Can a Stepparent Be Held in Contempt in Arizona
In Munari v. Hotham, the Mother and Stepfather of the child were held in contempt of a court order and were sanctioned after failing to comply with court orders specifically requiring them to adhere to an order permitting visitation with the child’s grandparents and other actions after relocating motion from Arizona to Missouri.
Melody (“Mother”) and Brian Munari (“Stepfather”) sought special action relief from the contempt findings of the trial court.
The grandparents seeking visitation had taken care of the child for seven years after which time Mother assumed primary parenting responsibilities. After filing for custody of the child on August 6, 2003, the grandparents (after being denied custody) were awarded visitation with the child.
Mother immediately began frustrating the visitation resulting in court proceedings and was held in contempt of court and sanctioned. At a hearing on February 17, 2006, Mother is held in contempt of court again and ordered to pay an additional $8,500 in monetary sanctions. At the same hearing, Mother petitioned to relocate with the child to Missouri.
Her request was granted with conditions. Specifically, she was required to make the child available for visitation before the move and after the move as a condition of both the relocation and purging previous findings of contempt. On August 23, 2006, Mother was again held in contempt for violating the court orders for visitation.
The court also imposed sanctions of $500 a day until visitation was restored, ordered Mother to pay grandparents’ attorney’s fees, and reaffirmed the previous sanctions against Mother.
Stepparent Must be Joined as a Party to the Case to Be Held in Contempt
Stepfather took the opportunity at this hearing to move to be joined as a party in the case. The court granted his motion and immediately declared him in contempt alongside Mother for violating the visitation orders. The court also imposed sanctions and attorney fees against Stepfather.
Mother and Stepfather moved to set aside the judgments, but the Superior Court trial judge denied their request. After an abandoned appeal, the Mother and Stepfather filed a Special Action appeal to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
In the Special Action filed in connection with Munari v. Hotham, Mother and Stepfather argued the trial court could not hold them in contempt for denying the grandparents visitation and the Stepfather could not be held in contempt because the statute applies only to parents and because he was not subject to the orders he was held in contempt for violating.
In regards to the first argument, The Arizona Court of Appeals found the issuance of the grandparent visitation orders were proper.
The Arizona Court of Appeals also concluded the grandparents did not have the legal right to object to or prevent the relocation of the child to Missouri but, because they had already been granted visitation, they had a right to continued visitation. Court-ordered visitation does not automatically terminate upon the child’s relocation.
Per Section 25-414(A)(1), when a grandparent has a right to visitation, both the grandparent and the court has the authority to enforce the continuing visitation through contempt proceedings even in circumstances where the parent chooses to relocate with the child.
When determining the appropriateness of relocation in this type of situation, the court must consider the factors set forth in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-408. That statute requires a judge to determine what is in the child’s best interest.
Since “best interest” is a widely encompassing term, it includes the relationship the child may have with others who have been granted visitation.
In regards to the second argument, The Arizona Court of Appeals rejected the idea that the court lacked the necessary power to declare a person in contempt when they are in violation of court orders. That said, Stepfather could be held in contempt if he were subject to the court order.
Because he joined after the previous findings of contempt (directed solely at Mother), he was not subject to court orders prior to that date. He was found in contempt for failing to comply with orders that were directed at Mother during previous court dates (February 15th and 17th) at which time he was not a part of the proceedings. As Stepfather was not subject to these orders he cannot be held in contempt for violation of the same orders.
The Arizona Court of Appeals found the trial court did abuse its discretion in holding Stepfather in contempt for violating orders to which he was not subject. Therefore, Stepfather was granted relief from the finding of contempt, resulting in sanctions, and attorney’s fees. Mother is not granted relief as the court did not abuse its discretion in finding her in contempt, sanctioning her and granting Grandparents an award of their attorney’s fees.
If you need information on whether a stepparent can be held in contempt in Arizona, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona child custody attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in child custody cases in Arizona.
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 case around today.
Arizona Family Law Attorneys in Scottsdale and Tucson Arizona
More Articles About Child Custody in Arizona
- Access to a Child’s Medical Records in Arizona
- Adoption Attorneys in Arizona
- Required Affidavit in a Child Custody Case in Arizona
- Are Mothers Favored Custody Battles in Arizona
- Arizona Child Custody Attorneys
- Arizona Child Custody Statutes
- Arizona Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Statutes
- Changing a Child’s Last Name in Arizona
- Changing Child Custody in Arizona
- Child Custody and Child Support in Arizona
- Child Custody In Arizona
- Child Custody Laws in Arizona
- Child Custody Rights in Arizona
- Co-Parenting After Divorce in Arizona
- Custody of a Child to Grandparent in Arizona
- Delegation of Custody Decisions in Arizona
- Divorce and Grandparents Visitation in Arizona
- Effective Co-Parenting in Arizona
- Emergency Child Custody in Arizona
- Emergency Child Custody Orders in Arizona
- Enforce Parenting Time or Custody in Arizona
- Enforce Visitation Non-Custodial Parent in Arizona
- Grandparent’s Rights in Arizona
- How is Child Custody Determined in Arizona
- How to Change a Child’s Last Name in Arizona
- How to Enforce Parenting Time in Arizona
- How to Get Sole Custody in Arizona
- How to Modify Child Custody in Arizona
- How to Modify Visitation in Arizona
- Joint Custody and School Decisions in Arizona
- Joint Custody vs Sole Custody Arizona
- Joint Legal Custody or Joint Decision Making in Arizona
- Modifying Visitation With a Child in Arizona
- Moving Children Many Times in Arizona
- Order of Protection and Child Custody in Arizona
- Parent Information Program Class in Arizona
- Parent Move Out of State With A Child From Arizona
- Parental Alienation in Arizona
- Prepare for Child Custody Evaluation in Arizona
- Presumption of Equal Parenting Time in Arizona
- Restrictions in Arizona on Taking Children to Another Country
- Sole Legal Custody or Sole Decision Making in Arizona
- Sole or Joint Custody in Arizona
- Temporary Child Custody in Arizona
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act in Arizona
- What Are the Child Custody Factors in Arizona
- What Determines Child Custody in Arizona
- What is a Child Custody Evaluation in Arizona
- What is a Parenting Coordinator in an Arizona Child Custody Case
- What Is Domestic Violence in Arizona
- What Types of Child Custody Are There in Arizona
- What Visitation or Parenting Time Schedules do Judges Order in Arizona
- Who Has Custody of Children When a Divorce is Filed in Arizona
- Who Is the Best Child Custody Lawyer in Arizona
- Withholding Child From Custodial Parent in Arizona
Chris Hildebrand wrote the information on this page about whether a step-parent can be held in contempt of court in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and, quite frankly, actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case. In short, his practice is defined by the success of his clients. He also manages all of the other attorneys at his firm to make sure the outcomes in their clients’ cases are successful as well.