The Arizona Teachers' Walkout has ended, children statewide are (perhaps reluctantly) heading back to school, and while as Arizona Family Lawyers we are content to leave the political debate to others, one feature of the walkout that we couldn't avoid noticing was that lots of Arizona parents found themselves with the unexpected dilemma of what to do with the kids. Daycare? Relatives? You can't just leave them home alone, right?
Originally published in the April 2018 newsletter for the Family Law section of the Maricopa County Bar Association
Arizona Family Law attorneys know that the rules can change when children are involved. The standard courtroom and litigation procedures that most of us are familiar with from practice or television are designed for the typical situation, where each party is a mature, reasoning adult, usually represented by an attorney. There are exceptions in any area of the law of course, but Arizona Family and Juvenile Courts see more exceptions than most. A recent juvenile case illustrates how even the right to cross-examine witnesses has to sometimes take a back seat to the special concerns for a child's welfare.
As Arizona Family Law attorneys, we often like to keep up with developments in the laws of other states, so last fall when California approved a bill that will change several parts of that State's family code, it caught our attention. The bill's supporters believe it will address several unresolved problems under current state law for sperm donors, surrogates, and same sex couples.
Family Law Attorneys in Arizona and across the nation have been watching the divorce of Harold and Sue Ann Hamm. It's a rare case where one party writes the other a check for $975,000,000.00, and rarer still when the other party refuses to accept it because it isn't enough. As a number of news sites have reported, an Oklahoma judge recently ordered oil tycoon Harold Hamm to pay his ex-wife Sue Ann Hamm $974,790,317.77 as part of the couple's divorce in addition to other assets worth millions by themselves. While she has since changed her mind about depositing the check, Ms. Hamm is still pursuing an appeal asking for several billion dollars, arguing that the original court order (about 6% of the estimated $18,000,000,000.00 total marital assets) is unfairly low.
By now, many Arizona family lawyers have heard that the Arizona ban on same-sex marriages has been overturned by the courts. The recent District Court of Arizona decision acknowledges that the decision the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reached earlier this month concerning the bans in Idaho and Nevada applied to Arizona's laws as well. (Read the full opinion here: http://documents.latimes.com/arizona-opinion-1017-2014/) But even as same-sex couples are lining up to receive marriage licenses, there are still legal questions which remain unanswered.
Most Arizona Family Law attorneys have dealt with the problem of parental alienation, the estrangement between one parent and a child caused by the behavior of the other parent, but there are no easy solutions for it. It's something of cliché that children often get the worst of the fallout when a family breaks up, but now some attorneys and legislators are suggesting making a specific law against the practice of engaging in alienating behavior which would require courts to reduce the decision making authority or parenting time (or both) of a parent who engages in gatekeeping behavior.
By David Sheffield, Esq.
by David I. Sheffield, Esq.