphasis should be placed who has provided primary care of the child than on “the … potential future relationship between the parent and the child.” It is true that when a divorce occurs, a parent who may have been the a stay-at-home mom or dad will probably have to work, and the other parent will have to take on more responsibility with the children. However, the problem with focusing on the potential future relationship is that every relationship has the “potential” to be great, but many don’t turn out that way. Similarly, every uninvolved parent has the potential to change and become more involved, but it doesn’t mean that they will. The best predictor of a future relationship is past history, so emphasizing potential over the actual history of the relationship, or even giving it equal weight, can be a huge mistake. Ultimately, when a father or mother is awarded equal parenting-time and never lives up to their potential, it is the children who will truly suffer the consequences.

In our opinion, a parent’s potential should be one of the factors the judge considers in determining what is in the best interest of the child(ren), but we believe it was wrong for the Arizona Legislature to remove “which parent has been the primary caregiver of the child” from the list of factors in A.R.S. §25-403. Doing so indicates that the change to the statute may have been more political than really about children and their best interests.

The care of children is too important to make broad assumptions, let alone instituting legal presumptions regarding decision-making and parenting time. In the real world, parents are not always equal caregivers. Sometimes the mother is the more responsible parent; sometimes it is the father who is the nurturer and is in a better position to provide for the children’s needs; and in many cases both parents are loving, capable caregivers who are willing and able to co-parent their children (which is obviously the best scenario). This is why each case should be decided on its own merits.

We believe that the Court should start with a blank slate in determining the child(ren)’s needs and which parent is better equipped to provide for those needs. If both parents are equally equipped, then there should be an award of equal parenting time and decision-making. However, where the best interests of the child would be served by one of the parents being given the majority of the decision-making authority and/or parenting time, then the Court should be able to make that ruling without having to overcome a presumption. The needs of the child should always come first.

By Gary Frank & Logan Matura

 

At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., Gary Frank, Hanna Amar, and Logan Matura are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator. He has also acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and served on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Law firm Partner, Hanna Amar is a highly-skilled attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna has also acted as the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association. Associate Attorney Logan Matura received her Juris Doctor degree from New York Law School in Manhattan, NY. While in law school, she served as an intern for a Family Court judge in the Bronx, NY, and was a member of the Family Attorneys Mobilizing club. Our firm handles Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification actions, enforcement actions, grandparent and step-parent and non-parent rights, as well as other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

A PRESUMPTION OF EQUAL PARENTING TIME HURTS CHILDREN

Is Arizona’s presumption of equal or near-equal parenting time in the best interests of children? We think not.

Several years ago, revisions were made to certain Arizona Family Law statutes that guide the Court in making custody decisions involving children. These revisions have had a tremendous impact on how the Court determines custody, and in our opinion, it is not a positive one. The changes have resulted in Arizona now having what is essentially a legal presumption of equal decision-making and parenting time in every case that comes before the court. We believe this approach hurts children significantly more than it helps them. It is also unfair to both mothers and fathers.

When the Arizona Family Law statutes were revised, the following changes, among others, were made:

  • The word “custody” was replaced with the terms “Legal Decision-Making” and “Parenting Time.” (A.R.S. §25-403)
  • A provision was added providing that the court shall adopt a parenting plan “that provides for both parents to share legal decision-making regarding their child and that maximizes their respective parenting time.” (A.R.S. §25-403.02)
  • The provision which, in determining custody, had previously required the Court to consider which parent had historically been the child’s primary caregiver, was removed, and replaced with a requirement for judges to consider: “the past, present, and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.” (A.R.S. §25-403[1])

On its face, the changes made might seem positive. It is absolutely true that children are more successful when both of their parents are loving, active, and involved. When a divorce or breakup occurs, the courts should work to make sure that loving, active, and involved parents share in decision-making, and that the children get to spend plenty of time with both of them. However, not all parents are loving, active, and involved, and unfortunately that is something the changes in the statutes failed to sufficiently address.

Since the changes were enacted, there has been a significant shift in the way decisions are made regarding legal decision-making authority and parenting time. Arizona Family Court judges do their very best to assure that the interests of children are protected, however, a judge is required to apply the law as it is written by the legislature and interpreted by the higher courts. In 2019 Woyton v. Ward, the Court of Appeals ruled that it was an error for the trial court to designate Mother as the primary residential parent of the child based on her historical role as the child’s primary caregiver. The court stated that “As a general rule equal or near-equal parenting time is presumed to be in the child’s best interests. Thus, the court errs, as a matter of law, when it applies a presumption against equal parenting time.”

This ruling was troubling, as it solidified the idea that there is a legal presumption of equal parenting time. If a presumption against equal parenting is wrong, why wouldn’t a presumption for equal parenting time be just as wrong? In our opinion, there should be no such presumption. The problem with a legal presumption is that it can only be rebutted by “clear and convincing evidence.” Proving a matter by clear and convincing evidence can be mountain to climb. As mentioned earlier, not all parents are created equal. Awarding parenting time based on a mere presumption, when one of the parents may not be nearly as nurturing, capable, or involved as the other is a serious mistake that can harm a child in the long run.

Although the ruling in the Woyton case was rather harsh, another Court of Appeals case published just this year, Gonzalez-Gunter v. Gunter, may ameliorate the presumption of equal parenting time to some degree. In that case, the Court affirmed that “as a general rule equal or near-equal parenting time is presumed to be in a child’s best interest,” but it then went on to state that: “The Family Court, however, has discretion to determine parenting time based on all the evidence before it.” The Court, in Gonzalez, explained that although judges may be limited on the conditions they can place on how a parent may exercise their parenting time (like ordering supervised visitation, for example), they are not limited in their right to unevenly allocate the amount of one parent’s parenting time, if necessary. In other words, judges are not required to order equal decision-making authority and parenting time if the parents are not equal in their ability to care for the child. But some judges still do.

The Gonzalez-Gunter case is an important departure from the ruling in the Woyton case. However, in many family law cases, the the distinction addressed in Gonzalez is being ignored and the courts are awarding equal parenting time, even where the parents are not equally competent, caring, and nurturing. This may be due to way some judges view the statutory requirement to consider the “potential” of the parent who has not provided equal care. But it can render the important “Best Interests of the Child” standard essentially a meaningless catchphrase. For now, it appears that that parents’ rights too often trump children’s rights in Arizona Family Court.

In addition to the fact that we do not believe equal parenting time should be a legal presumption, we also believe that a greater emphasis should be placed who has provided primary care of the child than on “the … potential future relationship between the parent and the child.” It is true that when a divorce occurs, a parent who may have been the a stay-at-home mom or dad will probably have to work, and the other parent will have to take on more responsibility with the children. However, the problem with focusing on the potential future relationship is that every relationship has the “potential” to be great, but many don’t turn out that way. Similarly, every uninvolved parent has the potential to change and become more involved, but it doesn’t mean that they will. The best predictor of a future relationship is past history, so emphasizing potential over the actual history of the relationship, or even giving it equal weight, can be a huge mistake. Ultimately, when a father or mother is awarded equal parenting-time and never lives up to their potential, it is the children who will truly suffer the consequences.

In our opinion, a parent’s potential should be one of the factors the judge considers in determining what is in the best interest of the child(ren), but we believe it was a serious mistake for the Arizona Legislature to remove “which parent has been the primary caregiver of the child” from the list of factors in A.R.S. §25-403. Doing so indicates that the change to the statute may have been more political than really about children and their best interests.

The care of children is too important to make broad assumptions, let alone instituting legal presumptions regarding decision-making and parenting time. In the real world, parents are not always equal caregivers. Sometimes the mother is the more responsible parent; sometimes it is the father who is the nurturer and is in a better position to provide for the children’s needs; and in many cases both parents are loving, capable caregivers who are willing and able to co-parent their children (which is obviously the best scenario). This is why each case should be decided on its own merits.

We believe that the Court should start with a blank slate in determining the child(ren)’s needs and which parent is better equipped to provide for those needs. If both parents are equally equipped, then there should be an award of equal parenting time and decision-making. However, where the best interests of the child would be served by one of the parents being given the majority of the decision-making authority and/or parenting time, then the Court should be able to make that ruling without having to overcome a presumption. The needs of the child should always come first.

By Gary Frank & Logan Matura

 

At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., Gary Frank, Hanna Amar, and Logan Matura are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator. He has also acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and served on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Law firm Partner, Hanna Amar is a highly-skilled attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna has also acted as the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association. Associate Attorney Logan Matura received her Juris Doctor degree from New York Law School in Manhattan, NY. While in law school, she served as an intern for a Family Court judge in the Bronx, NY, and was a member of the Family Attorneys Mobilizing club. Our firm handles Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification actions, enforcement actions, grandparent and step-parent and non-parent rights, as well as other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

 

HOW TO SURVIVE THE HOLIDAY SEASON IN THE MIDST OF DIVORCE

The holiday season is supposed to be filled with joy, celebrations, and traditions. However, for those going through a divorce, it can be a dreaded time, filled with emotional pain, stress, and loneliness. And unfortunately, there is virtually no way to avoid being exposed to the constant ads, TV shows, billboards, and messages that highlight this “most wonderful time of the year,” making it all the more difficult. While going through a divorce during the holidays may, and likely will, be difficult, there are absolutely things you can do to lessen the emotional pain.

Give Yourself Room to Grieve

Going through a divorce is often compared to grieving a death. In many ways, the two are very similar. A good first step to take is to give yourself permission to grieve. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, or however you may feel. Don’t try to push these feelings away. You are entitled to be emotional!

Give yourself some time and space to work through these feelings. To help get through these feelings, you may want to start journaling, working with a therapist, or simply venting to a trusted confidant who can offer support. You will get through it, and you will be okay. 

Focus on Doing What’s Good for You

While the holidays can be super busy and stressful, be sure to make time this holiday season to take care of your physical, mental and emotional health

The holiday season typically coincides with cold and flu season, and this year, COVID-19 cases are on the rise too. This, along with the stress of going through a divorce, can run you down and make you more susceptible to catching something. Be sure to take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, adequate exercise, and good nutrition (while of course enjoying some holiday treats)!

Mentally and emotionally, the holidays can be rough during a divorce, especially this year, when many are unable to be with friends and family. Make sure to take some time to do something for yourself, however you see fit. Maybe that means having a spa day at home, going for a long hike, or binge watching that popular Netflix show you’ve been dying to watch. Whatever self-care means to you, do it! If you feel good, you will be more likely to enjoy the holidays and bring more holiday cheer to others as well.

Surround Yourself with Support

 It can be tempting to crawl under the blanket and spend your first holiday without your ex sad and alone. There’s no reason to do that, though, and you are only punishing yourself. That’s not to say you can’t spend some holiday time alone, but don’t spend it all that way, if possible.

It is so important during the holiday times to surround yourself with supportive friends and family, especially while going through a difficult divorce. This year, it may be difficult to surround yourself with people in person, but even if it’s over FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype, it will help!

Spending time with family and friends can be a great distraction and can often help pull you out of a funk. And if you need a little extra help to get your holidays feeling merrier, be sure to ask for it—don’t wait for someone to guess what you need.

Identify Your Triggers

 When you are facing the holidays alone after divorce, it is crucial to try and identify what may trigger you, sending you into a sad, depressed, or hopeless state. And once you determine what that trigger is, try and avoid it! For example, if watching a specific holiday movie reminds you of your ex, don’t watch it! There are hundreds of other movies to choose from. If seeing cheery holiday TV advertisements brings up feelings of resentment, read a book instead (or, if you really want to watch TV, just mute it or turn it off during commercials).

Give yourself permission to avoid whatever it is you need to avoid, and don’t feel guilty for doing so. You need to do what’s best for you!

 Make New Traditions for Yourself

 With divorce comes so many changes. Some of these changes are uncomfortable, but some of these changes are good, and may perhaps even be fun. Be open to changing past traditions and/or adding some new ones. Any past traditions that were once wonderful, but now bring up negative emotions, can be done away with and replaced by new and exciting activities. Try and figure out what new tradition you can introduce this holiday season to keep things light, happy, and fun.

Also, consider buying yourself a holiday gift. Odds are, you won’t be exchanging gifts with your ex this year. Since your gift giving list has decreased by at least one, why not add yourself to the list? If you do, you’ll be able to buy yourself something that you know you will truly enjoy this holiday season.

Look for the Lesson Hold on to Hope

I recently read an article that analogized divorce to a great movie. It explained how in a movie, there are elements of suspense, sadness, joy, pain, and anticipation before the happy ending. The author explained that this is similar to divorce. There will be good times and bad, and while things may look down when you’re in the midst of it, eventually things will get better. It’s so true!

Another way that divorces and movies are similar is that they both have a lesson you may not figure out until the end. While it may be difficult, try and find the lesson through your grief. Try and figure out what you can learn through this painful time, and how you can grow from it. Figure out how you can change your outlook and think beyond your current situation.

Find the positives in this difficult situation, and really just in life. Remember what you have to be grateful for and strive to make each day great in whatever way you can. Before you know it, this difficult time in your life will be over, and you will find your happy ending.

By Logan Matura

 

 

At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., Gary Frank, Hanna Amar, and Logan Matura are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator. He has also acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and served on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Law firm Partner, Hanna Amar ,is a highly-skilled attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna has also acted as the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association. Associate Attorney Logan Matura received her Juris Doctor degree from New York Law School in Manhatten, NY. While in law school, she served as an intern for a Family Court judge in the Bronx, NY, and was a member of the Family Attorneys Mobilizing club. Our firm handles Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification actions, enforcement actions, grandparent and step-parent and non-parent rights, as well as other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

Five Tips for Co-Parenting During a Pandemic

For just about 10 months now, we have been living through unprecedented times. Most businesses are still closed or operating with restrictions, some schools are still remote, and life overall really hasn’t gone back to “normal,” as many expected it would have by now.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many families have discovered that previously stable arrangements may not be able to withstand the stresses created by these changes. Divorce rates have skyrocketed. And for previously divorced families whose co-parenting and custody arrangements were already contentious, these changes may be intensifying conflicts and creating new ones.

While a crisis like this can certainly be stressful, it can also be a good time for both parents to overcome their differences and work together. Here are some tips for co-parenting during a pandemic:

  1. Stay Informed and In Touch

Because there is so much uncertainty that comes with a pandemic, it’s crucial that both parents stay informed. Parents should periodically check official state and local websites, making sure that they are up to date on COVID-19 guidelines. Parents should also check their child’s school website frequently, taking note of any closures or schedule changes that may be happening.

It’s also essential that both parents keep communication open as much as possible throughout the pandemic. Parents are understandably nervous for the health and safety of themselves and their child. Keeping the other parent in-the-loop and answering their calls, texts, or emails in a timely manner can help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety. If you or your child are feeling sick, or if you think you or your child may have been exposed to COVID-19, be up front with the other parent and let them know immediately.

  1. Follow Your Parenting Plan and Talk Through Possible Schedule Changes

Parents should continue to comply with existing parenting time orders as much as possible. Failure to comply with court-ordered parenting time may lead to being held in contempt of court.

In certain circumstances, however, it may not be possible or realistic to comply with existing parenting time orders. Perhaps one parent lives in another state, has a compromised immune system, or is an essential worker. Maybe one parent is actually sick with COVID-19 or has been exposed to the virus. In circumstances like those, it may be in the best interest of your child to be flexible and renegotiate custody and visitation schedules.

Parents should use common sense to navigate these difficult circumstances. While the idea of seeing your child less may be upsetting, understand that the pandemic will not last forever. It’s okay to make modifications to your parenting plan in times of crisis to do what’s best for your child.

If parents need to temporarily make changes to their visitation schedule for whatever reason, consider using technology to maintain communication and interaction between the parent and child as much as possible. Emails and text messages are quick and efficient, and there are even court-approved apps (such as ourfamilywizard.com) that make communication between parents easier and less contentious. Parents should also try to agree on a make-up schedule for lost in-person parenting time.

If parenting time hasn’t changed for your family, consider creating a backup plan in case it needs to. Talk about what would happen in the event one parent gets sick or is exposed; the child gets sick or is exposed; school closes again; etc. This way, if something happens, you’ll already have a plan.

  1. Talk to Your Child

Check in with your child! They are living through intense periods of change and uncertainty, and that can be really difficult for them. Be there for them. Understand that there are varied ways children deal with stress and anxiety. Listen to their concerns and be supportive and empathetic. Make sure not to give them too much information about court cases or parental disputes. And be careful not to bad mouth the other parent to your children. They need permission to love you both.

Now is the time to try to be the best parent you can under the circumstances. Reassure your child that we will get through this, that some changes are only temporary, and most importantly, that they are loved and cared for.

  1. Take Care of You

Co-parenting during a pandemic can be exhausting. While you probably feel like you are focusing most of your attention on your child’s needs, don’t forget to practice a little self-care. Take a little time for yourself each day, even if it’s just a few minutes to meditate, do yoga, or take a bath.

Get help if you need it. If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, consider counseling or therapy. Support from a mental health professional can really help. Working these issues out can allow parents to better care for their families.

Most importantly, be compassionate with yourself. You are human and you are living through unprecedented times. It can certainly be hard at times, but you can and will get through it.

  1. Figure Out What Works Best for You!

“Different strokes for different folks,” as they say! There is no correct way to co-parent during a pandemic. Work with your ex to figure out what works best for you both, and your child. This pandemic is a perfect opportunity for co-parents to come together and make decisions in the best interest of the child they both love.

By: Logan Matura

 

 

At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., Gary Frank, Hanna Amar, and Logan Matura are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator. He has also acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and served on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Law firm Partner, Hanna Amar ,is a highly-skilled attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna has also acted as the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association. Associate Attorney Logan Matura received her Juris Doctor degree from New York Law School in Manhatten, NY. While in law school, she served as an intern for a Family Court judge in the Bronx, NY, and was a member of the Family Attorneys Mobilizing club. Our firm handles Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification actions, enforcement actions, grandparent and step-parent and non-parent rights, as well as other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

THE AMAZING POWER OF EMPATHY

          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 they do, and why their reality is so different from mine.  When I take that approach, I am usually able to comprehend their logic or at least catch a glimpse of where that person is coming from, even if I don’t agree with their reasoning or conclusions.
          Unfortunately, many people are unwilling or unable to see a problem through another person’s eyes.  And in today’s political environment, empathy and compassion are often considered a liability. Why? Maybe people are afraid that trying to understand another’s point of view will somehow be seen as a tacit admission that the 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 a minimal concession or a reasonable compromise only assures that competing parties will never be able to bridge the gap and resolve their differences.  It heightens the conflict and 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?” or “How can I protect the assets that I’ve worked my whole life to accumulate?”  It can feel as though the ground beneath them has fallen away and they have nothing to hold onto.  Fear grips them.  And eventually their fear morphs into anger.  They run out and look for the meanest, most aggressive attorney they can find.  But they soon learn that the divorce litigation, which is an adversarial process to begin with, has only increased their fear and inflamed their anger.
          With this mindset, it is hard to make concessions or compromises.  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, could allow you to resolve your dispute amicably, and save thousands of dollars in the process.
          A father going through a divorce might be afraid that the mother is trying to take his children away 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 state of mind, which may result in finding a solution that allows you to meet their needs without compromising your own.

 

 

At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., both Gary Frank and attorney Hanna Amar are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator. He has also acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and served on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Hanna Amar is a highly-skilled attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna has also acted as the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association.  We handle Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification actions, enforcement actions, grandparent and step-parent and non-parent rights, as well as other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

 

FROZEN EMBRYOS & DIVORCE

Early this year, headlines circulated in Arizona, and even made national news, when a woman tried to use her frozen embryos after she and her husband got divorced. For Ruby Torres, her journey to becoming a mother was stopped short when the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that she could not use the frozen embryos without the permission of her ex-husband.

A new issue for the Court to consider in the modern era of technology, the story began in 2014 when Ruby Torres was diagnosed with cancer, requiring treatment that could cause infertility. She and her then boyfriend John Terrell decided to enhance their chances of becoming parents in the future by fertilizing her eggs and freezing the embryos using a process called cryopreserving, with future plans for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Both Torres and Terrell signed consent forms and an agreement that contractually bound them to the rules commonly attached to the process and procedure. The contract had options if the couple did not wish to use the embryos in the future. The couple could (1) discard the embryos, (2) donate the embryos to another couple, or (3) allow one partner to use the embryos with the permission of the other. This is what came to be the continuous battle in court.

In 2017, the couple separated and legally filed for divorce. The embryos were still frozen and viable. Torres wanted to become a mom, and after her cancer treatments, using IVF would give her the best chance. But Terrell did not want to father any children with his now ex-wife. After conflicting rulings in the trial court and the appellate court, the Supreme Court attempted to navigate these unfamiliar waters with grace and fairness, dually noting the conflicting personal and private issues that were now in their hands.

Ultimately, the court decided that since the contract was valid and enforceable and Terrell had not given permission, the fertilized eggs could not be used by Torres, and that they should be donated to another couple. The Court explained that Terrell’s right not to be forced to become a parent outweighs Torres’ right to procreate.

This complicated case triggered a new law in Arizona that allows a former spouse to use the embryos even if their partner objects, as long as he or she doesn’t require the ex-spouse to pay child support or take other parental responsibilities. Like with any other contract or big life decision, it may be wise to contact an attorney to help understand all of the ins-and-outs of what you and your spouse are signing up for.

Citing: Terrell v. Torres, 456 P.3d 13 (Ariz. 2020)

By: Maddison Koper

 

At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., both Gary Frank and attorney Hanna Amar are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator. He has also acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and served on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Hanna Amar is a highly-skilled attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna has also acted as the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association.  We handle Family Law cases in the areas of , custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification actions, enforcement actions, grandparent and step-parent and non-parent rights, as well as other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

There’s A “Bright Side” To This Pandemic – Seriously!

 

Downtown Phoenix by sunset

In case you’re living under a rock, the whole world, including our country, has been taken over by COVID-19, better known as coronavirus. This virus came crashing down, in what felt like the blink of an eye, and it has altered how we live, how we think, and how we interact with our loved ones. The way we grocery shop has changed. The way we greet neighbors has changed. The way we celebrate holidays, the way we run our businesses, and the way we practice law have all changed.

It has been drastic for some, but the impact is being felt by all. Some are living in constant panic, while others believe it to be an overreaction. Some of our lives have been turned upside down by this new way of living, while others are angered that they are living in restriction. No matter how you feel, or what you believe to be right, one thing is certain: we can all choose to look on the bright side of this pandemic.

We are being forced to slow down. What’s the bright side? You finally have time to breathe. Life is full of chaos and stress, even without a pandemic. Many of us live our whole lives in a stressed state of mind, which leads to physical illness and overall lack of enjoyment of life. Pre-pandemic, if you wanted to slow down, you might have been criticized for being lazy. Now is an opportunity, without any judgment, to be slow, be present, be grateful, and breathe.

We are being forced to change the way we work. What’s the bright side? We are making significant modern-day changes to an old-time profession. Most attorneys do not work from home. Most attorneys do not videoconference their clients. Most attorneys are not cloud based. In a world where traveling the county and printing more paper than you can carry is on most of our job descriptions, these over-due changes may be the start of something new, and efficient, for our profession even after the pandemic has passed.

We are being forced to spend time with ourselves. What’s the bright side? You finally have the time to think about what actually makes you happy, what doesn’t make you happy, and to adjust your life accordingly. Before the pandemic, we took many things for granted. We made commitments we did not want to make, we spent time with people we did not want to spend time with, and many of us (especially if you are an attorney) put ourselves at the bottom of our priority list. Now is the time to make the change. Make self-care a priority. Make yourself a priority.

We are spending more time with our families. We are going outside for exercise instead of the gym. We are putting less pollution in the air. We are focusing more on our health. We are learning new things. We are reading more books. Some of us are undoubtedly living better lives.

This does not mean we are living at the expense of others. Those that have lost their lives due to this virus, and any virus or disease for that matter, are loved, respected, and remembered always. And what better way to honor those that have lost their lives than to appreciate and implement the knowledge, growth, and positive changes that came along with the loss?

This is still a pandemic. There is still great concern of what is happening in our world. And there is still the choice to be positive. There is always a bright side. And you can choose to ignore it if you want. But imagine how you can transform yourself, your happiness, and your way of life during these unprecedented times.

Hanna Amar

 

Hanna Amar is a partner at the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C.  Both Gary Frank and Hanna Amar are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator. He has also acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and served on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Hanna Amar is a highly-skilled attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna is the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association.  Our firm handles Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification actions, enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

MILLENNIAL MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE RATES HAVE PLUNGED — WHAT’S THE REASON WHY?

I recently posted a news article on our Law Office Facebook page about Millennial Marriage and Divorce. It discussed how the divorce rate for Millennials has gone down, but that the percentage of Millennial marriages has also dropped. Millennials are marrying later in life, and many are not marrying at all. Rather, they are moving in together and cohabiting without marriage. The article examined some possible reasons for this. Later, I received a very intelligent and insightful post from a Millennial reader who took a different view of the reasons behind the dip in marriage, and divorce, rates. Here is our thoughtful exchange:

READER:

I have a lot of thoughts about the last article you shared on your law page… I haven’t fully formed them yet but I feel like there’s something missing in that analysis, like how my generation views legal marriage as largely outdated in general (outside of financial protection in specific circumstances, or children), and the potential for divorce as more financially threatening than not being married in the first place. And growing up in a time where statistically you had a 50-50 shot of your marriage ending in divorce (which also means that half the people in relationships went through a divorce with their own parents), the odds were never in our favor. Which is maybe why wealthy people are more likely to take the plunge. I have a number of friends who had the wedding and never signed any papers. I think this article is missing a big cultural piece that can’t be inferred by numbers alone.

Maybe the author should have talked to some millennials instead of just looking at the data.

Also it’s hard to ignore that this drop in the number of marriages happens to correspond with the number of women enrolled in college surpassing the number of men…I didn’t notice that addressed in the article either but it seems like that’s probably not a coincidence considering the traditional motivations for marriage, like financial dependency, gender norms, and the end goal of mothering as a societal inevitability.

GARY FRANK:

Great insight and comments. I love hearing your views! I’ll reply soon.

GARY FRANK:

OK, here’s my take: I think one could make a strong case that from a cultural and societal perspective, the institution of marriage is pretty much outdated and irrelevant. It has significance from a religious perspective, but only for those to whom religion is important. But here’s the thing — over the years, in this country, a whole complicated network of laws has developed around the concept of marriage. An important one (in Arizona and other western states) is the theory of “community property,” which stands for the proposition that when a couple marries, everything acquired by both of them, or either of them, after the marriage is considered to be community property, and is owned by each of them 50/50. This includes their incomes from employment. So, for instance, if after the wedding one spouse takes their paycheck and puts money down on a new car and then pays the payments with his/her salary, the car is “community property” and belongs to both spouses 50/50 (even if the purchasing spouse puts the title in their own name). The same is true for monies deposited into bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, etc. And also for purchases of a house, and furniture, etc. It even applies to businesses formed after the marriage. They belong to both parties 50/50 (there are some exceptions and variables that could change the equation, but I won’t go into them here). — However, if the parties were not married, there is no community property. Everything that one partner saves, purchases, or acquires will be his/her separate property; and everything the other partner saves, purchases or acquires will be that partner’s separate property. Nothing will be shared unless the item is titled in the names of both parties as joint owners. If the parties break up, each will be entitled to their property. In the case of a relationship where one person far out-earned the other (and especially in a long-term relationship where one person was a stay-at-home mom or dad and was not employed outside the home), the poorer party could walk away with essentially nothing, while the richer party gets it all. This result is a horrible inequity.

Spousal Maintenance is another thing that is only applicable where a couple was married. If a married spouse gives up her or his career to stay home and care for the children, and the parties later divorce years or maybe decades later, then that spouse could be entitled to an award of spousal maintenance (alimony), possibly for a number of years or even for a lifetime. Spousal maintenance will provide economic stability for that person until she/he can establish a career and become self-supporting. But if the parties never married, then the person who gave up her/his career for the benefit of the family will walk away from the relationship without any financial support at all, because the Court can only award spousal maintenance where a marriage existed. This could mean falling from a comfortable standard of living into a life of poverty.

And until recently, you could only cover a spouse on your health insurance, but not a cohabiting partner.

In the area of Estate Planning, if a spouse dies leaving no will, the surviving spouse is entitled to a share of the decedent’s estate — but an unmarried cohabiting partner (even of 30 years) would be entitled to nothing unless a valid will exists with a provision giving a portion of the estate to that person. 

P.S. – With regard to custody of children (legal decision-making and parenting-time) marriage is not much of an issue. A person can establish parentage (usually by DNA testing) whether married or not; and can then obtain court orders for child custody, parenting time, and child support. There are so many children born today to unmarried parents that it is almost the norm. The law had to adjust to that reality, and it did. Maybe someday laws will be made to protect people who are cohabiting but not married.

READER:

Thanks for the thorough response, but you obviously missed where I said “except for certain financial situations.”

GARY FRANK:

Nope, I didn’t miss it. I just wanted to explain for you, and others who might be reading this, how those “certain financial situations” can be pretty significant. But I do agree with your premise that Millennials tend to view marriage as an outdated institution, and for good reason. — The example set by my generation made it that way.

READER:

Also maybe if women are starting to be more educated than men and have more assets it’s possible they don’t want to split them with a spouse in the case of a divorce. Just saying.

GARY FRANK:

I completely agree.

READER:

I think I also read a study once that said that even though the stereotype is that women want to get married more than men, the opposite is actually true.

Probably because men invented the stereotype.

GARY FRANK:

Haha! Probably true!

 

 

The law firm of Gary J. Frank P.C. offers strong advocacy for clients involved in Family Law disputes, including divorce, custody, parenting time, inter-state custody or visitation, division of property and businesses, spousal and child support, modification of existing orders, enforcement of orders, relocation / move-away cases, grandparent and non-parent custody and visitation, paternity, child abuse, dependency actions, guardianships, and other matters involving children and families.  Our attorneys, Gary Frank and Hanna Amar, are experienced courtroom litigators, as well as mediators, who bring skill, compassion, and a depth of understanding to each matter they handle, and each client that they represent.  Our office is located in the prestigious Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona; and we have satellite offices in Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, and Tempe, to more conveniently serve our clientele.  You can reach us through our website at garyfranklaw.com; or by telephone at 602-383-3610.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Does Not Take Two To Tango — Dealing Personality Disorders

Most people think that a “high-conflict divorce” necessarily involves two people who are angry and unreasonable. But that’s not always the case. When one party to a divorce suffers from a borderline, narcissistic, or other type of personality disorder, he or she can pull the entire family into a “knock-down/drag-out” litigation.  A person with a personality disorder often lacks basic compassion and/or the willingness to compromise for the benefit of the children.  He or she may be driven by revenge or the desire to inflict emotional pain and suffering — and appealing to this person’s sense of reason and logic is of no avail.  This may make it difficult or impossible to negotiate a fair settlement, leaving no alternative but to go to trial.  Our firm brings many different strategies to the table when dealing with an opposing party with a personality disorder. For instance, sending out subpoenas for medical or counseling records will allow us to obtain important information on the person’s physical and psychological background; Drug testing may be warranted if there is a history of drug or alcohol abuse; A deposition can give us great insight into the mind of the person being deposed — it can enable us to obtain admissions of guilt, and it will also give us clues which may lead to other critical information that can be successfully utilized at trial; And the appointment of court experts to conduct interviews, mental health evaluations, or family assessments can prove to be of great value in diagnosing a personality disorder that may not have previously been formally discovered. These are a few of the many strategies we typically employ in high-conflict Family Court litigation involving people who may have personality disorders. If you find yourself in this situation, then you’ll need a strong advocate — an attorney who will fight hard to protect your interests. If you are in need of a consultation, Contact us today.

 

The Law Office of Gary J. Frank has been a fixture in the prestigious Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Gary Frank and Hanna Amar are strong Family Law litigators and mediators with a wealth of experience both in the courtroom and in settlement negotiations.  Our firm handles a wide array of cases, such as divorce, custody, relocation, paternity, child and spousal support, division of property and businesses, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, same sex divorce and custody, and all matters relating to families and children.  If you are in need of a legal consultation, please do not hesitate to Contact us today.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at [email protected] and [email protected], or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’d be honored to help you.

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