Can I keep my children from their Dad who has equal custody if he isn’t social distancing during this time?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Although COVID-19 has placed us all in a new reality, children’s safety issues have been addressed by our legislature and our Family Court long before I started practicing family law 27 years ago.
If you believe your child may be harmed while in Father’s care, then it is my advice that you need to seek emergency orders. If you do not, and instead simply keep the child in violation of existing Court orders, there can be significant repercussions.
Pursuant to Arizona criminal law, a person commits “custodial interference” if, knowing or having reason to know that the person has no legal right to do so, the person withholds the child from the other parent or intentionally fails to the child to the other parent. Custodial interference can result in felony or misdemeanor charges.
Pursuant to one of our Family law statutes, if our Court finds that a parent has refused without good cause to comply with a parenting time order, the court MUST do at least one of the following:
1. Find the violating parent in contempt of court.
2. Order visitation or parenting time to make up for the missed sessions.
3. Order parent education at the violating parent's expense.
4. Order family counseling at the violating parent's expense.
5. Order civil penalties of not to exceed one hundred dollars for each violation.
6. Order both parents to participate in mediation or some other appropriate form of alternative dispute resolution at the violating parent's expense.
7. Make any other order that may promote the best interests of the child or children involved.
I have seen my Judges remove a child from one parent’s primary care and place the child in the other parent’s primary care after a period of time when one parent simply kept the child rather then filing an appropriate petition.
One defense to prosecution for custodial interference is to file an emergency petition regarding custodial rights with the superior court and obtain a hearing date under the “good faith and reasonable belief that the child will be in immediate danger if the child is left with the other parent”.
Please know that I am not trying to convince you to not keep your child from what I agree is extremely dangerous conduct. Instead, I am encouraging you, if you believe your child is in danger due to Father’s lack of adherence to the social distancing mandate which the majority of us are adhering to, to file for emergency orders right away. Until we learn more from our Family Court on this issue, it is risky to just keep the child.
Please call in or email soon. We can certainly help you consider and then pursue your options. This is obviously a very important matter, and you should not go in alone.
One of our attorneys can explain the issues and procedures better in person. As you can imagine, there is too much to cover via email. We offer free ½ hour consultations, in which we can discuss your matter in detail. Please call our office, or email my paralegal, Jerica to schedule your free ½ hour consultation. [email protected]
** IMPORTANT NOTE RE: COVID-19 **
Navigating your Family Court matter during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Our team at RJ Peters & Assoc. is taking the coronavirus pandemic very seriously. Every one of us is experiencing unprecedented challenges in both our personal and professional lives. We understand that going through a difficult Family Court matter at the same time just adds to the apprehension. We consider it crucial to do our part to keep our employees and our clients healthy while ensuring continuity of operations during this new reality.
Therefore, following CDC guidelines, we have opted on a temporary basis to have our attorneys and our staff work remotely.
We do so with full confidence that we can continue to serve your needs with the highest level of client service, aggressively and promptly. Our phones will still be answered during normal work hours. Our attorneys and staff will still be responding to emails promptly. Our team will alternate days in the office to process all mail and then scan to the respective attorney for prompt handling remotely. We fully expect and are committed to “business-as-usual”, minus in-office meetings. While there may a need to get your signatures notarized in person on some important documents, our action plan is designed to help you cut down on unnecessary exposure to the coronavirus.
As of now, the Maricopa County Superior Court System is still operational. We are monitoring their announcements daily. You can also do so here: https://superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/announcements/covid-19.
We are keeping track of whether our courts are slowing down or shutting down and will update all of our clients accordingly. We do know that the Court is taking measures to provide for remote participation in court proceedings whenever possible. However, “all court proceedings will continue, with the implementation of additional safety procedures to protect human health until further notice”.
If you are a current client with an active case, including an upcoming court case, please reach out to your attorney. Court operations are rapidly changing.
If you are not yet a client, but have a Family Court question or need, please email or call soon. We remain capable and ready to assist you with your Family Court needs. We offer free ½ hour consultations, in which we can discuss your matter in detail by phone, Facetime, Skype, Google Duo, or something similar that meets your needs.
Also, please do your part. Please see the CDC guidance at Coronavirus.gov. Flatten the Curve.
This is all excellent advice, except it's "rather than" not "rather then." Whatever you do, don't play vigilante and simply withhold the children because you believe the other parent has done something wrong. That can land you in a world of hurt. Best of luck!