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Hart v. Hart - 3/3/2009

Arizona Court ofAppeals Division One Holds That Family Court Erred in Its Child-Custody Order by (1) Failing to Make “Specific Findings on the Record About All Relevant Factors and the Reasons for Which the Decision Is in the Best Interests of the Child,” As Required by A.R.S. § 25-403(B), and (2) Failing to Apply the Correct Legal Standard in Ordering that Parenting Time Be Supervised.


Michael Hart filed a petition to modify his custody arrangements with his two minor children, over whom his former spouse, Kari Hart, had sole legal and primary physical custody.  In modifying custody, the family court stated that the best interests of the children would be served by living with their father in Arizona and for the mother to have only supervised parenting time in the summer and on school breaks.  In reaching this conclusion, the court stated that the mother had “left the children alone after school on weekdays and at other times when Mother [was] with her new boyfriend;” that the mother “had moved the children into a ‘small apartment,’ which required a change of schools;” and that “the court was concerned that Mother posed nude with her boyfriend on an adult website.”  The mother appealed.       

The ArizonaAppeals Court vacated the order and remanded for further proceedings.  The Court found two errors in the order.  First, the Court explained, the “family court’s findings d[id] not refer to the absence or presence of any of the ten enumerated statutory factors listed in A.R.S. § 25-403(A).”  A.R.S. § 25-403(B) explicitly requires the family court to “make specific findings regarding all relevant factors and the reasons the decision is in the best interest of the child.”  Therefore, because the family court failed to make these “specific findings on the record,” the Court vacated the order.  Second, the Court found that the family court, in ordering that the mother’s parenting time be supervised, applied the wrong legal standard.  To impose supervision, the family court must not only decide that supervision is in the best interests of the child, as it did, but also that the absence of supervision (i) “would endanger seriously the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health,” under A.R.S. § 25-411(D), or (ii) “the child’s physical health would be endangered or the child’s emotional development would be significantly impaired” under A.R.S. § 25-410(B).  The family court applied neither standard, and therefore the Court vacated the order imposing supervision as well.                 

Judge Barker authored the opinion; Judges Brown and Downie concurred. 

 

Posted On: 3/10/2009