The appellate court affirmed a family court’s grant of sole custody to the mother of three minor children. According to Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 25-403.03, a significant history of domestic violence is sufficient to render joint custody inappropriate. In addition, Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 25-403.03.D further states, “there is a rebuttable presumption that an award of custody to the parent who committed the act of domestic violence is contrary to the child’s best interests.”
Women and Justice: Court: Arizona Court of Appeals
Father and Mother were divorced in 2003 and were granted joint custody of their son, Z. In January 2008, Mother sought an order of protection against Father covering her house, her mother’s house, and Z’s school, claiming that Father, a police officer, had committed domestic violence against her, and had intimidated Z to a point where he left a suicide note. After an evidentiary hearing, the family court found sufficient evidence to support an order protecting Mother. The court found, however, evidence was insufficient to cover Z in the order, and thus removed Z’s school from coverage. Father appealed, arguing that the order was wrongly entered because only Mother’s side of the story “had been heard,” to which the court responded that the family court was entitled to resolve conflict in evidence. The court determined that Mother’s account was more convincing, and thus rejected Father’s argument. Father also argued that because of the protective order, he must check his service weapon at the end of every shift and asked for it again at the beginning of every shift. As a result, he could not perform security work in off-duty hours. The court did not consider the argument because Father failed to cite any legal authority in support of a need for him to perform off-duty security work. Finally, Father argued that the protective order would diminish his right to participate decision-making about Z. The court found the argument unconvincing because father was free to reach Mother via e-mail or phone. Accordingly, the court affirmed the family court’s grant of a protective order covering Mother.
The family court abused its discretion when awarding joint custody without considering evidence of domestic violence, and when awarding Father parenting time when there was a valid order protecting the child from Father.