Archive for February, 2013

A Proposed Change In Arizona Family Law Statute Could Make It More Difficult For You To Move After A Divorce

Posted on: February 13th, 2013 by Kevin Jensen

Imagine you are a divorced single parent living in Mesa, Arizona and you get a great job that provides you and your children a good living and benefits but would require you to move to Scottsdale (see Tiffany Fina Law). Although that is not terribly far away, the move would require you to move further away from your children’s other parent. Or, imagine after several years of being a single divorcee’ you meet your soulmate and decide to get married. Your new spouse has a great house and a great job in Glendale and you decide that you want to move to his or her house that will have plenty of room for you and your kids. Now imagine that before you can make that move you will have to get the permission of your ex-spouse to move further away from him or her or get a court order allowing you to make that move before you can move anywhere with your children, including across town! I see this issue all the time as a family law attorney in Mesa AZ all the time.

This seems absurd, right? If a proposed change to Arizona’s Parenting Time and Relocation statute are passed, that is exactly what you will have to do. Under Arizona’s current law, a parent cannot relocate a child more than 100 miles from the other parent without either obtaining consent of the other parent or obtaining a court order. In a previous blog, I discussed Arizona’s 100-mile rule and the procedures that need to be followed to relocate children more than 100 miles from the other parent. The proposed changes in the law would require the moving parent to give the non-moving parent sixty days notice of his/her intent to relocate the child/children. There is no limitation on how far away the moving parent intends to move before the sixty-day notification is required.

In my examples above, if a parent wants to move from Mesa to Scottsdale or from Mesa to Glendale, regardless of the reason, he or she must give the non-moving parent sixty days notice of his or her intent to move with the children. The parent will then be required to provide the reason for the move, but must also file a copy of the notice with the family court and provide the court a reason for the move. Following proper receipt of the notice, the non-moving parent would have thirty days to object to the move. This also would require the filing of an objection with the court. If an objection with the court is filed by the non-moving parent, the moving parent then has to file a Petition to Relocate and the court gets to decide.

As with most statutory changes, there are pros and cons. Here, the clear design of the proposed changes is to make sure that non-moving parent’s parenting rights (including visitation) are disturbed as little as possible; at least not without the non-moving parent having a say in the decision to relocate. There are some good reasons for this. For example, a move across town can have implications for things such as parenting time and participation in activities by the non-moving parent. A trip across the Phoenix metro area can take an hour or more each way. This time can seriously impact a visitation schedule that involves one-week night per week with the non-custodial parent. It can affect the non-moving parent’s ability to take part in school events or extracurricular activities. The proposed changes favor a non-custodial parent’s rights and ability to participate as much as possible in the parenting of the children.

In this case, however, I think the negatives outweigh the positives. For one thing, the proposed statutory changes may limit natural life changes that can benefit the children. A mother who is struggling to provide for her children may find it cost prohibitive to spend two hours per day traveling across town for work. It may prohibit mothers and fathers from getting remarried, which in some instances can be a tremendous benefit to the children. Imagine finding Mr. or Mrs. right and telling them that you can only marry them if they agree to live near your ex. I think the most troubling possibility is that it places an ex in a position of power. I have had had many cases involving bitter ex-spouses who would love nothing more than to make life difficult for their ex-husband or wife. Here, a move even a few blocks or miles away would require the consent of the ex-spouse. An ex-spouse, who for no other reason than to be spiteful, could easily refuse consent and then the whole matter would have to go through the court system costing thousands of dollars. Moreover, the family court system does not always move quickly. In some cases, waiting for a court decision on relocation is not practical and could result in lost opportunity.

I think the 100-mile rule is as reasonable a solution to the problem of relocation as currently exists. Although a move across town may be inconvenient for the non-moving parent, it can be workable. Perhaps changes that require the moving spouse to incur more of the inconvenience, such as transportation to the non-moving spouse for parenting time would be more reasonable. I think there are a number of other solutions to the problem of protecting a non-moving parent’s visitation time than potentially locking a single parent into a geographical location that only benefits one person (the non-moving parent) in the family.

In my opinion, the proposed statutory changes have the potential to create far more problems than they solve. In the long run, SB 1072 will likely result in more fights, more legal expenses, and more court costs. I encourage anyone who may be affected by these statutory changes to make sure their state representatives know how you feel about these proposed changes. If you would like to review the text of the proposed changes to the statute, you can view them here.

What is a Divorce Hangover and How Do I Avoid One?

Posted on: February 6th, 2013 by Kevin Jensen

Truth be told, I don’t drink, so I have never had a hangover. I had plenty of friends in high school and college who had them. From my perspective, it always seemed to me that having a hangover was a mighty steep price to pay for an evening of “fun” that you couldn’t even remember the next day. What my friends could remember was the pain and headaches and misery that accompanied their hangover. Frankly, the hangover usually made my friends miserable to be around until after they got over it.

As a family law lawyer in Mesa, I have seen many people suffer from post-divorce hangovers. And, just like my friends who were unpleasant to be around while they were experiencing their drinking hangovers, people with divorce hangovers are unhappy and sometimes difficult to be around. This often extreme unpleasantness can result in unfortunate effects on other family members, particularly children who are often the biggest victims in divorces, as well as other family and friends who are really looking to offer support.

I think the best description of a divorce hangover is found in an article entitled “Taming the Divorce Hangover”. Here, the author talks about the pain and emotion, including anger that often accompanies a divorce. There is no shame in having those types of feelings. Divorce is difficult. It is, in reality, a death of sorts; the death of your marriage. For some people the death of their “happily ever after.” However, when those feelings of pain and anger are allowed to keep going on and on and don’t seem to subside, you are probably experiencing a divorce hangover.

There are numerous problems that can arise from a divorce hangover. One of the big problems I see is that some people just cannot let go. The anger and pain they feel is targeted toward their ex-spouse. In many cases, it is very understandable. But this unchecked, untreated anger leads to bigger problems. In my experience, the anger can lead to things such as a belligerent refusal to pay support (“I’m not giving that evil person my money”), refusal to cooperate with decisions regarding children, finding any reason to haul the ex-spouse back into court, damaged relationships with children and other family members and the list goes on. In some horrible extreme cases, violence occurs.

So how do you deal with a divorce hangover? That’s a difficult question to answer. I am a lawyer, not a counselor, so I’m not in the habit of giving that type of advice. However, counseling may be the very place to start. For many people, the hangover is occurring because they just can’t let go and move forward. As a family law attorney in Scottsdale my cases, I have dealt with involving people who I consider to be suffering from divorce hangovers, in most instances, the person with the hangover simply cannot let go and wants the ex-spouse to continue paying the price for what he or she perceives the ex-spouse has done to him or her. Of course, letting go and moving forward is easier said than done. Those who find a way to do this are able to have happier and healthier futures. Those who don’t wind up going back to court over and over and over. This results in more misery, more anger, and more legal expenses.

The author in the article referenced above provides some good ideas for recognizing and dealing with anger issues, which I recommend for your review and consideration. I believe the first step in overcoming any divorce hangover is to make a commitment to yourself to allow yourself to heal and move forward. Time heals all wounds if you allow it to do so. Like an alcohol hangover, the best remedy is time. After a while, the sickness, nausea and headaches pass and life is good again. A divorce does not have to result in long-term suffering. Be proactive in allowing yourself to move on as reasonably quickly as you can. Get professional help if necessary, there is no shame in doing so. The result of avoiding a divorce hangover is a healthier relationship with your ex (which really is a must if you have children together) and a healthier relationship with others in the future.

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