Order of Protection and Child Visitation and Custody Arizona
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.
Order of Protection and Child Visitation and Custody Arizona | Superior Courts Hear Custody Issues
The Court of Appeals noted that Arizona law gives Superior Courts 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 occur in a protected place rather than in the parent’s home; the visits can be supervised by another responsible adult; overnight stays can be prohibited; the residence address of the other parent can be kept confidential; and make any other orders necessary to protect the child or the other parent.
Order of Protection and Child Visitation and Custody Arizona | Court Can Modify a Protective Order
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.