Supervised Parenting Time in Arizona
A family court’s focus in custody matters is the best interests of the children. This is true in the initial parenting time determination, but also in modifications of parenting time. Under what circumstances is supervised parenting time in Arizona in a child’s best interests? In Pressly v. Love, No. 1 CA-CV 15-0632 FC, the Arizona Court of Appeals discussed this issue. This decision about supervised parenting time in Arizona is a Memorandum decision and may not be cited as authority to a trial judge.
Facts of the Case
Mr. Love and Mrs. Love were divorced in 2010. They had three minor children. They agreed to share legal and physical custody and each had nearly equal parenting time. Mr. Love was to pay child support of $2,500 per month and spousal for four years.
A year after entry of the decree, Mr. Love asked for a modification of child support citing a decline in his income. Mrs. Love filed an emergency petition to modify child custody, sought supervised parenting time in Arizona and legal decision-making. She sought an order for random drug and alcohol testing, and alleged that Mr. Love was behaving irrationally. She also filed for contempt, charging that Mr. Love failed to pay child support and spousal support. The court entered temporary orders requiring Mr. Love to submit to weekly drug testing and directing his supervised parenting time in Arizona.
After trial, the court entered an order. It awarded Mr. Love and Mrs. Love joint legal decision-making and gave Mr. Love limited supervised parenting time in Arizona. It found Mr. Love in contempt for failure to pay child support and spousal maintenance, and awarded Mrs. Love her attorneys’ fees. Mr. Love appealed.
Mr. Love challenges the court’s ruling regarding his supervised parenting time in Arizona. The court granted him supervised parenting time twice a month contingent upon his submission to full panel drug testing. The court said Mr. Love’s parenting time would increase and supervised parenting time in Arizona would end when no concerns remained about parenting time.
In a contested parenting time case, the court must, under Arizona law, make specific findings about all relevant factors and the reasons for which the decision is in the best interests of the child.
Here, the superior court’s order thoroughly addressed each of the factors. In explaining its decision, the court referenced Mr. Love’s 2013 car accident and his resulting arrest. Mr. Love pled guilty to two counts of vehicular endangerment and one count of reckless driving. The police reports describe behaviors and symptoms indicative of drug use.
The reports also reflect that multiple prescription medications were found in Mr. Love’s car. The court also referenced an assessment of Mr. Love performed by a medical doctor. Mr. Love admitted misusing Adderall and using “curbside” prescriptions obtained from his colleagues. The doctor concluded that Mr. Love required an evaluation. The evaluation should determine whether there is an underlying substance use disorder, psychiatric disorder and/or medical condition, to justify continued supervised parenting time in Arizona.
The court summarized the evidence supporting its decision to restrict Mr. Love’s parenting time to supervised parenting time as follows:
There are many red flags raised by the contents of Father’s evaluations. Father’s recent and progressively declining behavior including the DUI, criminal charges, domestic violence incident . . . [medical evaluation] . . . unemployment and consequential financial issues are concerning given they constitute stressors that challenge and, at times, impair Father’s judgment and may place the children at risk without monitoring.
Based on this evidence, the court restricted Mr. Love’s parenting time to supervised parenting time to ensure the safety of the children by encouraging his sobriety. The Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion, and affirmed the court’s parenting plan”.
Father next argues the superior court erred by holding a settlement conference instead of a scheduled evidentiary hearing in December 2014. Rule 67 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure allows a judge to conduct a settlement conference when the parties agree. Here, the record indicates the parties agreed to a settlement conference.
Mr. Love argues the superior court should not have allowed Dr. Cady to testify. He asserts that Dr. Cady was not qualified to testify as an expert pursuant to Arizona Rule of Evidence 702. A court has broad discretion in determining whether a witness is qualified to testify as an expert.
Mrs. Love disclosed Dr. Cady as an expert witness pursuant to Rule 49(H). Dr. Cady is a licensed psychologist. He has knowledge regarding attention deficit disorder (“ADD”) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”). The Court determined that Dr. Cady had the experience, training, and education to offer an opinion on adult onset ADD and ADHD. Therefore, the superior court did not abuse its discretion in permitting him to testify.
Mrs. Roses’ Testimony
Mr. Love last argues the superior court should not have allowed Mrs. Roses to testify. He claims that this was error since the Court had a relationship with the witness. At trial, Mrs. Love called Mrs. Roses, a realtor who attempted a short sale of Mr. Love’s home. Before she testified, the judge stated: “I will note for the record that I have already disclosed [to] the parties my familiarity” with Ms. Roses. Mr. Love did not object to Mrs. Roses’ testimony. Failure to object to her testimony waives the matter on appeal.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the superior court’s order. It awarded Mrs. Love her attorneys’ fees on appeal pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-324.