The Arizona Court of Appeals in the case of Paul E. vs. Courtney F. addressed whether a judge has the authority to order parents to enroll their child in therapy and whether that therapist or other expert was entitled to quasi-judicial immunity from a lawsuit against the therapist if one of the parents chose to sue the therapist.
The child’s father, Paul, and the child’s mother, Courtney, were married.
The parties eventually divorced and Courtney was originally given the final legal decision-making authority over educational, medical, and dental decisions affecting their child and the parents were to equally share parenting time.
One day while staying with Courtney, their son “L.” made the decision to wear a skirt to school. Husband directed L. to seek out and speak with a therapist.
The therapist suggested Husband and Wife limit L.’s access to female-related items.
The husband then requested the Court modify parenting time and legal decision making regarding the children.
The husband claimed that L. was influenced by mother to adopt a female-esque personality/lifestyle.
At this point, L.’s therapist had not diagnosed L. with gender dysphoria. Husband also requested, and was awarded, temporary orders limiting mothers parenting time.
The order stated:
- Until further Court order, Mother shall not dress L. in female clothing, shall not purchase female or “girl” clothing for L., shall not to permit L. to dress in female clothing (including, but not limited to underwear, socks, shirts, dresses, skirts, etc.), shall not purchase female-oriented toys or other items for L., shall not refer to L. in his presence or in the presence of any of the other children as “her” or “she,” shall not refer to L. as a “girl” or by other female designation, and shall not encourage any of the parties’ other children to do so, shall not to encourage or direct third parties to refer to L. as “her,” as “she” as a “girl,” or as other female designation, or to treat him as such, and shall not to take any other actions that are inconsistent with the spirit of these orders.
- Until further Court order, Mother shall remove from her home any female or “girl” clothing of or for L. and any female-oriented toys or other items of or for L. Mother may store such items elsewhere for later use in the event the Court later modifies or vacates these orders.
- Until further Court order, Mother also shall direct the parties’ children not to refer to L. as “her,” as “she,” as a “girl” or as other female designation, or if Mother hears or becomes aware of any of those children doing so.
- Until further Court order, Mother shall not refer to L. as “gender variant” or use such term or any related terms in L.’s presence or in the presence of the parties’ other children. Mother further shall refrain from any discussion of gender-related issues with L., with any of the parties’ other children or in L.’s or any of the parties’ other children’s presence.
- Mother shall not provide L. or any of the parties’ other children with any materials addressing gender preference.
- Mother shall not take any actions to frustrate or defy the spirit of any of the foregoing orders.
After further evaluation, L. was diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
The temporary orders remained in place, but Husband claimed the wife was not following the orders.
L. also engaged in self-harm and was taken to the hospital without any notification to the father.
L. started to identify as a boy again according to L.’s therapist, but the husband claims that Wife amplified her disobedience of the orders once she became aware of this fact.
A custody evaluation was conducted by a court-appointed child therapist to provide the court with guidance on what parenting arrangement would be in the child’s best interests.
The court granted this psychologist judicial immunity under ARFLP 95.
The court decided that the temporary orders would remain in effect for 6 months to a year and neither parent could discuss sensitive topics such as hormone manipulation or sex-change operations with the child.
The parties could not agree on custody or parenting time, so the court decided it would be best to determine the issue for itself by adopting a “middle ground” approach.
The court reasoned that L. had been through an emotional roller coaster and needed a more consistent schedule.
The court further concluded that “a therapeutic intervention under ARFLP 95(A) is necessary to guide the parties and the Court through L.’s gender identification process.” It ordered:
- A “gender expert” will be selected to provide feedback and guidance to the Court and the parties regarding gender identification issues. The restrictions set in the Court’s earlier Minute Entry apply. The expert will be appointed by separate Court order.
- L. will continue treatment with the therapist and will work on a “safe haven” basis. She will consult with and work cooperatively with the gender expert. Should the expert have questions regarding this order, she may seek clarification from the Court.
- Although L. will be free to explore in each parent’s house, neither parent shall discuss gender identification issues with L. The parties should apply a standard response if L. asks to talk about gender identification issues, deferring the question or discussion to the therapist. The Court is open to allowing the parents to discuss gender identification issues in the future should such an approach be suggested by the gender expert.
- Neither parent may, directly or indirectly, promote or discourage a specific view of gender identification for L.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled the trial judge had no authority to order the parents to take the child to therapy or appoint a therapist for the child.
The parents, not the court, have such rights to make those decisions for the parents.
The court only has the authority to either grant the parent the joint right to make those decisions together or grant one parent sole custody to make those decisions for the child.
Specifically, the Court of Appeals held “courts may do many things in the best interests of children, they cannot advance such interests by exercising jurisdiction that they lack.
Every jurisdictional power of the superior court must find its support in the supporting statutory framework.”
Title 25 of the Arizona Revised Statutes states: “[t]he court’s statutorily prescribed role is not to make decisions in place of parents, but to decide which fit parent or parents shall make such decisions.
Joint legal decision-making means both parents share decision-making and neither parent’s rights or responsibilities are superior” and “sole legal decision-making means one parent has the legal right and responsibility to make major decisions for a child.”
A court faced with uncooperative and stubborn parents might reasonably suppose that their children’s best interests would be bettered by an order that effectively resolves a disputed issue.
In an Arizona family law case, the court does not have absolute authority to make decisions for the parents when it believes them to be in a child’s best interests.
Instead, the Court must be guided by the best interests of a child in determining legal-decision-making authority.
“Except as otherwise agreed by the parties in writing, the parent designated as sole legal decision-maker may determine the child’s upbringing, including the child’s education, care, health care and religious training, unless, on motion by the other parent, the court, after a hearing, finds that in the absence of a specific limitation of the parent designated as the sole legal decision-makers authority, the child’s physical health would be endangered or the child’s emotional development would be significantly impaired.”
However, the statute requires more than merely a best-interest analysis; it authorizes the judicial limitation of a sole decision-makers authority only when “the child’s physical health would be endangered, or the child’s emotional development would be significantly impaired.”
The editors’ comment underlying the statute makes it clear that the heightened standard of endangerment will be satisfied in only the most extreme of circumstances, such as when there is child abuse or neglect, and does not provide a “free pass” for the court to substitute its judgment for that of the custodial parent
When the court ordered that L. see the court-appointed child therapist, it acted beyond the court’s authority.
The rule does not allow Courts to order and appoint a therapist in cases where parents disagree on whether therapy is appropriate for their child or who that therapist should be to provide treatment.
The appointment of the therapist was to provide treatment for the child.
The therapist did not serve any judicial function with regard to the judge’s decision regarding sole legal decision making.
Furthermore, restricting the topics the parents can discuss is not related to sole legal custody and therefore infringed upon the parents’ freedom of speech.
If you have questions about a court-appointed child therapist in an Arizona divorce case, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona child custody and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in child custody and family law cases.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your Arizona child custody or family law case around today.
More Articles About Child Custody in Arizona
- ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY LAWS
- DIVORCE AND GRANDPARENTS VISITATION RIGHTS IN ARIZONA
- CHANGING A CHILD’S LAST NAME IN ARIZONA
- PARENT INFORMATION PROGRAM CLASS IN ARIZONA
- GRANDPARENTS RIGHTS IN ARIZONA
- MOVING CHILDREN MANY TIMES IN ARIZONA
- PARENTAL ALIENATION IN ARIZONA
- JOINT CUSTODY AND SCHOOL DECISIONS IN ARIZONA
- DO COURTS FAVOR MOTHERS IN CUSTODY BATTLES IN ARIZONA
- ENFORCE VISITATION NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT IN ARIZONA
- DELEGATION OF CHILD CUSTODY DECISIONS TO AN EXPERT IN ARIZONA
- PRESUMPTION OF EQUAL PARENTING TIME IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO GET SOLE CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO ENFORCE PARENTING TIME IN ARIZONA
- CO-PARENTING AFTER DIVORCE IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO CHANGE A CHILD’S LAST NAME IN ARIZONA
- GETTING EMERGENCY CHILD CUSTODY ORDERS IN ARIZONA
- HOW DO YOU MODIFY VISITATION OR PARENTING TIME IN ARIZONA
- WHAT VISITATION OR PARENTING TIME SCHEDULES DO JUDGES ORDER IN ARIZONA
- WHAT IS A CHILD CUSTODY EVALUATION IN ARIZONA
- PREPARE FOR A CHILD CUSTODY EVALUATION IN ARIZONA
- CAN A GRANDPARENT OR STEPPARENT BE AWARDED CUSTODY OF A CHILD IN AZ
- CONTESTING RELOCATION OF A CHILD WHEN YOU DO NOT LIVE IN ARIZONA
- WHO HAS CUSTODY OF CHILDREN WHEN A DIVORCE IS FILED IN ARIZONA
- WHAT ARE THE CHILD CUSTODY FACTORS IN ARIZONA
- WHAT IT JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY OR JOINT DECISION MAKING IN ARIZONA
- ARE MOTHERS FAVORED CHILD CUSTODY CASES IN ARIZONA
- WHAT IS A PARENTING COORDINATOR IN AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- CAN A PARENT WITH SOLE CUSTODY LIMIT ACCESS TO A CHILD’S MEDICAL RECORDS IN ARIZONA
- WHAT HAPPENS IF A PARENT WANTS TO MOVE OUT OF STATE WITH A CHILD IN ARIZONA
- PARENTING TIME AFTER LOSING AN ORDER OF PROTECTION HEARING IN ARIZONA
- WHO IS THE BEST CHILD CUSTODY LAWYER IN ARIZONA
- ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY STATUTES
- ARIZONA UNIFORM CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION AND ENFORCEMENT ACT STATUTES
- TEMPORARY CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- ADOPTION ATTORNEYS IN ARIZONA
- RESTRICTIONS IN ARIZONA ON TAKING CHILDREN TO ANOTHER COUNTRY
- WITHHOLDING CHILD FROM CUSTODIAL PARENT IN ARIZONA
- AFFIDAVIT IN A CHILD CUSTODY CASE IN ARIZONA
- BEST INTEREST ATTORNEY IN ARIZONA
- LATE OBJECTION TO CHILD RELOCATION NOTICE IN ARIZONA
- RAISING ALLEGATIONS THAT WERE RAISED IN A PRIOR ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- TEMPORARY VISITATION ORDER FOR GRANDPARENTS IN ARIZONA
- WHEN THE CHILD RELOCATION STATUTE DOES NOT APPLY IN ARIZONA
- SIGNIFICANT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SOLE CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO CHOOSE A GUARDIAN FOR YOUR CHILD IN ARIZONA
- MULTI-STATE CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION IN ARIZONA
- SCHOOL CHOICE CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- TEMPORARY ORDERS FOR GRANDPARENTS VISITATION IN ARIZONA
- CAN A STEPPARENT BE HELD IN CONTEMPT IN ARIZONA
- UNAUTHORIZED RELOCATION OF CHILDREN IN ARIZONA
- GRANDPARENTS CANNOT PREVENT CHILD RELOCATION IN ARIZONA
- WHEN ARIZONA CHILD RELOCATION STATUTE IN ARIZONA DOES NOT APPLY
- ARIZONA CHILD RELOCATION LAWS
- INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION IN ARIZONA
- UCCJEA CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION IN ARIZONA
- MENTAL HEALTH RECORDS IN CHILD CUSTODY CASES IN ARIZONA
- FAILING TO ALLEGE CHANGED CIRCUMSTANCES TO MODIFY CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- FALSE ALLEGATIONS OF CHILD ABUSE IN A CHILD CUSTODY CASE IN ARIZONA
- CHILD CUSTODY AND NARCISSISTIC A PARENT IN ARIZONA
- CHANGE CIRCUMSTANCES TO CHANGE CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- EFFECT OF MUTUAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ON CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- PARENTING TIME WITH A NON-BIOLOGICAL CHILD IN ARIZONA
- DENIAL OF MORE TIME IN CHILD CUSTODY CASE IN ARIZONA
- WHEN A CHILD CUSTODY HEARING IS REQUIRED IN ARIZONA
- HOSTILITY BASIS TO MODIFY CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- MEANING OF HOME STATE IN ARIZONA
- USE OF THE UCCJEA IN DEPENDENCY CASES IN ARIZONA
- EFFECT OF DENIAL OF VISITATION ON CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS IN ARIZONA
- CUSTODY DECISIONS CANNOT BE DELEGATED TO AN EXPERT
- THIRD-PARTY AND EMERGENCY CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- STEPPARENT IN LOCO PARENTIS CHILD VISITATION IN ARIZONA
- STEPPARENTS CANNOT OBTAIN CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- BEST INTEREST STANDARD FOR THIRD-PARTY CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- TEMPORARY CHILD CUSTODY IN AN ARIZONA DIVORCE DECREE
- MODIFICATION OF CUSTODY AND CHILD ABDUCTION IN ARIZONA
- VISITATION RIGHTS AND IN LOCO PARENTIS STANDING IN ARIZONA
- HOW DIVORCE AFFECTS CHILDREN IN ARIZONA
- PARENTING PLANS COURTS USE IN ARIZONA
- PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM A HOSTILE PARENT IN ARIZONA
- SUITABLE NOTICE FOR CHILD CUSTODY HEARING IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO DEAL WITH A HOSTILE PARENT IN ARIZONA
- JURISDICTION OVER CHILD RESIDING OUTSIDE ARIZONA
- HABEAS CORPUS IN AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- NOTICE OF HEARING IN AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- STANDARD OF CARE TO REPORT CHILD ABUSE IN ARIZONA
- APPEALING DEPENDENCY ORDERS IN ARIZONA
- MODIFICATION OF PARENTING TIME CHANGE WHEN KIDS CHANGE SCHOOLS
- STANDARD FOR TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS IN ARIZONA
- A MINOR’S RIGHT TO BE HEARD IN A CHILD CUSTODY CASE IN ARIZONA
- CAN THE COURT APPOINT A GUARDIAN FOR A CHILD IN ARIZONA
- EXCLUDING TESTIMONY IN A CHILD CUSTODY CASE IN ARIZONA
- SUPERVISED PARENTING TIME IN ARIZONA
- DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND PARENTING TIME IN ARIZONA
- JURISDICTION FOR A DEPENDENCY CASE IN ARIZONA
- CHANGING A CHILD’S LAST NAME IN ARIZONA
- SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AND CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- JURISDICTION TO PETITION FOR VISITATION IN ARIZONA
- NO ALCOHOL DURING PARENTING TIME IN ARIZONA
- FAILING TO APPEAR FOR CHILD CUSTODY HEARING IN ARIZONA
- ONE SPOUSE ADOPTS A CHILD IN ARIZONA
- BASICS OF CHILD ABUSE IN ARIZONA
- CHILD ABUSE AND CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- FATHERS RIGHTS IN ARIZONA
- PREPARE FOR A CHILD CUSTODY CASE IN ARIZONA
- CO-PARENTING WITH YOUR EX IN ARIZONA
- PETITION TO MODIFY CHILD SUPPORT AND SOLE CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- DUE PROCESS IN A CHILD CUSTODY HEARING IN ARIZONA
- SOLE LEGAL CUSTODY OVER MEDICAL DECISIONS FOR A CHILD IN ARIZONA
- THIRD-PARTY VISITATION WITH A CHILD IN ARIZONA
- RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL IN ARIZONA
- FINAL DECISION-MAKING AUTHORITY OVER A CHILD IN ARIZONA
- CAN A BEST INTEREST ATTORNEY TESTIFY AT TRIAL IN ARIZONA
- MODIFY A SUPERVISED VISITATION ORDER IN ARIZONA
- CALCULATING DISTANCE FOR A CHILD RELOCATION IN ARIZONA
- DISMISSING PETITION TO MODIFY CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- WHAT IS A THERAPEUTIC INTERVENTIONIST IN ARIZONA
- WHAT HAPPENS TO EMBRYOS IN A DIVORCE IN ARIZONA
- CHANGE CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA WHEN PARENT MOVES AWAY
- IMPORTANCE OF MEDIATING A CHILD CUSTODY CASE IN ARIZONA
- CHILD CUSTODY AND CRIMINAL RECORDS IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO PREPARE FOR A CHILD CUSTODY HEARING IN ARIZONA
- WHEN FINDINGS OF FACT ARE NOT REQUIRED AFTER A CHILD CUSTODY TRIAL IN ARIZONA
- HOME STATE CUSTODY JURISDICTION WHEN CHILD RELOCATED TO ARIZONA
- CAN VISITATION WITH A CHILD BE REDUCED WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE IN ARIZONA
- CHILDREN WITNESSING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN ARIZONA
- CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCES FOR A CHILD CUSTODY MODIFICATION IN ARIZONA
- HEARING TO DECLINE CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION IN ARIZONA
- CUSTODY OF A CHILD IN AN ARIZONA DEPENDENCY CASE
- LATE DISCLOSURE IN AZ CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- EMERGENCY CHILD CUSTODY WHEN ARIZONA LACKS JURISDICTION
- HOW TO REGISTER A CHILD CUSTODY ORDER IN ARIZONA
- DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PRESUMPTION IN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASES
- EFFECT OF CORONAVIRUS ON CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION ORDERS
About the Author: Chris Hildebrand has over 26 years of Arizona family law experience and received awards from US News and World Report, Phoenix Magazine, Arizona Foothills Magazine and others. Visit https://www.hildebrandlaw.com.