Order of Protection and Child Visitation in Arizona
The Effect of an Order of Protection on Visitation With a Child
Determining the best interests of a child is at the heart of Arizona’s parenting time and child custody laws. While it is considered best for a child to spend time with both parents after a divorce, judges can’t ignore issues like domestic violence.
The courts must balance the child’s interests in spending time with the parent and the parent’s right to see her child against possible danger to the child from contact with the abusive parent. In the recent case of Courtney v. Hon. Foster, 1-CA-SA 14-0132, filed September 28, 2014, the Arizona Court of Appeals discussed the Superior Court’s duty to find that balance. Clint and Josephine Courtney were a married couple with a young daughter. Clint, claiming to be the victim of domestic violence, got a protective order from the Municipal Court to keep Josephine away from both him and their daughter.
Josephine filed for divorce a month later in Superior Court and asked for temporary parenting time. Clint argued that the court did not have the power to consider her request because of the earlier protective order from the Municipal Court. The judge of the Superior Court agreed and refused to consider Josephine’s request for visitation.
The Court of Appeals reversed and ruled that the Superior Court had full authority to consider the child visitation and child custody issues and, if necessary, to modify the domestic violence protective order. It sent the case back to the Superior Court, ordering it to hear Josephine’s request for temporary parenting time and to grant visitation rights if she presented convincing evidence that the contact would not endanger the child.
The Court of Appeals noted that Arizona law gives the Superior Court authority to hear all divorce matters, including child custody issues. That means that the court can consider custody and visitation requests even when there is evidence of domestic violence. The Appellate Court pointed out that special rules apply to a request for parenting time and child custody issues in domestic violence cases. It outlined the many options a Superior Court judge has to protect children during visitation.
The judge can order that visitation occurs in a protected place rather than in the parent’s home. Another responsible adult supervises the visitation can supervise the visits. Overnight stays can be prohibited. The address of the other parent can be kept confidential. The court can make any other orders necessary to protect the child or the other parent.
In the Courtney case, the protective order was issued by the Municipal Court, not the Superior Court. The Court of Appeals ruled that this fact did not prevent the Superior Court from acting on the parenting time request or child custody issues because Arizona law permits Superior Courts to modify protective orders dealing with child custody issues.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about the impact of an Order of Protection on child visitation in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about Order of Protection laws in Arizona. Chris is a 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 child custody should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.