Table of Contents
The Arizona Court of Appeals in the unreported decision in the case of Thompson v. Vaughan addressed the requirements that must be met to file a motion to modify a child custody order in Arizona. The court of appeals evaluated whether an Arizona judge’s decision to dismiss a request for modification of custody hearing was in error.
The parties in the case were married in 2001. They had two minor children during their marriage. The wife filed for divorce in September of 2010. The parties had a strained relationship and consistently disagreed about the parenting of their children. This contentious relationship continued after their divorce.
The divorce decree was entered on March 22, 2012. The decree granted the parents joint legal decision-making and equal parenting time. The court-appointed a Parenting Coordinator to assist in implementing the judge’s child custody orders. The parties were also required to participate in mediation for any disputes related to the children. They were required to complete mediation before they filed anything with the court.
Joint Legal Decision Making and Co-Parenting
The Parenting Coordinator’s recommendations were regularly approved and adopted by the family court after the decree. The court would make minor modifications to some of the Parenting Coordinator’s recommendations.
The majority of the Parenting Coordinator’s time was spent dealing with Father’s inappropriate communications with Mother. The Parenting Coordinator also spent time addressing disagreements the parents had regarding counseling and medical care for their children.
The Parenting Coordinator recommended Father’s communications to mother be monitored by a forensically informed mental health professional for at least thirty days. The parenting coordinator reported to the court that “the content of Father’s emails to Mother make co-parenting communication virtually impossible”. The court adopted that recommendation on October 24, 2013.
The Parenting Coordinator’s appointment was set to expire. The mother moved to extend the appointment of the Parenting Coordinator for another term. Father objected and requested a new Parenting Coordinator be appointed.
The family court reappointed the existing Parenting Coordinator and affirmed her recommendations indicating Mother and Father continue to communicate poorly. The history of emails demonstrated Father’s sarcasm and condescension towards Mother. Many of Father’s emails had little to do with the parenting of the children but included insults and derogatory comments directed at Mother. Mother occasionally reacted in a similar manner, but not to the same extent or with the same consistency.
The Parenting Coordinator informed Father his emails were not understandable. Father advised he had to communicate in “code” to meet the Parenting Coordinator’s rule that his communications be less than 70 words. He explained the “code” would be understood by Mother, but not by the Parenting Coordinator.
Father continued to discuss topics with Mother the Parenting Coordinator advised him not to discuss. He used inflammatory language and approached every topic in a contentious manner. Father claimed he had no problem in the way he communicated even though he acknowledged he was not following the rules for communicating set down by the Parenting Coordinator “to the letter”.
The Parenting Coordinator made many efforts to address the problem. Father believed the recommendations from the Parenting Coordinator were unfair. The court found the Parenting Coordinator had not been unfair or one-sided in her reports.
The reason most of the recommendations were focused upon Father was that of Father’s alleged actions. The court chose to reappoint the existing Parenting Coordinator. The court felt that replacing her with a different Parenting Coordinator would reward Father and punish the Parenting Coordinator for doing her job.
Other problems occurred. One of the parties’ children needed a surgical procedure. Father disagreed and sought a second opinion. The second doctor claimed surgery was not necessary. The mother sought another opinion as well that indicated surgery was not necessary. The parents turned to the Parenting Coordinator for guidance. She suggested the more conservative treatment in lieu of treatment. Although, she would revisit the issue in a few months.
It was later discovered Father surreptitiously recorded the doctors. He also allegedly pushed them to offer a non-surgical treatment option. Mother alleged Father’s conduct rose to the level of manipulating their true recommendations. Two of the physicians withdrew as the child’s physician.
The parties went to court regarding the issue and the judge ordered the child to receive the more non-surgical treatment option. The court also ordered neither party shall communicate with the doctor in writing unless a copy of that communication is sent to the other parent. The judge also ordered that neither party shall record the children’s medical doctors without the physician’s prior consent.
Dismissal of Mother’s Petition to Modify Joint Legal Decision Making
Father allegedly continued to ignore the recommendations of the Parenting Coordinator. In July of 2014, Mother filed a petition for modification of legal decision-making alleging a substantial change in circumstances occurred since the entry of the child custody orders.
She alleged these changes negatively affected the best interests of the children. Specifically, she cited two instances of Father’s inappropriate behavior and the inability to communicate. She alleged these problems rendered co-parenting impossible.
The mother acknowledged the Parenting Coordinator was helpful. However, she alleged Father’s continued inappropriate communications had not stopped.
Mother also noted the parties’ child needed a new doctor, but Father allegedly told her he would not agree to surgery for either of their children until they were 18 years old. The implication behind Father’s alleged statements is that he would not consent to surgery even if it was necessary.
The trial court denied and dismissed Mother’s petition to modify child custody. The trial court decided her petition failed to demonstrate”adequate cause”, as required by Arizona statute 25-411, to permit a trial to be had on that petition. The mother appealed the trial judge’s decision to dismiss her petition to modify the prior child custody orders.
Mother’s Appeal of the Dismissal of her Petition to Modify Parenting Time
On appeal, Mother argued her petition for modification of legal decision-making was based on a long-standing and systemic issue with Father’s communication. This communication issue effectively prevented the two parties from co-parenting their children.
The court of appeals noted its review of the record demonstrated the parents could not agree on a new doctor for their children. It also noted Father’s inappropriate communications and behavior, which continued after the divorce decree was issued. The court of appeals opined this problem interfered with collaborative parenting and decision-making.
Mother argued the trial court abused its discretion in concluding her petition failed to state adequate cause to require a trial. She claimed her petition contained detailed allegations that supported her request to modify the child custody orders. She also felt her allegations demonstrated how the children’s best interests were affected.
She included the recent conflict over the choice of physician for their children, poor communication between the parties, and bad behavior. She argued her allegations established collaborative parenting and legal decision-making was not feasible. She alleged Father’s position that one of their children would not receive any surgery until he turned 18 years old also provided a basis to modify the legal decision-making orders of the court.
Findings and Ruling From The Arizona Court of Appeals
The Arizona Court of Appeals concluded the dismissal of Mother’s petition was based upon Father’s allegations against Mother raised in his motion to dismiss Mother’s Petition. The court of appeals concluded the trial court, effectively, believed the allegations in Father’s motion to dismiss and did not believe the allegations in Mother’s petition. In so doing, the trial court concluded Father was more credible than Mother.
A trial court is prohibited from weighing the credibility of a party’s statements in a petition to modify child custody until the court first gives both parties the opportunity to present evidence at a trial. A trial court may not, as was the case here, simply conduct a “trial by affidavit”.
Parties have a right to present evidence before their credibility is determined by the court. The court of appeals found the judge should not have dismissed Mother’s petition to modify the child custody orders and remanded the case back to the trial court for trial.
If you have questions about when judge must set child custody hearing in an Arizona divorce case, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona child custody and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in child custody and family law cases.
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 or family law case around today.
More Articles About Child Custody in Arizona
- CHILD CUSTODY LAWS IN ARIZONA
- CHILD RELOCATION IS A MODIFICATION OF CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- CALCULATING DISTANCE FOR CHILD RELOCATION IN ARIZONA
- CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCES FOR CHILD CUSTODY MODIFICATIONS IN ARIZONA
- EMERGENCY CHILD CUSTODY WHEN ARIZONA LACKS JURISDICTION
- HOW TO REGISTER A CHILD CUSTODY ORDER IN ARIZONA
- HOME STATE CUSTODY JURISDICTION WHEN A CHILD RELOCATES TO ARIZONA
- ARIZONA CHILD RELOCATION LAWS
- ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION: TEMPORARY VERSUS PERMANENT RELOCATIONS
- TEMPORARY VISITATION ORDERS FOR GRANDPARENTS IN ARIZONA
- CIRCUMSTANCES WHEN CHILD RELOCATION STATUTE DOES NOT APPLY IN ARIZONA
- SIGNIFICANT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SOLE CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- SIGNIFICANT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND CHILD CUSTODY MATTERS IN ARIZONA
- RAISING ALLEGATIONS THAT WERE RAISED IN A PRIOR ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- MULTI-STATE CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION IN ARIZONA
- SCHOOL CHOICE AND CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- UNAUTHORIZED RELOCATION OF CHILDREN IN ARIZONA
- GRANDPARENTS CANNOT PREVENT CHILD RELOCATION IN ARIZONA
- WHEN ARIZONA’S CHILD RELOCATION STATUTE DOES NOT APPLY
- UCCJEA CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION IN ARIZONA
- MENTAL HEALTH RECORDS IN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASES
- FAILING TO ALLEGE A CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCES WHEN MODIFYING CHILD CUSTODY
- CHILD CUSTODY AND NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDERS IN ARIZONA
- CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCES TO CHANGE CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- MUTUAL ACTS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- PARENTING TIME WITH A NON-BIOLOGICAL CHILD IN ARIZONA
- HOSTILE COMMUNICATIONS A BASIS TO MODIFY CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- DUE PROCESS RIGHTS IN AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY HEARING
- THIRD PARTY VISITATION WITH A CHILD IN ARIZONA
- SUITABLE NOTICE FOR AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY HEARING
- MEANING OF HOME STATE JURISDICTION IN ARIZONA
- WHAT DOCTORS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- WITHHOLDING CHILDREN FROM A CUSTODIAL PARENT IN ARIZONA
- THE BEST CHILD CUSTODY LAWYER IN ARIZONA
- FALSE ALLEGATIONS OF CHILD ABUSE IN A CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- WHO GETS CUSTODY OF THE CHILDREN WHEN A DIVORCE IS FILED IN ARIZONA
- WHAT VISITATION OR PARENTING TIME SCHEDULES CAN JUDGES ORDER IN ARIZONA
- WHAT IS JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY AND JOINT LEGAL DECISION MAKING IN ARIZONA
- WHAT IS A PARENTING COORDINATOR IN AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- WHAT IS A CHILD CUSTODY EVALUATION IN ARIZONA
- WHAT HAPPENS IF A PARENT WANTS TO MOVE OUT OF STATE WITH A CHILD IN ARIZONA
- WHAT ARE THE CHILD CUSTODY FACTORS IN ARIZONA
- TEMPORARY CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- RESTRICTIONS IN ARIZONA ON TAKING CHILDREN TO ANOTHER COUNTRY
- PRESUMPTION OF EQUAL PARENTING TIME IN ARIZONA
- DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PRESUMPTION IN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASES
- PREPARING FOR AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY EVALUATION
- PARENTING TIME AFTER LOSING AN ORDER OF PROTECTION HEARING IN ARIZONA
- PARENTAL ALIENATION IN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASES
- PARENT INFORMATION PROGRAM CLASS IN ARIZONA
- LIMITS ON MOVING CHILDREN MULTIPLE TIMES IN ARIZONA
- JOINT CUSTODY AND SCHOOL DECISIONS IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO GET SOLE CUSTODY OF CHILDREN IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO ENFORCE PARENTING TIME IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO CHANGE A CHILD’S LAST NAME IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO MODIFY VISITATION OR PARENTING TIME IN ARIZONA
- GRANDPARENT CUSTODY AND VISITATION RIGHTS IN ARIZONA
- GETTING EMERGENCY CHILD CUSTODY ORDERS IN ARIZONA
- ENFORCING VISITATION AS A NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT
- DO COURTS FAVOR MOTHERS IN CUSTODY BATTLES
- ARIZONA COURTS CANNOT DELEGATE CHILD CUSTODY DETERMINATIONS TO AN EXPERT
- CONTESTING RELOCATION OF A CHILD WHEN YOU DO NOT LIVE IN ARIZONA
- CO-PARENTING AFTER DIVORCE
- CHANGING A CHILD’S LAST NAME IN ARIZONA
- CAN A PARENT WITH SOLE CUSTODY LIMIT ACCESS TO A CHILD’S MEDICAL RECORDS
- CAN A GRANDPARENT OR STEPPARENT BE AWARDED CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- AFFIDAVITS IN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASES
- 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT A BEST INTEREST ATTORNEY IN ARIZONA
- WITNESS PREPARATION IN ARIZONA DIVORCE AND CHILD CUSTODY CASES
- EFFECT OF CORONAVIRUS ON CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION ORDERS
- TEMPORARY ORDERS FOR GRANDPARENT VISITATION IN ARIZONA
- CAN A STEPPARENT BE HELD IN CONTEMPT FOR WRONGFUL DENIAL OF VISITATION IN ARIZONA
- INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION AND CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- CHILD ABUSE AND CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CHILD CUSTODY LAWS IN ARIZONA
- CUSTODY OF THE FAMILY PET IN A DIVORCE IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO GET CUSTODY OF A CHILD IN AN ARIZONA DEPENDENCY CASE
- JUDGES CANNOT REQUIRE A CHILD TO SEE A THERAPIST IN AN ARIZONA CUSTODY DISPUTE
- CALCULATING CHILD SUPPORT WITH SPLIT CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- EXCLUDING EVIDENCE DISCLOSED LATE IN A CHILD CUSTODY CASE IN ARIZONA
- HEARING REQUIRED BEFORE DECLINING CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION IN ARIZONA
- FILING A LATE OBJECTION TO CHILD RELOCATION NOTICE IN ARIZONA
- CAN VISITATION WITH A CHILD BE REDUCED WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE IN ARIZONA
- WHEN FINDINGS OF FACT ARE NOT REQUIRED IN AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- FINAL DECISION-MAKING AUTHORITY IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO PREPARE FOR A CHILD CUSTODY HEARING IN ARIZONA
- IMPORTANCE OF MEDIATING CHILD CUSTODY ISSUES IN A DIVORCE IN ARIZONA
- CHANGING CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA WHEN A PARENT RELOCATES TO ANOTHER STATE
- WHAT IS A THERAPEUTIC INTERVENTIONIST IN ARIZONA
- DISMISSAL OF A PETITION TO MODIFY CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- CAN A BEST INTEREST ATTORNEY TESTIFY AT A CHILD CUSTODY TRIAL IN ARIZONA
- CHILD CUSTODY AND CRIMINAL RECORDS IN ARIZONA
- FATHER AWARDED CUSTODY ON MOTHER’S MOTION TO MODIFY IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO PREPARE FOR A CHILD CUSTODY CASE IN ARIZONA
- CO-PARENTING WITH YOUR EX IN ARIZONA
- THIRD PARTY SEEKING EMERGENCY CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL IN ARIZONA
- SOLE LEGAL CUSTODY OVER MEDICAL DECISIONS IN ARIZONA
- BEWARE OF THE KNOWN DONOR IN STATES LIKE CALIFORNIA
- SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AND CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- FAILING TO APPEAR FOR A CHILD CUSTODY HEARING IN ARIZONA
- PROHIBITING CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL AS A CONDITION OF PARENTING TIME
- JURISDICTION IS NECESSARY TO PETITION FOR VISITATION IN ARIZONA
- JURISDICTION FOR DEPENDENCY CASES IN ARIZONA
- DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND PARENTING TIME IN ARIZONA
- GUIDELINES FOR SUPERVISED PARENTING TIME IN ARIZONA
- EXCLUDING TESTIMONY IN AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- RIGHT OF A GUARDIAN AD LITEM TO BE HEARD IN AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- CHANGING PARENTING TIME WHEN CHILDREN CHANGE SCHOOLS
- APPEALING DEPENDENCY ORDERS IN ARIZONA
- RIGHT TO NOTICE AND AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING IN AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- HABEAS CORPUS IN AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- JURISDICTION OVER A MINOR CHILD RESIDING OUTSIDE THE STATE OF ARIZONA
- DENIAL OF ADDITIONAL TIME TO PRESENT EVIDENCE IN AN ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY CASE
- PARENTING PLANS IN ARIZONA DIVORCE AND CHILD CUSTODY CASES
- VISITATION RIGHTS OF A PERSON STANDING IN LOCO PARENTIS TO A CHILD IN ARIZONA
- MODIFICATION OF CHILD CUSTODY AND CHILD ABDUCTION IN ARIZONA
- TEMPORARY CHILD CUSTODY ORDERS IN AN ARIZONA DIVORCE DECREE
- CAN A STEPPARENT OBTAIN CHILD CUSTODY RIGHTS IN ARIZONA
- IN LOCO PARENTIS VISITATION WITH A CHILD BY A STEPPARENT IN ARIZONA
- BEST INTEREST STANDARD FOR THIRD PARTY CHILD CUSTODY IN ARIZONA
- ARIZONA CHILD CUSTODY DECISIONS CANNOT BE DELEGATED TO AN EXPERT
- USE OF THE UCCJEA IN DEPENDENCY CASES IN ARIZONA
- ARIZONA UNIFORM CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION AND ENFORCEMENT ACT STATUTES
- WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ONLY ONE SPOUSE ADOPTS A CHILD IN ARIZONA
As Seen on CBS News, ABC News, NBC News, and Fox News
About the Author: Chris Hildebrand has over 26 years of Arizona family law experience and received awards from US News and World Report, Phoenix Magazine, Arizona Foothills Magazine and others. Visit https://www.hildebrandlaw.com.