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Third Party Seeking Emergency Child Custody in Arizona

Posted on : December 4, 2017, By:  Christopher Hildebrand
Third Party Seeking Emergency Child Custody in Arizona.

Third Party Seeking Emergency Child Custody in Arizona

The Arizona Court of Appeals accepted Special Action Jurisdiction in the case of Chapman vs. Pritchard to review a trial court’s ruling. The petitioner, in this case, is Ms. Chapman (“Mother”) who brought a case against her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard (“Grandparents”) as it pertained to Mother’s six children. Mother was the sole parent following the death of her husband. Mother, under the appeals process, challenged the family court ruling giving Grandparents sole legal decision-making authority and sole parenting time for Mother’s minor children. Mother’s two arguments in her appeal were that the superior court lacked jurisdiction to enter the ruling and that the “best interest standard” to ruling on the issue was wrongly applied.

Third Party Seeking Emergency Child Custody in Arizona.

Third Party Seeking Emergency Child Custody in Arizona.

In 2015, Mother became a widow with six children, only one of which was 18 years old. At the time she became a widow, she was a member of a Christian church and Grandparents were in her children’s lives on a regular basis and had been in their lives since birth. In 2016, Mother met a man on a dating site by the name of Mr. LaJoie. In Sept of 2016, LaJoie came to Arizona from California to meet Mother, her children, and her parents. There were immediate disagreements, between LaJoie and Mother’s father, but the most significant disagreement was about religion since LaJoie did not believe in organized religion or in entering church buildings.

In spite of these disagreements, within a month, LaJoie brought his teenage son from California and moved into Mother’s home. The couple did not legally marry but did host a “home church” which banished celebrations and ended relationships with family and friends. Shortly after the major changes in the family dynamics at Mother’s home, an “intervention” was held with Mother, the children, LaJoie, Mother’s parents and about 25 of Mother’s friends and family.



Though it was voiced that Mother seemed to be controlled by LaJoie and possibly brainwashed, Mother would not relent and told her three sons they were free to live with Grandparents if that would make them happy. They left the next day. The three minor daughters remained in Mother’s home and were restricted from seeing Grandparents as often as they had in the past. A short time later, in January of 2017, Grandparents petitioned for visitation rights to the three daughters under A.R.S. § 25-409 (C). Grandparents had helped raise the girls from birth and simply wanted to regain reasonable time with them.

Emergency Child Custody by Grandparent in Arizona.

Emergency Child Custody by Grandparent in Arizona.

While the petition was pending, several events occurred which caused Grandparents to amend their petition to request temporary sole legal decision-making authority and sole parenting time of the children. One event occurred when the daughters’ school called the police to report a mark under the eye of one of the girls. Though LaJoie unlawfully identified himself as the girl’s father and explained the mark under her eye as an injury she received while wrestling with his friend Ogden, the officer closed the case as a non-crime. The second event occurred when Mother, who was a breast cancer survivor, relapsed and received a diagnosis of terminal. A third event occurred when Mother and LaJoie legally married, then left the three girls with LaJoie’s son, a nanny and family friends, so the two adults could travel to Mexico for Mother’s treatment.

At the same time, Grandparents amended their petition, they also filed an ex-parte motion for emergency temporary orders for sole legal decision-making and sole parenting time. The oldest son provided an affidavit stating his concerns about Mother’s mental stability as it related to his three young sisters’ best interests. During this time there was also an allegation by one of the girls that she had been inappropriately touched by LaJoie’s friend, Ogden. The family court granted the emergency temporary orders. At the evidentiary hearing on the temporary orders, Mother stated that she believed Grandparents actions were driven by their fear that LaJoie had married Mother to obtain her considerable assets upon her passing and were not driven by their concern for her children.



Mother denied that her daughters were in any danger around either LaJoie or Ogden. Summaries of each child’s interview with a psychologist all revealed their worry over Mother’s decisions, LaJoie’s control, and their united desire to not live in Mother’s home as long as LaJoie was there.

Jennifer, thank you for being my attorney. I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of my family court hearing. Everything you have done for me throughout this case reflects in the final ruling of the judge. You helped me keep my head together and taught me a lot about myself as a person. I learned so much about my life from observing and listening to you. I will take all the advice you gave me to continue taking responsibility for my choices, continue to put the kids' needs first, and always stay truthful. Your diligence, dedication, and persistence in my case made what seemed impossible, possible. You are a wonderful person and an amazing attorney and I am stronger and more confident because of you.
A Google User
A Google User
20:31 20 Sep 17
I just want to again thank the Firm for working with me all that it has. I could not have done anything without everyone's assistance. You, Chris and Stacey have been and continue to provide me with compassion and hard work towards my case. Also a very special thanks to Kip for taking my case in the beginning. Also continued support from him and his dedication to providing me with his expertise in this matter.
A Google User
A Google User
21:41 07 Nov 17
After interviewing several law firms, I came across Jennifer Shick, and her firm, who I hired to represent me for my Family Court case. Jennifer has extensive knowledge of the law and is determined to bring the truth to every issue involved within the case. Throughout my case, Jennifer was prepared meticulously as well as went above and beyond all of my expectations. Even when the other party tried to differ from the truth, lie to the Judge, and turn situations around, Jennifer remained attentive and provided substantial evidence to show the judge the facts as well as the proof to support what was the best interests of my children. Additionally, Jennifer helped me endure many difficult experiences, situations and inspired me to remain positive throughout the entirety of my case. Her kindness, compassion, and professionalism helped me through very difficult times and made the process feel a thousand times lighter on my shoulders. She truly has my children and my best interest at heart and I trust her perspective as well as her honesty on each and every aspect of my case. She lessened the burden on my shoulders and even when I felt like the case was not going to go in my favor, Jennifer was open-minded and reassured me that the Judge would, in fact, see the truth, which he did and the case went in my favor. After nine months of court, everything finally came together. I cannot declare how much Jennifer has been an outstanding attorney. She addressed each and every issue with diligence, she cares about her clients and their families. Jennifer genuinely cares about her clients and her dedication to the details of the case was remarkable. Overall, I am extremely pleased with Jennifer’s services and I am truly thankful that I was so blessed to have her represent my children and me. I highly recommend Jennifer as one of the best attorneys in Arizona and if the situation ever arises, I will definitely have her represent my children and me again.
Google User
Google User
14:58 04 Oct 17
Dear Stacey and Kip, How can I ever thank you enough for helping me through the most difficult time in my life? I couldn't put into words my heartfelt gratefulness. You both were so compassionate and professional at every given moment throughout this process with me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You helped me to regain my freedom.
A Google User
A Google User
16:03 22 Nov 17
I was a client of Attorney Kevin Park for the dissolution of a divorce in 2016. And since I had never had the need to hire an attorney before for any purpose, I was somewhat apprehensive of the process. But the very calm and professional demeanor of Mr. Park eased my fears. He adeptly answered all my questions and I clearly knew the process and what to expect. And the skilled manner he communicated with opposing counsel was perfect. When it came down to negotiating with my spouse’s counsel, I knew I had selected the best attorney for my situation. What I noticed and appreciated was that he was using just the right amount of pressure with opposing counsel as was necessary. If you find yourself in this situation, you will want a seasoned professional like Mr. Park on your side. I'm very grateful that he was my attorney and not the opposition!
A Google User
A Google User
22:14 28 Jun 17
Chris is a smart and aggressive attorney for his clients. Chris always tries to reach a fair settlement of his cases. I’ve represented clients when Chris was the opposing counsel and while he is professional and amicable to work with, he does not back off on what he needs to do for his client
A Google User
A Google User
18:16 18 Sep 17
Kevin Park of Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys was just what I needed for my divorce. He was very approachable and personable. He was quick to recognize what I needed and provided it quickly and efficiently. I hope to never need a divorce lawyer again, but if I know anyone else who does, I will definitely recommend Kevin.
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A Google User
19:22 23 Aug 17
I feel that Tracey Van Wickler is certainly one of the best family lawyers around. She is logical, intelligent, and truly cares. Tracey always does what is in the clients best interest, does it well, timely and with integrity. She is good at keeping her clients informed as to what is going on and clear in her communication both written and verbally. I have recommended Tracey to other people and will continue to recommend her. I recommended Tracey to someone who was having issues with their ex-wife and his response was, “I know how good she is because I went up against her and she ate me for lunch”. This same person was so impressed with her, he even recommended her to someone else, WOW, that is impressive! I am exceptionally happy with her attention to detail, her ability to explain things in ways that are easy to understand, as well as her ability to keep everyone focused on the most important things. I would recommend Tracey to anyone who may be in need of her services.
A Google User
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17:44 23 Jun 16
I retained Hildebrand Law after interview a number of firms in the valley. Working with Michael C. was incredibly easy and informative. My case progressed in such a organized and thought out way to ensure that my needs were met. Michael was incredibly proactive and was able to see far ahead into my case to steer clear of some roadblocks. I would not hesitate to recommend Michael Clancy, and Hildebrand Law in general, to anyone.
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21:20 02 Apr 18
I have worked with Hildebrand law for about 8 years. They are always ready to serve, provide guidance and give you a few options. When they provide you options they also take the time to walk you through the pros and cons of each and give you a recommendation of what is best, but will listen to you and support whatever course you choose after making and educated choice. I’d recommend them to my closest friends and feel Chris Hildebrand is now a friend to me.
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21:53 27 Feb 18
Despite the unfortunate situation I found myself in, Chris Hildebrand @ Hildebrand Law helped me maneuver every step with professionalism, expertise, and even a sensitivity that was an added bonus.Chris and his staff helped me even when I didn't know I needed the help. In other words. . . they made sure we did not leave anything undone. And in the rare instance we needed the expertise of another professional, Chris knew exactly who to recommend.Chris also knew, because of his experience, what to anticipate down the road of litigation. That meant we were better prepared to meet the challenges head on, which lead to a more equitable and fair outcome. I appreciated that Chris did his best to meet my every need in a timely fashion, even if I had a simple question that required only a phone call or e-mail or if we needed to talk face-to-face.I highly recommend Chris Hildebrand @ Hildebrand Law, PC.
Sam Franchimone
Sam Franchimone
22:09 12 Sep 13

The family court affirmed its previous ex-parte temporary orders. After reviewing several best interests factors outlined in A.R.S. § 25-403 (A), the court concluded that it was in the children’s best interest to grant Grandparents legal decision-making authority and parenting time. The court also ruled that as long as LaJoie and Ogden had no contact with the children, Mother could have supervised parenting time with her children. At this time, Mother petitioned the court for special action review, which means a party may request the Supreme Court to issue a stay, or to expedite processing of the petition for review.

Emergency Custody in Arizona by Third Party.

Emergency Custody in Arizona by Third Party.

Mother had two arguments. First, Mother stated that Grandparents and the family court failed to make known specific factual findings that showed that remaining in Mother’s care would be significantly detrimental to the children. Secondly, Mother argued that even if the family court had jurisdiction to issue temporary orders, the court used a lower “best interest” standard instead of the higher “significantly detrimental” standard. In a discussion of the first argument, the court reviewed the statutory scheme relating to a third party’s ability to petition for legal decision-making and parenting time.

The family court does have jurisdiction granted by the Arizona Legislature to conduct proceedings concerning legal decision-making and parenting time brought by “a person other than a parent.” A.R.S. § 25-402. There are requirements that must be satisfied by “a person other than a parent” (Third Party). First, the third party must file a petition for rights under [A.R.S.] § 25-409, in the county in which the child permanently resides. A.R.S. § 25-402 (B)(2). At the time this petition is received by the family court, it must first be denied unless one of the following conditions applies:

1. The petitioner stands in loco parentis (defined as: in place of the parent) to the child. A.R.S. § 25-401 (1);

2. Allowing the child to stay in legal parent’s care would be significantly detrimental to the child;

3. No court of competent jurisdiction has entered orders of legal decision-making or parenting time within the past year;

4. One legal parent is deceased A.R.S. § 25-409 (A)

5. The petition must be supported by an affidavit containing detailed facts supporting special claims A.R.S. § 25-409 (D);

Basis for Emergency Child Custody in Arizona.

Basis for Emergency Child Custody in Arizona.

Once the family court determines that the petition sufficiently establishes these factors, the court then examines the petition’s merits. During this examination, A.R.S. § 25-409 (B) imposes a rebuttable presumption that “awarding legal decision-making to a legal parent serves the child’s best interests.” So, every effort is made to maintain a legal parent as the decision-making authority. Also, although best interests considerations under A.R.S. § 25-403 (A) normally require proof by a preponderance of the evidence, specific findings on the record are not required when the family court makes a temporary order. The court’s role is to determine if there are “compelling circumstances” that require or warrant the court to step into a situation between a child and the legal parent.

The court’s role is not to determine the best situation for the child. Mother argued that the court did not provide proof that staying with her would be significantly detrimental to the children. Contrary to Mother’s argument, the criteria in A.R.S. § 25-409 (A) are substantive elements that simply need to be pled to prevent dismissal. The statute only requires that grandparents’ initial petition establish in loco parentis standing, and significant detriment to the children if they were to stay with the legal parent, and their initial petition did satisfy those requirements.

It was in the initial petition that the oldest son provided an affidavit of specific claims which satisfied the court requirement since it is interpreted as “allegations” and not as proven fact at this stage in the process. It was also shown that since birth, all six children had looked to Grandparents over a substantial amount of time to provide basic needs and a healthy positive relationship. Grandparents’ petition sufficiently satisfied all criteria to request temporary sole legal decision-making authority and sole parenting time of the children. Furthermore, the family court did not err by failing to afford special weight to Mother’s desire and did not violate her right to parent. For the foregoing reasons, the court accepted special action jurisdiction but denied relief.