The issues in this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice in your particular case, nor should it be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. Every Family Court case is unique. If you have a matter that appears similar to any of the scenarios that you read in this blog, you should be aware that: (1) even a slight difference in a factual situation can lead to a vastly different result; and (2) the laws are constantly changing and new laws are continually being enacted. Legal advice cannot be given without a full consideration of all relevant information relating to your individual situation. Therefore, if you have an important legal issue, you should obtain a consultation with a qualified attorney.
Too often, when divorcing couples become involved in a long, protracted litigation over property, the only winners are the lawyers. That’s why you need a strong lawyer, someone who is looking out for your best interests. A lawyer who knows how to fight, but is willing to help you explore the peaceful path.
Gary J. Frank is a Family Law Attorney, a litigator, and a mediator with over thirty years of experience in dealing with divorce, paternity, custody, and parenting issues. For many years he acted as a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, which gave him an insight into the inner workings of the courts that many attorneys lack. In addition to representing Family Law clients in litigation, we are also willing to help people by working with them on a Limited-Scope or Consultation-Only basis. Our office is located in the Biltmore area of central Phoenix, with satellite offices in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Arizona. We can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or by email at [email protected] You can also reach us through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com. If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, contact us today. We’d be happy to help.
This year is coming to a close. If you are in the middle of a divorce – or if you are getting ready to go through one – the next twelve months could be tough. So, here are some simple guidelines to make the journey less difficult.
1. Keep your children out of the middle of your dispute
When a marriage comes apart and emotions are at a boiling point, it is easy for a parent to make the mistake of voicing his or her displeasure with the other parent to the children. Sometimes this leads to a war of words, with each parent feeling the need to “defend” himself / herself by badmouthing the other. But here’s a warning: Clinical research shows that this type of behavior can cause serious emotional problems for children. They need to be able to love both of their parents. So give them your permission. You would probably place your life on the line to protect your children from a stranger who tried to hurt them. Then why wouldn’t you make every effort to protect your children from your own anger and toxic feelings toward their other parent?
Of course, it is important to be honest with your children – but giving them information that is not age-appropriate, or talking to them about details of your divorce that they are incapable of emotionally processing, can be harmful and destructive. Don’t talk to your children about the legal issues of your divorce. Don’t show them your court paperwork. Don’t share adult information with young children. If you need to vent or get your feelings off your chest, turn to a trusted friend, a family member, or a therapist. Keep your children out of the loop. Let them be children.
6. Choose a lawyer wisely
One of the most important decisions you will ever make is finding the right attorney. Many people who are embroiled in a family law dispute say, “I’m going to hire the meanest, most aggressive, attorney I can find.” That usually works – for the lawyer. If the lawyer is only mean, or only aggressive, then the result will probably be a long, contentious, and expensive litigation. That means more money for the lawyer. Your money! What you really want is a highly qualified attorney, one who is looking out for your interests. The best attorney is someone who is skilled and experienced; someone who will fight for your rights — but who is also looking for ways to resolve the matter peacefully, if at all possible. Most importantly, you should select an attorney who is a good match for you, and who makes you feel comfortable and confident.
Court litigation is, by nature, an adversarial process. It can take a long time and cost a lot of money – and in the end, the final decision will be made by a judge who is a stranger to both parties. Therefore, in any divorce or custody litigation, your goal should be to negotiate a solution that meets your needs and the needs of the children. You can save yourself a great deal of time and money, and avoid much stress, by being willing to make reasonable compromises. People who are able to negotiate a fair resolution of their dispute tend to be much happier with the arrangement in the long run.
8. Talk to someone you can trust
A person going through the turmoil of divorce or custody case can benefit from a strong support system. If you are struggling with a divorce, or if you are caught in a highly contested custody case, find someone to talk to. Whether it is with a family member, a friend, someone from your church, or a therapist, talking about your feelings is a healthy outlet. There are also many divorce and single-parent support groups in your community that will welcome you and help you understand that you are not alone.
It may not seem like it now, but rest assured that there is, indeed, life after divorce – and it can be great. It will certainly be an adjustment, and it will take a commitment on your part, but getting out of an unhappy marriage, making new friends, and taking control of your physical and mental health, can give you a new perspective and lead to a happier life.
For couples who are able to negotiate a resolution of their issues, the “Consent Decree” procedure can make divorce a relatively painless process.
It is not at all surprising that when one spouse files for a divorce, the other sometimes continues to hold out hope for a reconciliation, believing that the marriage is not irretrievably broken. But what may surprise you is that Arizona law gives that person an opportunity to make one last stab at fixing the relationship.
Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25-329 provides that the Court shall not hold a trial, nor finalize a divorce, within sixty (60) days from the date that the divorce papers are served. Attorneys and judges often refer to this as a “cooling off” period, since it is intended to prevent people from angrily rushing into a divorce that they might later regret. This mandatory “cooling off” period allows the parties to take some time to reflect, to talk, and to consider other options, such as marital counseling. This sometimes leads to the parties getting back together and dropping the divorce action. Just today, in the news, was a report of basketball player Kobe Bryant and his wife putting their California divorce “on-hold” after having used the statutory “cooling off” period to work on their problems.
A spouse wishing to avoid a divorce has another alternative under Arizona law: A.R.S., Section 25-381.09, states that a person who wants to try to salvage his or her marriage may file “a petition invoking the jurisdiction of the Conciliation Court for the purpose of preserving the marriage by effecting a conciliation between the parties.” Filing a motion under this statute will result in the case being transferred to the Conciliation Court. The divorce case will be placed on hold for a period of time, and the parties will be required to attend what amounts to a marital counseling session.
Arizona is a no-fault divorce state. Thus, if one party to a marriage wishes to be divorced, there is little the other spouse can do to prevent it. However, the statutory “cooling off” period, and the ability to ask for a transfer of the case to the Conciliation Court for counseling, are ways in which a spouse can make one final effort to repair the relationship and put the marriage back together.
Gary Frank has practiced Family Law in the prestigious Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years. In addition to representing clients in divorce, custody, paternity, enforcement, modification, move-away, grandparent rights, non-parent rights, and other Family Law matters, Mr. Frank has also acted as a Mediator and a Superior Court Judge Pro Tem. If you are in need of a consultation, please give us a call today at 602-383-3610. You can contact us by email at [email protected], or through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com. We’d be happy to help you.
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.
Co-parenting is often the most difficult challenge that parents face following a divorce.
Poor co-parenting can not only be a source of extreme and ongoing stress for the parents but, worse yet, it can be emotionally devastating to the children. It can lead to repeated trips back to the courthouse, and many thousands of dollars in legal fees. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Disagreements over discipline, supervision, parental involvement, or parenting styles are factors which contribute to countless divorces. So, it is not surprising that, in many of those cases, the problem only gets worse when the divorce becomes final. After all, if the parents could not agree on parenting issues when they were married, why would they expect things to get better after they divorce and are living apart?
Co-parenting is essential, but it is not easy. It requires placing the best interests of the children ahead of your own needs. It requires managing your emotions, and finding a way to deal with your fear, anger, and negative feelings in a healthy and positive manner. Finally, it requires a commitment to always take the “high-road,” even when the other parent is refusing to cooperate or co-parent.
Taking the high-road is not a sign of weakness. It doesn’t mean giving in or compromising the safety of your child. What it means is not “taking the bait” when the other parent is pushing your buttons. It means not “defending yourself” by badmouthing the other parent to your children when the other parent may be playing that game. It means not putting your children in the middle of the dispute by forcing them to witness angry or violent arguments. It means not making a child choose one parent over the other. It means not using children as messengers or spies, or as weapons to hurt the other parent. It means not sabotaging your child’s relationship with your ex-spouse, even though he or she might not be such a great parent. It also means never allowing yourself to become so emotionally needy that your child feels that it is his or her responsibility to take care of you. Taking the high-road is a sign of strength. It is something you can do to assure that the child whom you love so much can grow up to be happy and well-adjusted.
The first step in learning to co-parent is realizing that, after the divorce, there will be times when your children are with your ex- and, during those times, you will no longer have control. Therefore, it is not only in your children’s best interest — but it is to your own advantage to make sure that you and your ex- are communicating when it comes to parenting.
Co-parenting doesn’t mean that you and your ex- need to be friends. You just need to be able to communicate in a business-like manner for the purpose of making decisions affecting your common children. Your communication should be direct and to the point. No sniping. No angry comments meant to hurt the other’s feelings. Stick to the matter at hand. Don’t bring up tangential issues that have little or nothing to do with the children. By focusing on the issue before you, and keeping the children in mind, you will be able to communicate effectively, and the children’s needs will be met. Eventually, all of the emotion arising from the divorce will fade and you will find it much easier to deal with each other — but the time to start working on communication is now. It’s hard, I know, but it is certainly worth the effort The end result will be children who feel safe, secure, happy, and loved.
An important part of successful co-parenting is sharing information about the children with the other parent: “Sally came home from school today with a fever”; “Billy is in a play next week in Ms. Hollister’s classroom”; “Meagan has a dentist appointment on Thursday”; “Justin’s high school report card came out yesterday – here’s a copy.” Sharing information is easy. If you don’t feel comfortable talking on the phone, then you can do it by mail, email, or a text message. Sharing information allows parents stay on the same page, and it helps to assure that the children have two parents who are both involved in their lives.
One of the biggest challenges of co-parenting is when a divorcing couple has very different parenting styles. This is not only a common problem, but I’d venture to say that it is the case in the majority of divorces (and marriages, too). “She’s too strict.” “He’s a Disneyland dad.” “He doesn’t supervise the children like I do.” “She’s too controlling with the children.” “He won’t let the children be children.” “She doesn’t set limits.” The fact is that there is no one right way to parent. You will have to get used to the idea that when the divorce is final, there will be blocks of time when the children are alone with the other parent. Co-parenting does not mean imposing your will on the other parent. Attempting to do so will lead to disagreements and anger, and will likely be futile in the end. But by communicating respectfully and effectively, you can share ideas and avoid many misunderstandings and problems. Co-parenting may sometimes involve respecting the other parent’s right to do things her/his way when the children are in her/his care. Obviously, if your child is being abused or neglected in the home of the other parent, then it is your duty to take the necessary measures to stop it. But where the issue is simply differing parenting styles, you should try to cooperate to the best of your ability and be as consistent as possible; and you may need to let the children know that the rules at Dad’s house are slightly different from those at Mom’s.
Over the years, I have found that “Post-Divorce Counseling” can be very helpful. This is not marital counseling, and it is not therapy. Rather, post-divorce counseling consists of both parents meeting together with a counselor (such as a child psychologist or child-development specialist) on a quarterly basis, or every six months, or once a year, or only as-needed — in order to discuss issues involving the children. In the sessions, the parents can bring up any concerns they may have, discuss any problems the children are experiencing, and examine different solutions with the help of an expert.
Co-parenting after divorce is an ongoing process. It can be difficult and sometimes frustrating. As much as you might like to put the relationship with your ex-spouse behind you and move on following a divorce, you have to realize that the two of you share a child. You always will. And by communicating and co-parenting, you will increase the odds that your child — this person whom you both love — will grow up to be a happy, productive, and well-adjusted adult.
Gary Frank has been a well-respected Custody and Family Law Attorney, and a Family Mediator, in the Phoenix, Arizona for more than thirty years. The Law Office of Gary J. Frank P.C. handles a wide array of family law issues, including divorce, custody, modification actions, paternity and maternity cases, and other matters involving children and families. If you would like a consultation, please do not hesitate to call our office at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email at [email protected] or through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.
As I see it, the job of the attorneys in a divorce case is to help the parties carefully untangle the twisted web of issues involving custody, support, property division, and finances without ripping the fabric of “family” (the children will still have two parents, even after the divorce is finalized). Where children are involved, the lawyers’ primary responsibility is to help the parents build a bridge so that when the divorce is over they will be able to communicate effectively for the benefit of the children. If the divorce does not involve children, then our job is to find a way to divide assets and debts in a manner that leaves both parties as financially intact as possible. Obviously, the lawyers cannot accomplish these goals without a buy-in from both parties. If their actions are ruled by fear and anger, then they will be unable to make responsible decisions, and settlement discussions may be out of the question. In representing clients over the years, I have seen instances where a party or his attorney elects to take a “slash-and-burn” approach. When that happens, my job is to aggressively protect and defend my client’s interests. That means getting tough. However, even in the midst of the most hotly contested legal dispute, it is in everyone’s best interest to keep the door open to reasonable settlement negotiations – because, in the end, it is the client’s life, and the client’s future, that are at stake – and, in too many cases, when the battle is over and decisions were dictated by fear and anger, the only winners are the lawyers. But that doesn’t have to happen. Take charge of your emotions. Keep your cool. And approach divorce as if it were a business negotiation. If you can do that, then you are in control.
Gary J. Frank, is an Arizona Family Law Attorney and former Judge Pro Tem with over thirty years of experience in dealing with divorce, custody, parenting time, support, and all other issues in Family Court. He also has many years of experience as a Family Law Mediator. If you are in need of a consultation regarding divorce, child custody, or any other area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to contact us by telephone (602-383-3610) or by email through our website. We look forward to hearing from you.