Articles Posted in Family Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the municipal court that the anti-marital fact privilege precluded H.C. from testifying about Defendant’s driving under the influence (DUI) charges, holding that H.C. could testify about the DUI charges under the crime exception to the anti-marital fact privilege. Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-4062(1). Defendant was charged with criminal damage, domestic violence, and three counts of DUI. Defendant successfully moved to preclude H.C. from testifying about the DUI charges and to sever those charges from the criminal damage charge based on the anti-marital fact privilege. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that when a defendant is charged for committing a crime against his or her spouse, the crime exception to the anti-marital fact privilege allows the witness-spouse to testify regarding not only that charge but also any charges arising from the same unitary event. View "Phoenix City Prosecutor v. Honorable Laura Lowery" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In this termination of parental rights case, the Supreme Court held that juvenile courts must consider the totality of the circumstances existing at the time of a parental severance determination, including the child’s adoptability and the parent’s rehabilitation, in determining whether severance is in the best interests of the child for purposes of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-533(B). The juvenile court in this case severed Mother’s parental rights to her two children. Mother appealed, challenging the juvenile court’s best-interests finding. The court of appeals vacated the juvenile court’s order, concluding that the record supporting the best-interests determination was insubstantial. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and affirmed the juvenile court’s judgment terminating Mother’s parental rights, holding that the court of appeals erred in its best-interests analysis and that sufficient evidence supported the juvenile court’s best-interests finding. View "Alma S. v. Department of Child Safety" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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When two legal parents disagree about whether visitation is in their child’s best interests, both parents’ opinions are entitled to special weight under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 25-409(E). However, neither parent is entitled to a presumption in his or her favor, and the parents’ conflicting opinions must give way to the court’s finding on whether visitation is in the child’s best interests. At issue in this case was whether the family court abused its discretion in awarding Grandparents visitation after Mother and Father’s divorce. Mother objected to the visitation. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Father’s opinion on visitation, not only Mother’s, was entitled to special weight under section 25-409(E). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) when two legal parents’ visitation opinions conflict, neither parent is entitled to a presumption in his or her favor, and neither opinion is entitled to special weight because the court’s determination of whether visitation is in the child’s best interests controls; and (2) the family court did not abuse its discretion in this case. View "Friedman v. Roels" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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At issue in this termination of parental rights proceeding was the procedure a juvenile court must follow if a parent fails to timely appear for a scheduled and duly-notice termination adjudication hearing. The Supreme Court held (1) a parent who fails timely to appear for a duly-noticed termination adjudication hearing has “failed to appear” under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-863(C) and Ariz. R.P. Juv. Ct. 66(D)(2); (2) if a juvenile court exercises its discretion to proceeding with the hearing in a parent’s absence after finding waiver of the parent’s legal rights, the rights waived include the parent’s due process rights to be present and to participate and testify in the hearing; (3) the waiver rules do not apply to a parent’s right to counsel at a termination adjudication hearing, which right is unaffected by the parent’s appearance or absence; and (4) when a juvenile court finds that a parent has waived his or her legal rights, the state must nonetheless present sufficient evidence to establish an alleged ground for termination and for a finding that termination is in the child’s best interests. View "Brenda D. v. Department of Child Safety, Z.D." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Arizona’s Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (AUIFSA), by its terms, allows an obligee to contest an obligor’s statement of child support arrears notwithstanding the obligee’s failure to request a hearing within twenty days of receiving notice of the child support order’s registration. In 2014, Father registered in Arizona a 2004 child support order from Illinois. Mother subsequently accepted service of the registration documents, including Father’s statement of arrearages. Thereafter, Mother requested a hearing to contest the amount of arrears in Father’s proposed judgment. The family court determined that Mother’s request was untimely because it was filed more than twenty days after her attorney accepted service. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that AUIFSA did not prelude Mother’s objection in this case. View "Taylor v. Pandola" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Arizona’s Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (AUIFSA), by its terms, allows an obligee to contest an obligor’s statement of child support arrears notwithstanding the obligee’s failure to request a hearing within twenty days of receiving notice of the child support order’s registration. In 2014, Father registered in Arizona a 2004 child support order from Illinois. Mother subsequently accepted service of the registration documents, including Father’s statement of arrearages. Thereafter, Mother requested a hearing to contest the amount of arrears in Father’s proposed judgment. The family court determined that Mother’s request was untimely because it was filed more than twenty days after her attorney accepted service. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that AUIFSA did not prelude Mother’s objection in this case. View "Taylor v. Pandola" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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An order granting or denying a motion filed pursuant to Rule 85(A) of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure is a special order made after final judgment under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-2101(A)(2), which confers jurisdiction on the court of appeals to decide whether the ruling was correct. Petitioner filed a motion pursuant to Rule 85(A) to correct a clerical error in a judgment. Specifically, Petitioner moved to replace a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) with one that complied with the dissolution decree between him and his wife. The family court denied the motion, concluding that the decree and QDRO were clear and unambiguous because no appeal had been taken. Petitioner appealed. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that Petitioner’s motion failed to assert any issues that could not have been raised in a timely appeal from the QDRO. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ decision, holding that the court of appeals had jurisdiction to decide whether the family court correctly denied Petitioner’s Rule 85(A) motion. View "Vincent v. Shanovich" on Justia Law

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Failure to register with the Arizona putative fathers registry is a statutory ground for severing a father’s parental rights, and putative fathers must comply with Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-106.01 to avoid severance pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-533(B)(6). Frank R.’s parental rights were terminated because he did not register with the putative fathers registry. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the juvenile court had correctly applied section 8-533(B)(6). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) compliance with section 8-106.01 may not be excused to allow the father to avoid severance under section 8-533(B)(6); and (2) because Frank did not register, despite having the opportunity and time do so, the juvenile court did not err when it severed his parental rights. View "Frank R. v. Mother Goose Adoptions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Applying Ariz. R. Juv. Ct. P. 64(C) in pretrial proceedings does not conflict with Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-863(C) in violation of the separation of powers required by Ariz. Const. art. III. After the juvenile court terminated Mother’s parental rights Mother appealed, arguing that Rule 64(C), which authorizes the court to proceed to a final termination hearing when a parent fails to appear without good cause at a pretrial conference, conflicts with section 8-863(C), which addresses the consequences for a parent’s failure to appear at a hearing and thus violates separation of powers principles. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that rule 64(C) does not enlarge or diminish any substantive rights granted by section 8-863(C), and therefore, there is no separation of powers violation. View "Marianne N. v. Department of Child Safety" on Justia Law

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The statutory presumption set forth in Ariz. Rev. Stat. 25-814(A)(1) that a man is presumed to be a legal parent if his wife gives birth to a child during the marriage applies to couples in same-sex marriages. After Kimberly McLaughlin and Suzan McLaughlin were married in California, Kimberly gave birth to a baby boy, E. When E. was almost two years old, Kimberly moved out of the parties’ home, taking E. with her. Thereafter, Suzan filed petitions for dissolution and for legal decision-making and parenting time in loco parentis. Suzan also challenged the constitutionality of Arizona’s refusal to recognize lawful same-sex marriages performed in other states. Based on Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. __ (2015), the trial court concluded that Kimberly could not rebut Suzan’s presumptive parentage under section 25-814(C). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Suzan was a presumed parent under section 25-814(A)(1) and that Kimberly was equitably estopped from rebutting Suzan’s presumptive parentage of their son. View "McLaughlin v. Honorable Lori B. Jones" on Justia Law