The A-B-C’s of Divorce

Divorce can be stressful and confusing. It’s always good to have a plan. So to assure that your divorce goes smoothly, follow these steps – from A to Z. 

A – Ask questions – If you have a question for your attorney, ask it! Asking questions can help you to stay informed and ease any anxiety you may have.

B – Be smart – Think about everything you do and say before you do it, or say it. You should always assume your ex (or soon-to-be-ex) is recording your phone conversations and taking screen shots of your texts, emails, and posts on social media, and that the judge will eventually see them.

C – Create a checklist of things you need to do – After you make the decision to get a divorce, start keeping a list of things you need to do (get any documents together, speak with an attorney, etc.) It will keep you well-organized and prevent you from forgetting something important.

D – Don’t get caught up in your feelings – Try not to make decisions based on your emotions throughout this process. Wait until the storm has passed and you can think more clearly. That’s not to say you can’t have feelings and emotions—you can, and you should. Allow yourself to feel however you are feeling, but don’t act in the heat of the moment; you’ll certainly regret it later.

E – Every case is different – You may have one friend who is telling you how quick and easy her divorce was, while your other friend went through a divorce that took years and was extremely high conflict. Don’t compare yourself to others. Every case is truly so different!

F – Focus on the moment – Take things one step at a time. Thinking about the past and dwelling on things you both could have done differently will not help, nor will thinking about the future and worrying about how things will change. Live in the moment and take it day by day.

G – Get your documents organized – Organize everything! Get copies of any tax and income documents, bank and credit card statements, signed contracts, real estate documents, insurance policies, documents related to investments or retirement accounts, estate planning documents, etc. Getting things together now will save you lots of time, energy, and money in the future!

H – Have reasonable expectations – Try and remember that sometimes things are not as quick and easy as you’d like. Be patient and understand that the divorce process can be long and often exhausting. Try to manage your expectations and be as realistic as possible. If you’re not sure what to expect, talk to your attorney.

I – Identify what makes you happy – Focus on what makes you happy during this difficult time of your life. Find a new hobby, spend time with friends, practice self-care, etc. Do whatever you have to do to feel good!

J – Journal – Keeping a journal is probably one of the best decisions you could make throughout this process. In this journal, jot down all events involving custody and visitation, any conversations you might have had with your soon to be ex, etc. You don’t have to include too many details—just keep it accurate and to the point. That journal could later refresh your memory when the trial rolls around, and you might be able to use it in court to prove that something happened on a certain date.

K – Keep the other parent informed – If you have children, make sure you are keeping the other parent in the loop. Let them know if the child is sick and you made a doctor’s appointment; or of any upcoming school events, conferences, breaks, etc. Send them copies of any report cards, doctor’s notes, and anything else you think they might want to see. Having a good co-parenting relationship with your ex will help your children tremendously in the future.

L – List out your property – On top of compiling lots of documents, it will be super helpful for you to make a list of all your property, such as furniture, vehicles, and other personal items. Be sure to differentiate between property you came into the marriage with, property you got during the marriage, and property you received by gift or inheritance.

M – Manage your stress and anxiety – Try and deal with any stress or anxiety you may have in a positive way. Don’t look to drugs or alcohol, that will certainly not help you in the long term. Getting outside, exercising, eating right, meditating, and practicing self-care are all really great ways to manage your stress and anxiety. It’s also never a bad idea to speak with a licensed therapist; they can teach you techniques to manage your stress and help you talk through your feelings in a really positive way.

N – Never share with others what you have discussed with your attorney – Conversations you have with your attorney and their staff are protected by attorney-client privilege. Once you share what was discussed in your conversation with others, that conversation is no longer privileged and confidential, and you or your attorney could be forced to disclose it in court.

O – Oaths are taken seriously by the court – When you sign court documents, speak in a deposition, or speak in court, you are doing so under oath. Any discrepancies in your stories will lead to a loss of trust by the judge and ultimately can subject you to perjury. Just tell the truth and you will not have to worry!

P – Pace yourself – Divorces can take quite a while to be finalized. Be patient and don’t rush it!

Q – Qualifications are important, but so is how an attorney makes you feel – When you are looking for an attorney, don’t just look at their credentials. While credentials and experience are extremely important, so is how you “click” with your attorney. An attorney should make you feel comfortable and heard.

R – Refrain from speaking negatively in public about your ex – This is truly one of the most important pieces of advice I could give to someone go through divorce. Do not speak negatively about your ex to others, do not speak negatively about them to their friends or family, and most certainly do not post about them on social media!!! This is especially true if you have children. It will not do you any good to badmouth your ex, and it could hurt your court case.

S – Substantiate your claims – Document everything! Organize documents you already have and keep any documents you get throughout this entire process. On top of important documents like tax returns and bank statements, keep other documents like photos, copies of emails, and copies of text messages. These may all be helpful throughout your case.

T – Talk about alternatives to litigation – We believe it is never a bad idea to look to alternatives to litigation, such as mediation, whenever possible. Mediation can be a really peaceful, cost-effective option for both parties. It allows you to be in charge of negotiating the terms of your own divorce and property division, rather than leaving those important decisions to a stranger (the judge).

U – Understand the law and your rights – While it is important to trust that your attorney has a good understanding of the law and your rights, it’s also very important for you to have a basic understanding of those things, too. Having a genuine understanding of the law will help you to make the best decisions possible for you and your family. Take the time to do some research, read some books, and most importantly, ask lots of questions of your attorney.

V – Value the advice you are given – Those who truly value and consider the advice they are given by their attorney are those that are most successful. With that being said, ultimately only you know what’s best for you! Don’t be afraid to talk to your attorney if you are uncomfortable about the case plan.

W – Work hard to keep the peace – It can absolutely be difficult at times to deal with an ex without losing your cool. However, the more you keep the peace, the easier and quicker the process will be! (P.S. – Compromise is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean giving-in to unreasonable demands.)

X – Xpect some stress – Okay, I know this doesn’t actually start with an “x” but it’s close enough! Throughout the process, you can expect that there will be some stress. You will likely feel overwhelmed at times. If you don’t feel like you can deal with the stress on your own, look to a licensed counselor to help you get through it, and lean on family and friends as a source of support.

Y – You do have some control over the outcome – While ultimately there are some parts of divorce that you do not have control over, there are some parts that you do. Make wise decisions, and when in doubt, ask your attorney for advice before you act.

Z – ZZZ (Get some rest!) – Ok, “z” is a hard letter to come up with something for! But really, get those “ZZZs” and make sure you sleep well. Being well rested will help you mentally, physically, and emotionally.

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.

 

HOW TO PREPARE CHILDREN FOR A DIVORCE

Each year, over 1 million American children are affected by their parents’ divorce. How each child reacts depends on many factors, including their age, personality, and of course, the circumstances surrounding the divorce or separation. Many times, the initial reaction of children is one of shock, sadness, frustration, anger, or worry. However, with enough planning, you can handle your divorce in a way that doesn’t have to feel like your kids’ world is crashing down on them. If dealt with appropriately, many kids can come out of divorce mentally stronger and better able to cope with stress.

Here are some tips to prepare your children for divorce and ease the transition:

Preparing to Deliver the News

When figuring out how to deliver the news to your children, make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page about how you will tell them what’s happening. It would be a good idea for you and your spouse to do some sort of “dress rehearsal” to prepare exactly what you are going to say ahead of time. Even if you feel like you can barely be in the same room as your spouse, it’s important to at least present a united front to prevent your kids from feeling like they are being pulled into taking sides. Children do significantly better with the news of divorce when their parents are positive and aligned.

Breaking the News

              Make sure that when you deliver the news to your children, you are doing it at a time when stress is low and nobody has plans for at least a few hours, that way they have a little bit of time to work through their initial reaction. Making this announcement and then sending the kids to school, for example, might make it very difficult for them to focus.

Additionally, this conversation should ideally take place in a quiet, safe space—perhaps their backyard, living room, or any other space that is comfortable and free of distractions. If your children have electronic devices with them, make a rule for everyone to put their devices away during the conversation.

What specific words and phrases you decide to use during the conversation will, of course, depend on the child’s age, maturity, and temperament. However, the discussion should always include this message: what happened is between mother and father and is in no way the child’s fault. The reason for this is that many children will feel that they’re to blame even after parents have said that they are not, so it’s important to keep reiterating this message. Make sure that your child knows that your decision is strictly about adults needing to be apart due to differences.

While you are obviously going to need to discuss what will be changing in your children’s lives and daily routine, it is equally as important to focus on what will stay the same. Divorce can be extremely destabilizing, so telling your children what will not change may provide them with some comfort.

Handling their Reactions

Every child will react to this news in their own way. Some children react very strongly initially and then slowly begin to adjust and accept it, while others seemingly take the news in stride and then exhibit signs of distress days, weeks, or even months later. Either way, these are normal reactions—they are grieving the loss of a family. Remind them that it’s perfectly okay to feel however they are feeling and that you are there to help them through the transition. And if you aren’t sure how your child is feeling about the divorce, just ask them.

As children continue to react, they will likely have many questions, including where they will live, where each parent will live, where they will go to school, if they’ll still get to see their friends, etc. Be as honest as you can, even when it isn’t easy. If you don’t have an answer to something, tell your child that you will let them know as soon as you figure it out.

Helping Kids Cope and Adjust to their New Normal

As time goes on, children will begin to adjust to their new life with divorced parents. This can be difficult at first, however, there are a few things you can do to help them better adjust:

  • Stay consistent. Whenever possible, minimize unpredictable schedules, transitions, or changes. Consistency and routine can go a long way toward providing comfort and familiarity for children. Don’t try to make your children feel better by relaxing limits, letting them act out, or buying them things. This can backfire, possibly making your children more insecure and less likely to recognize your parental authority later.
  • Encourage communication. Tell your child that it’s okay to talk about their feelings and ask questions, but don’t push them. Let your child vocalize how they are feeling if they want to. If your child doesn’t want to talk about the divorce, don’t try to engage in a conversation about it—they may not be ready yet. Let them know that you are available if and when they are ready to talk about it. Do your best to co-parent with your soon-to-be “ex.” Parents need to communicate and consult each other on major decisions, so that the children know that their parents are on the same page. Let them know that both of their parents love them and are looking out for their best interests.
  • Have a therapist on call. Before you even announce your split to your kids, it might be a good idea to line up a therapist. Providing children with a neutral place to express their feelings can help them process some of the big emotions they’re going through. It’s good to have your child start with a therapist before they start showing signs of behavioral changes.
  • Don’t fight in front of the children. Studies have shown that post-divorce conflict in front of the children can lead to mental health issues down the line. Openly arguing in front of the kids can make them feel like they are stuck in the middle—something that no child should ever feel. Additionally, this conflict can set a really bad example for them, especially when they are still learning how to form their own relationships. Whether you and your ex decide to go to mediation, therapy, or just argue outside of the children’s earshot, do whatever you have to do to keep the kids out of it.
  • Don’t talk poorly about one another. This can be a tough one but try your best not to lay blame on your partner to your children, even if there has been serious hostility or infidelity. This will just lead to your children feeling like they have to pick a side, which, again, is something that no child should ever feel. If you can, make a pact with your ex to not ever talk poorly about each other in front of the child.

Ultimately, changes of any kind are hard for kids. Stay patient, stay consistent, and know that you and your children will get through

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.

Conflict in Front of the Kids: Why Not to Do It and How to Avoid It

We recently posted an article on our social media about Parental Alienation and its harmful effect on children. But recent child development research shows that even experiencing lower levels of parental conflict can lead to mental health problems for children who are caught in the middle.

The findings of a new Arizona State University research study, titled “Longitudinal Effects of Post-Divorce Interparental Conflict on Children’s Mental Health Problems Through Fear of Abandonment” were published just last week in the Child Development journal. The study, as the title suggests, focused on the lasting effects that post-divorce parental conflicts have on their children’s mental health.

From 2012 to 2015, the researchers surveyed families participating in the ASU New Beginnings Program, asking 559 children (aged 9-18) about their exposure to conflict. The questions included topics like whether after their parents’ divorce their parents fought in front of them, spoke poorly about one another, asked them to carry messages to one another, etc. The study ultimately found that children exposed to parental conflict were more likely to report worrying about being abandoned by one or both parents. Furthermore, children who reported higher fear of abandonment were also more likely to report additional mental health problems 11 months later.

Before conducting this study, researchers hypothesized that kids who had strong relationships with one or both of their parents would experience less fear of abandonment and fewer mental health problems, since strong parent-child relationships generally create a stress buffer for children. However, they did not find a general buffering effect of parenting in this situation.

Karey O’Hara, a research assistant professor of psychology at ASU and the first author on the paper, stated “This was the most surprising finding for us. Good parenting is a very strong and powerful protective factor for all children, especially after a separation or divorce. But based on prior research, we know that the effect of good parenting is complicated in separated/divorced families.” She then added that although good parenting is protective, it may not be enough to cancel out the negative effects of conflict.

Parents can do something about it, though. In her research paper, O’Hara urges parents not to argue or fight in front of the children. She suggests that parents be extra careful when they’re around the other parent if there is a chance for conflict, and that parents make a conscious effort not to say things that might make their children feel like they are caught in the middle and have to pick sides. In other words, she suggests no badmouthing the other parent or asking the child to spy or act as a messenger.

It is also important, particularly given the findings of the study, “for parents to make sure that their children know that although they are separated or divorced, they will continue to care for them,” in order to allay any fears of abandonment that the child might have.

Going through a separation, a divorce, or a contested custody case can certainly be difficult for children that are experiencing it. If you are a parent who is going through, or has gone through, a divorce or separation, take Karey O’Hara’s advice and try to avoid conflict with your ex and putting your children in the middle as much as possible. And if you don’t feel like you can control and mitigate conflict on your own, there is no shame in seeking help—ultimately it will make you a better parent and your children happier and healthier.

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.

 

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.

 

NEW CASE LIMITS JUDGE’S ABILITY TO MAKE DECISIONS FOR PARENTS

It came on like a silent earthquake. You didn’t see it coming. You never felt it when it hit. But now the foundation of the place where you live has shifted. The cracks in the walls are becoming visible. And nothing will ever be the same.

That is the effect of the 2018 Arizona appellate court case of NICAISE v. SUNDARAM,

Before Nicaise, the Family Court was the final arbiter of disputes over matters like education, medical, religious, or other decisions that parents make. If the parties couldn’t agree on an important parenting issue, one of them could take the matter to court and, after a trial or a hearing, the judge would make the decision for them.

But not anymore.

The Court in Nicaise ruled that a judge “may not substitute its judgment for that of a parent and make parenting decisions for them when they are unable to agree.” So now, when parents disagree, a judge can no longer decide which school a child will attend, or what doctor can treat her, or whether she will participate in therapy, etc. Those are parental decisions, and the Court no longer has the authority to intervene and “break the tie.”

For a number of years, the trend in divorce, legal separation, paternity, and other Family Law cases has been for the courts to award the parents joint legal decision-making authority (formerly called “joint custody”). But the Nicaise case is likely to slow down that trend, or even stop it in its tracks, in cases where people have trouble co-parenting.

Previously, the courts would sometimes enter a joint legal decision-making order, but give one of the parents the “Final-Say” in the event of a disagreement. It required the parents to at least discuss the issue, and each parent had input. But that has changed, too. The Court, in Nicaise, determined that “an award of joint legal decision-making that gives final authority to one parent is, in reality, an award of sole legal decision-making.” So now, if parents cannot seem to agree, then instead of awarding them joint custody with one parent having “final say,” it is likely that the judge will simply award one parent sole legal decision-making authority. This might make the other parent feel as though his or her parental rights have been stripped away. And it could set the stage for less co-parenting, and more fighting, in the future.

The effect of the Nicaise ruling is that if a mother and father are unable to make decisions together, the Court will have to appoint one parent to make all the decisions; or it might split up the decision-making authority so that, for instance, one parent is in charge of making educational decisions while the other has the authority to make medical decisions.

The Nicaise case represents yet another major shift in how Family Law cases are decided in Arizona. It may take years for the repercussions of that ruling to become clear. But this we do know: There is no longer a reason for a judge to order that the parents have joint legal decision-making authority with one parent having the final say. And when parents appear to be unable to make decisions together, it is likely that a judge will grant one parent or the other sole legal decision-making authority. This could derail the decades-old trend of Arizona courts giving divorced/separated parents joint decision-making responsibility, and expecting them to be able to co-parent.

How will the Nicaise ruling play out in the future? – It may result in pitched court battles between parents, with each of them seeking “sole custody,” and it could turn divorce and custody litigation into a high-conflict, winner-take-all contest. This makes it even more important for moms and dads to try to work together and co-parent effectively. And, where they are unable to do so, it will be worthwhile to consider peaceful options, such as mediation and settlement negotiation. Because if those efforts fail, and litigation becomes the only alternative, it is likely that one parent is going to win, and one parent is going to lose. And sometimes that is not the best outcome for the children.

 

 

At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., both Gary Frank and attorney Hanna Juncaj 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 Juncaj 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. In addition, Hanna is an active member of her 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 and 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.

 

 

 

Family Law Attorney Speaks Out for Children

As a Family Law Attorney and a children’s advocate for 37 years, it angers me that our own government has taken more than three thousand children from their parents at the border. Some have been shipped to locations across the country, while their parents are deported. Separating immigrant children from their parents is cruel and inhumane. It’s a matter of basic human rights. Just imagine the horror of it happening to you and your kids. Today, little 3 and 4 year old boys and girls are being forced to appear in court and represent themselves in deportation proceedings. That makes a mockery of U.S. Immigration Law and our Constitution. Thousands of young children have been traumatized, and many will never find their way back to their mothers and fathers. This is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue. It is not American vs. Immigrant. The only question is whether we, as a society, will countenance child abuse.

Working Dad’s Journal – Thoughts on Father’s Day

May 31, 1985

To My Little Girl (6 months old):

Since you were born, I have undergone a gradual transformation. What has changed is my entire definition of self – the way I view myself.  The change is imperceptible to others.  I look, dress, and act the same as I always have, but I feel different.

I had a beautiful childhood.  I felt safe in the knowledge that my parents loved me.  This was, for me, a protective shield.  My memories of those days are vivid and happy.  I can still remember jumping in bed with my dad on Sunday mornings and the way he would turn and smile and wrap me up in his massive arms.  I remember him lifting me gently and carrying me off to bed at night, and clinging to him, my head on his shoulder, pretending to be asleep.  I remember our baseball games in the backyard and how proud I was that my dad was the one teaching us how to hit, field, and throw.  I remember our man-to-man talks and how important I felt as my dad listened intently to my thoughts.  In my eyes, my dad was of heroic proportions, fearless and strong, yet kind and wise.  Today I not only remember those times with my dad, I feel them.

 Now I walk into your room.  It is dark and you are crying.  You reach for me and I lift you out of your crib and hold you in my arms.  You cling to me.  Although you are still whimpering, you smile.  I talk to you softly and turn to gaze into the mirror on your closet door.  Through the dim light, I look at myself and see my dad.

BABY VERONICA CASE TAKES A HEARTBREAKING TWIST

I have written several times over the past year about the Baby Veronica case.  As an infant, little Veronica was given up for adoption by her birth mother after it appeared that the father had abandoned her.  However, the father. who was part Native American, later asserted his custodial rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act.  In 2011, a South Carolina family court judge ruled in favor of the father.  As a result, the child – who had now lived with her adoptive family for almost all of her two years – was ripped out of the arms of the only mother and father she had ever known.  She was placed in the car of a man who was a stranger, and was driven away.  

The adoptive parents appealed, and the decision was ultimately overturned.  An appeals court ruled that the child must be returned to the adoptive parents.  The father then appealed to the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided not to intervene.  That meant the prior ruling would stand.  It was final.  The case was over. 

Baby Veronica – who had by now lived with her biological father for more than a year, and had probably bonded with him – would have to be returned to her adoptive parents.

But that’s not the end of the story.

When the time came for the biological father to hand the child over, he was nowhere to be found.  The Sheriff’s Office in Charleston, South Carolina issued a warrant for his arrest.  On Monday, the father turned himself in.  He was taken into custody and later released on a $10,000 bond.  

Then, after his release, the father once again, disappeared — and Baby Veronica is missing.

Over the weekend, the father told CNN that he is willing to go to jail.  “I’m going to fight till I have no fight left in me and till they say you can’t fight no more. This is my daughter.  It’s not a yo-yo that I can just say, hey, I borrowed it for two years and here’s it back.”

The adoptive parents are grief-stricken.  They recently gave this statement:  “With every passing hour, we fear more and more for her safety and well-being.  If anything should happen to our daughter while she’s being left in the hands of those who hold her captive from us, the responsibility will be shared by many.”

Meanwhile, Baby Veronica remains in the eye of the hurricane.  She is the innocent victim here.  This poor child has been bounced back and forth like a ping pong ball.  Each time she has the chance to bond with an adult caregiver, she is yanked away and handed to someone else.  By now, she may have developed emotional scars that could last a lifetime.

This is a stunning example of how children can fall through the cracks of the legal system.  Father’s have rights.  Mother’s have rights.  Grandparents, and step-parents, and biological parents, and adoptive parents all have rights.  But in the process of asserting those rights, sometimes the best interests of the child are forgotten.  Sometimes, while the war is being waged in one courtroom after another, children like Baby Veronica are damaged.  And when that happens, it affects us all. 


Gary Frank, has been a courtroom litigator in the Family Law arena for over thirty years, and is a strong and committed advocate for his clients.  In addition to being a litigation attorney, Mr. Frank has acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tem in the Maricopa County Superior Court.  This has given him an understanding of the inner-workings of the court, and a unique perspective  that most attorneys lack.  He has also acted, for many years, as a professional mediator of Family Law disputes.   We handle a full range of Family Law matters, including divorce, custody / legal decision-making, parenting-time, child support, spousal maintenance, division of property and assets, modification and enforcement actions, as well paternity/maternity cases, grandparent or non-parent custody and visitation actions, and relocation/move-away cases.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to give our office a call today at 602-383-3610; or feel free to contact us through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com; or by email at [email protected]   We’d be happy to help you.


Our Changing World – A Victory for Tolerance

Working mothers.  Stay-at-home dads.  Gay marriage.  Single-parent adoption.  Interracial marriage.  Interfaith marriage.  Blended families . . .

Our world, and the very concept of “Family,” is changing in ways that our grandparents never could have imagined. And it is changing for the better.

It is a victory for freedom.  A victory for tolerance.  We live in the only society in human history where something like this could be possible.

The Law Office of Gary J. Frank has been a fixture in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Gary Frank is a Family Law litigator, a mediator, and a former Judge Pro Tem.  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, and all matters relating to families and children.  If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate.  Contact us today.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at [email protected], or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’d be honored to help you.

DWAYNE WADE IS LEARNING ABOUT FATHERHOOD – JUST LIKE YOU

Today is Father’s Day.  So, here is a story about a father.  Someone who loves his children, just like you love your children.  Someone who wakes up every day and works hard to be a better dad, just like you do . . .
Dwayne Wade is a basketball legend.  He’s a fierce competitor who has been criticized for complaining when a referee makes a call he doesn’t like.  It never bothered him that his every move on and off the basketball court is dissected by critics, and emulated by children who look up to him — until now. . . . Because now the children who are emulating his behavior are his own. 
Not long ago, a court awarded Dwayne Wade sole custody of his two sons after a contentious custody battle.  He is also raising a nephew.  By all accounts, the guy’s a great father.  But it wasn’t until he went to a youth league basketball game and saw his own son complaining to a referee that it hit him:  A kid will model his behavior after his father.  And if you don’t like how your kid is acting, it may be because he learned it from you.
That’s when Dwayne Wade knew he needed to make a change. 
“I’m a role model for Zaire, Zion, and Dahveon,” Wade said in an interview.  “So I go to their games and I hate, I hate, to see them talking back to the ref.  I hate it.  It burns me up inside every time.  I’m like “Get back on defense.’ And then I look in the mirror and say, ‘Well, how can you tell him not to do something when you’re doing it?’ I look at that and I think that’s helped me understand.”
* * *
Here’s some advice that I received as a young father: 
“You’re children are watching you.  They look up to you.  They want to grow up to be just like you.  And, if you’re not careful, they will.”
My mentor may have been joking, but the words ring true.  We are shaping our children not only through our love and discipline, but also by how we act when we think they’re not looking.  So, we need to try to continually improve ourselves.  We need to try to be better people – for their benefit.
I’ll let Dwayne Wade have the last word about fatherhood, on Father’s Day:
“I’m a role model . . . I can’t tell my son to do something if I’m not leading by example.  So I’m trying to be better at it.”
Gary Frank has represented dads in divorce, custody, and parenting-time cases for over 30 years, and is a strong advocate.  Mr. Frank is an expert courtroom litigator, as well as a mediator, and a former Superior Court Judge Pro Tem.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding divorce, child custody, parenting-time, or any other area of Family Law, call us today at 602-383-3610; or contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’re always happy to talk to you.

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