Monday, October 25, 2010

Exciting Things Happening In Education

Squaw Peak Traditional Academy, in the Creighton School District, is a superstar school in the making.  Its rebirth started with a local attorney, Renee Sandler Shamblin, and a very enthusiastic group of parents.  They had a vision of a stellar neighborhood traditional school in the heart of Phoenix with a Spanish Immersion Program as its centerpiece -- and they made it happen.  This school, located in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, near 32nd St. and Camelback Rd., has everything:  a great facility, student diversity, active and involved parents, excellent and committed teachers, a caring and competent Principal, and a district Superintendent who actually listens to parents and cares about their viewpoint.  It's a public school with a private school sensibility.  The school's boundaries run north and south from Lincoln Dr. to Indian School Rd.; & east and west from 32nd Street to 40th Street.  There's a groundswell of excitement about the new Squaw Peak Traditional Academy.  Families are returning to their neighborhood school, knowing that their children will receive a top-notch education.  What started as a trickle is becoming a flood, with waiting lists for the popular Spanish Immersion Program.  Parents can now take the private school tuition they used to pay, and put the money away for their kids' college education.

A Creighton Override is on the ballot this November.  A "Yes" vote will help maintain small class sizes and fund critical programs such as art, music, and P.E.  Educating Arizona's children should be our number-one priority.  That's why I'm voting "Yes" on the Creighton Override.

Gary J. Frank

Saturday, October 16, 2010

To Marry or Not to Marry -- That is the Question.

Today, more and more people are deciding to live together before marriage.  Many couples live together with no intention of ever marrying.  People frequently ask me: "Is it better to marry or to just live together without legal ties?"  My answer is always the same: "That's a decision that is best left to each couple, after giving the matter careful consideration."  There are pros and cons to each arrangement.  On the one hand, if there is no marriage then there will be no need for a divorce if the couple should ever break up.  On the other hand, the law does afford a married person certain protections, and there are often legal consequences when a relationship ends, even if the cohabiting couple never married.

The longer a couple has lived together, the more "things" they typically acquire.  For instance, a couple may pool their money to buy a home, or a car, or a houseful of furniture.  They may have a joint bank account, or mutual investments.  How are these things divided if and when the relationship ends?  And what happens if the parties can’t agree on a division? 

There is no "common law marriage" in Arizona.  When the cohabitation is over, the concepts of divorce and community property do not apply.  If the couple owns property or bank accounts together – and if they are fighting over them – then they may wind up in a lawsuit, even if they never married.  Rather than using a "community property theory" of division, the Court will likely use a “partnership” theory to divide these assets.  A problem may arise where the parties bought a house together but one of them paid all the mortgage payments with his/her separate income from work.  In a divorce scenario this would be an easy call and the value of the house would be split equally, since income earned by a spouse from employment during the marriage is considered “community property” (and both the husband and wife have an undivided 50% interest in all community property).

Spousal Maintenance is a statutory right that is afforded only to a married person in Arizona.  The parties may have lived together for many years, and one of them might have given up a career to be a homemaker or a stay-at-home parent, but if the parties were never married there is no right to spousal maintenance when the relationship ends.  This could put the non-married, stay-at-home partner in a real bind and make his or her life unnecessarily difficult following the break-up.

When people have children together and then separate, they may still end up in court over the issues of custody, parenting time, and child support.  The court will make custody and parenting time decisions based on the best interests of the children regardless of whether or not the parents are married.  Child support decisions will be made based on the parents’ incomes and the needs of the children, pursuant to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.  Whether the parents were ever married is not a factor.

If the parents are not married and the father is not on the child’s birth certificate, then before being given the rights of a parent, the father will have to take the extra step of obtaining a paternity order.  Only then can he ask the court for an order spelling out his custody and parenting time rights.

There are valid reasons for deciding to marry, or live together without marrying.  However, given the fact that this is an important decision with long-term consequences, it would be a good idea to consider the legal ramifications before making a final decision.

Gary Frank has practiced Family Law in Arizona for almost thirty years and has handled cases for both married, and unmarried, persons.  Contact us today for a consultation by calling our office at 602-383-3610, or email us through our website at

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

RELOCATION / MOVE-AWAY CASES - The Most Difficult Matter In Family Court

Relocation and move-away cases are the most emotionally difficult matters in Family Court today.  There’s so much at stake.  It pits a parent’s right to improve his or her quality of life against the other parent’s right to maintain frequent and meaningful contact with the children.  When a written agreement, or court order, for custody of children is in place, then Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) Section 25-408 is controlling.  Failure to abide by the requirements of the statute could result in disastrous consequences.  Therefore, whether you are thinking of relocating to another city or state with your children – or whether you are opposing the other parent’s attempt to move – you would be wise to consult a qualified family law attorney for advice. 

In deciding whether or not to allow the relocation, the Court is required to determine whether the move would be in the “best interests” of the children.  In arriving at his or her decision, the judge must consider “all relevant factors,” including:

(1)        The factors listed in A.R.S., Section 25-403 as to custody;

(2)        Whether the relocation (or opposition) is being made in good faith and not to interfere with or frustrate the relationship between the child and the other parent;

(3)        The prospective advantage of the move for improving the quality of life for the custodial parent and/or the child;

(4)        The likelihood that the parent with whom the child will reside after the relocation will comply with parenting time orders;

(5)        Whether the relocation will allow a realistic opportunity for parenting time with each parent;

(6)        The extent to which moving or not moving will affect the emotional, physical or developmental needs of the child;

(7)        The motives of the parents and the validity of the reasons given for moving or opposing the move including the extent to which either parent may intend to gain a financial advantage regarding continuing child support obligations; and

(8)               The potential effect of relocation on the child’s stability.   

See A.R.S., Section 25-408(I).

The burden of proving that the move is in the children’s best interest is on the parent wishing to relocate.

A parent wishing to move must provide a “60 Day Notice” of intent to relocate as spelled out in A.R.S., Section 25-408(B) and (C).  The notice can be a letter stating that you intend to move with the children.  You should also include the prospective date of the move, the place you are going, and the reason for the move (i.e., a new job).  The letter must be sent by certified mail return-receipt requested, or served by a process server.  If your ex-spouse wishes to contest the move, he or she must file a petition to prevent relocation within thirty days after the notice is made.

Providing the proper notice is critical.  Relocating without sending a timely notice can result in the moving parent losing custody of the children.  Failing to object to a move in a timely manner can result in the relocation being allowed.  Whether you wish to move -- or if you are opposing a move – preparing a strong case for presentation to the Court is of the utmost importance. 

Relocation / Move-Away cases can be among the most highly contested cases in Family Court.  Gary Frank has nearly thirty years of experience as a litigator dealing with Relocation / Move-Away cases.  To schedule an appointment for a consultation regarding an issue of custody or relocation, call our office today at 602-383-3610 or contact us through our website at  

Saturday, October 9, 2010

ASK THE LAWYER – Helpful Hints on Divorce & Custody Issues from a Phoenix Family Law Attorney

My purpose in writing this blog is to give you, the reader, some useful information on topics related to Family Law.   Contemplating divorce, or running into problems involving custody or parenting time after the marriage has been dissolved, can be stressful and even frightening.  It is often hard to know where to turn for information – and without good, solid information, it is hard to make an intelligent decision.  Hopefully, this blog will provide some of the important information you need and point you in the right direction.

On my web site, I have a section entitled “Ask the Lawyer.”  In that section, you will find questions that clients and others have asked me concerning a wide range of Family Law problems, along with my answers.  The topics include everything from custody and parenting time, to relocation, child support, spousal maintenance, property division, and many other issues that arise when a marriage comes apart.  Some of those issues may apply to your own situation. 

If you are interested in looking at my answers to Family Law questions, check out our website at and click the “Ask the Lawyer” link.