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
If you are considering entering into a prenuptial agreement (also known as a premarital agreement or a "prenup") before tying the knot, make sure you start early. Too often, couples try to squeeze the prenup process in between picking up the tux and the final teeth bleaching, when they ideally should have met with their attorneys soon after choosing the wedding date. The prenup discussion doesn't get easier if you procrastinate and if you put it off too long, the agreement is vulnerable to being set aside if either party successfully argues they didn't have sufficient time to fully understand the terms or consequences of signing the agreement. Lawyers may charge higher premiums for expedited legal work, so beginning the process earlier will save you money and result in an agreement that is less likely to be deemed unenforceable. Although there is no "magic date" for ensuring the enforceability of the prenup, we recommend that the prenup is executed at least thirty days before the wedding. Make sure to allow plenty of time for the attorneys to draft, review and circulate the document!
Legal decision making in Arizona (formerly known as "custody") usually refers to how major decisions about a child's healthcare, education, and (sometimes) religion will be made, but within those broad categories, most of the issues that crop up between parents are actually about far more specific disagreements. Recently, a dispute between Michigan parents about whether and when to vaccinate their child boiled over into a citation for contempt and a jail sentence for the child's mother.
Family law attorneys in Phoenix and around the state have been eagerly awaiting the Arizona Supreme Court's decision of how to interpret and apply Arizona's presumption of paternity statute, A.R.S. §25-814. When the U.S. Supreme Court announced a decision in the Pavan v. Smith case this week, it looked like we wouldn't have to wait much longer.
One of the most destructive behaviors we see from divorced or divorcing parents is telling the child that he or she must keep secrets from the other parent. Sometimes it is done in an effort to conceal objectionable behavior ("I don't want Mom to know that I let you stay up until midnight") and other times, it is a misguided attempt to maintain privacy ("She doesn't need to know what we do when you're here"). Regardless of the reason, asking a child to keep secrets places stress on the child and sends the message that the child is teaming up with one parent against the other. Sometimes the offended parent even storms to his/her lawyer's office and demands that the lawyer "tell the judge make him stop telling the child to keep secrets." To be fair, we see this type of behaviors from both mothers and fathers; however, this article, which could also be titled Co-parenting Through Conflict - Doing it the Right Way!, focuses on a situation where Dad, for whatever reason, had asked his young son to keep a secret from Mom.
As Part 1 of this article described, the family court in Tucson had a legal dilemma on its hands. On the one hand, as the trial court acknowledged, Mexico was the home state of this child and the highest court in Mexico had determined that the Baja court had correctly taken jurisdiction over the case. On the other hand, the reason that Mexican law gave jurisdiction to the Baja court was because Mauricio had claimed abandonment-a claim which does not exist in Arizona. If the exact same case had come before the trial court but the two parents had been living in two different U.S. States instead of two different Mexican states, the UCCJEA would have given jurisdiction to the state where the mother and child had been living-exactly what Elsa had been arguing for all along.
Arizona family law attorneys know that custody disputes are often contentious, complex, and costly. The issues are polarizing and emotionally charged, so perhaps it's no surprise that even well-meaning parents sometimes fight. Occasionally, the legal system itself joins in the tug-of-war, as in the recently decided case of Margain v. Ruiz-Bours (Ariz. App., 2016).
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.