ARIZONA’S FAMILY COURTS ARE OPEN, AND OPERATING EFFICIENTLY, DESPITE COVID-19

 

In the midst of the pandemic, you may be wondering how your family law matters will be affected by court closures and the constantly changing regulations caused by COVID-19. The Arizona courts are committed to minimizing spread of the virus and creating the safest environment possible while still serving the needs of the community. While family law matters are normally not an exciting part of life, sometimes they are necessary. If you are facing a family issue, such as a divorce or custody matter, a grandparent visitation dispute,  a relocation (move/away) request, or a modification or enforcement case that may need to be handled by the courts, rest assured that the Court’s COVID procedures and modification of in-person requirements will not prevent the work from getting done to help lead to a solution for you and your family. When we meet with you, we will cover all of the major points to help you understand how COVID-19 is impacting the family courts. If you want to check out the guidelines directly from the Arizona Courts here is a link.

The first thing you should know is that the family department will continue to address “essential services” in person. These include applications for orders of protections, contested hearings on orders of protection, motions for temporary emergency orders, and hearings on temporary emergency motions. In person court appearances do require the use of a mask and social distancing. Other court hearings may be held in person at the discretion of the judge.

Although emergency proceedings will continue in person, other matters are equally important. In this new era of Zoom meetings and video-conferences, the court system has adapted its process to be conducted via GoToMeeting. GoToMeeting is a secure platform that allows the judge to interact with the attorneys and the clients in a similar fashion to how they would in person. If you have an early resolution conference, mediation, open negotiations, decree on demand, parenting conference, or even a contested hearing or trial scheduled you can plan to take your video call from the comfort of your home via GoToMeeting. You’ll need to download the app, and although there is sometimes an occasional wifi related glitch, the court system and your attorney will proceed as usual in order to create a meaningful outcome.

In the early weeks of COVID-19, some cases were faced with delays and rescheduling. By now, the courts have managed to get things back on track and proceed as usual. In many instances, the Coronavirus may catapult the Arizona court system into a more modern era of technology. A video conference means dodging the stress of the courtroom, avoiding downtown traffic and parking, and preventing you from having to take unwanted time off from work for in-person court appearances. In the future, some types of court matters may be conducted by phone or video-conference permanently, even after the COVID-19 pandemic has become a thing of the past.

With the recent increase of COVID cases in Arizona, the courts have not determined when things will return to the way they were before. For now, and into the foreseeable future, the courts will operate telephonically and by video-conference as much as possible. But, in the meantime, your family law matter will continue to be a productive and meaningful process until a solution is reached.

 

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 is 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 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.

 

 

 

GRANDPARENTS’ RIGHTS IN ARIZONA

 

“Do we have Grandparent Rights in Arizona? Can we get a court order for Grandparent Visitation or Grandparent Custody?” These are questions we hear often from our clients. And the answer is: “Yes.” There has never been a time when grandparents were more important to the well-being of children than today. Grandparents have always been intimately involved in the lives of their grandchildren, and today they are raising grandchildren in greater numbers than ever before. There are many reasons for grandparents having to step into the shoes of a parent. The list includes teen pregnancy, substance abuse, incarceration, financial difficulties, mental illness, and other problems. Even under the best of circumstances where the parents are capable caregivers, the presence of grandparents in the children’s lives brings an added sense of love and stability.

But these are complicated times, and our law firm receives calls just about every day from loving grandparents who are being excluded from their grandchildren’s lives and want to learn about grandparent rights. It could be because a parent is angry and seeks to punish the grandparent. It could be because a parent who is on drugs or was missing now returns and insists on taking the children back. Maybe it’s because a parent has remarried and the new husband or wife feels threatened that the children have a relationship with the former spouse’s parents. Or it might be that one of the parents has died, and the surviving parent wishes to move on and put the deceased parent and his family in the past. There are a myriad of reasons why loving grandparents may be cut out of the picture and left in the cold. It’s truly heartbreaking for the grandparents. But, in the long run, it is the children who suffer the most.

GRANDPARENTS HAVE LEGAL RIGHTS IN ARIZONA

In Arizona, grandparents (and other third-parties with a close relationship to the children, such as step-parents and others) have legal rights. Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25-409 is the Grandparent Visitation, Grandparent Custody (now referred to as “legal decision-making authority), and Third Party Visitation / Custody statute.  The statute lists the circumstances which would enable a grandparent or other non-parent to file a petition for visitation or custody; as well as the factors that the Court must consider in determining whether to grant the petition.

GRANDPARENT VISITATION JUST GOT EASIER

This is not a simple process. In making its decision, the Court must weigh the constitutional right of parents to raise their children as they see fit – against the benefit to the child of maintaining an ongoing relationship with a grandparent or other non-parent that the child loves, and with whom he or she has a close bond. The Court is required to give “special weight” to the parent’s decision. In past years, the courts defined “special weight” as meaning that judges had to give “robust deference” to a parent’s decision; and Grandparents had to prove that the child would suffer “substantial harm” if the relationship with the grandparents was severed. But in 2018 things changed drastically — and for the better. The Arizona appellate court case of Friedman v. Roels removed those almost insurmountable barriers. Now grandparents are no longer required to prove “substantial harm” and the “robust deference” requirement has been removed. This has made it much easier for grandparents to obtain visitation orders. Today, if the judge feels that it would be in the child’s best interests to maintain a relationship with the grandparents (or other non-parents) then the Court has the authority to order visitation to take place.

Grandparents can sometimes even obtain orders giving them custody of their grandchildren in Arizona Family Court. If it is determined that all of the factors listed in A.R.S. §25-409(A) are present and it would be “significantly detrimental” to the child to remain or be placed in the care of either legal parent, then the Court can order that the grandparents (or other non-parent) shall have legal decision-making authority (custody) of the child. A strong, experienced attorney can be a tremendous help to someone who is trying to obtain grandparent visitation or custody.

NEED HELP? – CONTACT US

If you are a grandparent or a non-parent who has been (or might be) unfairly cut out of your grandchild’s life and you would like to learn more about how to assert your legal rights, please do not hesitate to give us a call. We’d be happy to talk to you about how to ask the Court to give you an order for Grandparent Visitation or Grandparent Custody.

 

Our attorneys, Gary Frank and Hanna Amar, represent many grandparents and other non-parents in Arizona courtrooms. They are strong litigators and compassionate counselors.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding how to assert your grandparents’ or non-parents’ rights, please call us today at 602-383-3610; or contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.

 

 

A GRANDPARENT CUSTODY CASE INVOLVING TWO STATES – WHO HAS JURISDICTION?

I was recently contacted by a grandparent who had the following question:  “I raised my grandchildren for several years.  My daughter went through treatment for drug abuse and later took the children back.  However, her addiction has returned and I am afraid that my grandchildren are now at risk.  She’s in California and I’m in Arizona.  I need to get custody of my grandchildren.  How can I do this from another state?”

This scenario presents a complicated legal issue involving not only a grandparent’s custody matter, but also a potential battle between states over which state has the jurisdiction (i.e., the power) to make the custody decision.

Grandparents in Arizona, and in other states, now have legal rights, including the right to visitation — and even the right to be awarded custody of a grandchild, under certain circumstances.  Arizona’s grandparent-rights law is contained in Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 24-409.  For a custody petition to be considered, the grandparents must stand “in loco parentis” to the child.  In other words, they must be able to show that they “stood in the shoes” of a parent by caring for the child for a substantial period of time.  (It may be sufficient to show that the child resided in the grandparents’ home with a parent, and the grandparents helped care for the child.)

Custody cases that involve two or more states are governed by a set of laws known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).  Nearly every state in the U.S. has adopted the UCCJEA.  The law provides uniformity and helps the competing courts determine which state will preside over a custody dispute.  Under the UCCJEA, the state where the child has lived for the past six months prior to a court action being initiated is considered to be the “Home State” of the child.  Generally (but not always) the child’s “Home State” will be the state that has “jurisdiction,” and it is where the custody matter will be litigated.  However, the Court considers a number of factors before determining jurisdiction, including which state has the “most significant connection” with the child (i.e., where schools, doctors, family members and friends who are familiar with the child’s needs, etc., are located).  The Court also considers whether substantial evidence is available in the state concerning the child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships.

The UCCJEA provides that a state can accept temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is present in that state and the child has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, or a sibling or parent of the child, is subjected to mistreatment or abuse.

Under the UCCJEA, a state can choose to decline jurisdiction where it believe that, under the circumstances (and considering the statutory factors), another state is the more appropriate forum.

The bottom line is that grandparents do have rights.  And ultimately, in making a custody decision, a judge is guided by what she/he believes will be the best interests of the children.

In a complicated situation involving a potential conflict between two states over custody jurisdiction, it helps to have a strong, experienced attorney on your side.

This information is provided for general purposes only, and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.  Every Family Court case is unique.  If you have a matter that appears similar to any of the scenarios that you read in this blog, you should be aware that: (1) even a slight difference in a factual situation can lead to a vastly different result; and (2) the laws are constantly changing and new laws are being enacted; thus, you should not rely on any particular statement of the law in this blog, since the law may be different today than it was when the blog post was written.

Our attorney, Gary Frank, is a grandparents’ rights advocate.  In addition to being a litigation attorney and a professional Family Law mediator, 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.  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 [email protected]   We look forward to hearing from 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 [email protected], or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

GRANDPARENTS HAVE A LEGAL RIGHT TO VISITATION UNDER ARIZONA LAW

The United States Supreme Court has held that parents have a fundamental constitutional right to control child rearing. Under Arizona law, a fit parent is presumed to be able to make decisions which are in his/her child’s best interests, and the courts will stay out of the decision-making unless it is clear that the parents’ decisions could be damaging to the child.
However, Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25–409 gives a judge the right to intervene and order visitation between a child and her/his grandparents (or great-grandparents) — even over the objection of the parents — so long as the grandparents can meet the standards delineated in the statute. Basically, a grandparent must be able to prove that visitation rights would be in the best interests of the child and that any of the following is true:
1. The marriage of the parents of the child has been dissolved for at least three months;
2. A parent of the child has been deceased or has been missing for at least three months (i.e., the parents location has not been determined and the parent has been reported as missing to a law enforcement agency); or
3. The child was born out of wedlock.
In determining the child’s best interests the court shall consider all relevant factors, including:
a.  The historical relationship, if any, between the child and the person seeking visitation;
b.  The motivation of the requesting party in seeking visitation;
c.  The motivation of the person denying visitation;
d.  The quantity of visitation time requested and the potential adverse impact that visitation will have on the child’s customary activities; and
e.  If one or both of the child’s parents are dead, the benefit in maintaining an extended family relationship.
If you are being unfairly deprived of contact with your grandchild and would like to learn more about your rights, then please do not hesitate to call our office for a consultation.
Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over thirty years of experience in dealing with grandparents visitation / custody matters, and advocating for the rights of children.  You can reach us by telephone (602-383-3610), email ([email protected]), or through out website (/).  We’d be happy to hear from you.

GRANDPARENTS’ RIGHTS – Are You Being Deprived of Visitation With Your Grandchildren?

There is nothing more heartbreaking than a grandparent who is not allowed to have contact with the grandchildren, especially during the holidays.  The relationship between a child and his or her grandparent is a special kind of bond, one that cannot be replaced.  For a grandparent to be unfairly “cut out of the picture” can be devastating for both the grandparent and the child.
Arizona law provides that grandparents do have a legal right to visitation with their grandchildren under certain circumstances.  Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25-409 spells out the criteria that the courts use to determine whether grandparent visitation would be appropriate in a particular case; and the appellate courts have published cases which interpret the statute and provide guidance to help the trial judge make a decision.
There is a presumption that a fit parent’s decision to deny or limit visitation was made in the child’s best interests.  However, that presumption can be rebutted by evidence to the contrary.
A.R.S., Section 25-409(A) provides that “The superior court may grant the grandparents of the child reasonable visitation rights . . . on a finding that the visitation rights would be in the best interests of the child and any of the following is true:
1.                  The marriage of the parents of the child has been dissolved for at least three months.
2.                  A parent of the child has been deceased or has been missing for at least three months . . .
3.                  The child was born out of wedlock.
Section (C) of the statute provides that “In determining the child’s best interests the court shall consider all relevant factors, including:
1.                  The historical relationship, if any, between the child and person seeking visitation.
2.                  The motivation of the requesting party in seeking visitation.
3.                  The motivation of the person denying visitation.
4.                  The quantity of visitation time requested and the potential adverse impact that visitation will have on the child’s customary activities.
5.                  If one or both of the child’s parents are dead, the benefit in maintaining an extended family relationship.
To obtain court-ordered visitation over the objection of a parent, the grandparent must fall within one of the three categories listed in Section A of the statute, above; and the grandparent must be able to prove that visitation would be in the child’s best interests.  If the grandparent can demonstrate that he/she has maintained regular contact and has a loving and appropriate relationship with the child, then the prospect of obtaining visitation is greatly enhanced.  When one of the parents has died, the Court will give special consideration to protecting the relationship between the child and the deceased parent’s family.
The Arizona courts have ruled that while a trial judge has considerable discretion in shaping a grandparent visitation order, the court is not free to simply second-guess the decision of a fit parent as to visitation rights.  Where a parent has agreed to allow some reasonable contact between the grandparents and the children – even if it is not as much time as the grandparents would like – the courts will usually not interfere with the parent’s decision.  On the other hand, where a parent refuses to allow any contact at all, the Court has the power to step in and order the parent to let the grandparents spend time with their grandchildren on a regularly scheduled basis.
These are difficult and complex cases.   If you are in need of a grandparents’ rights attorney – or if you are a parent who believes that contact with a grandparent would be potentially harmful to your child – then do not hesitate to contact the law firm of Gary J. Frank P.C. for a consultation.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610 or by email through our website at /.   Contact us today.

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