Children Saved from a Hot Car

It’s scary to think that anyone would leave their children locked in a car during the summer months. Recently, a Texas mother did just that. She went to get her hair cut at a salon and left her children in the car.

Shoppers at the center heard children crying and quickly found the two children locked in the car. What would you do?

Parking lotAfter hearing the cries of the children, a few people passing by knew they had to do something. Thinking they had little time to spare, they busted the window of the car and soon had the children out in fresh air. The mother came out to see what the commotion was about and realized what was happening. She begged the crowd not to call police and no one had. Hopefully, this was a lesson learned for the Texas mother and she will not leave her kids in the car again.

This could have been a very tragic story. Things like this happen all too often around the country. We have heard numerous stories this summer of children being left in cars. Recently, Shanesha Taylor left her children in a car while she went in for a job interview in Scottsdale, Arizona. Luckily it was not during our hottest summer months in which temperatures are known to reach over 110°, but Ms. Taylor was charged with felony child abuse. Leaving a child in a locked car in the summer is a serious offense and very dangerous to children, especially here in Arizona. It is important to remember not to leave your children in the car even for a “quick” errand. Take the extra three minutes to unbuckle them and bring them in with you.

Advertisements

Implications of Protective Orders

Orders of Protection are not to be taken lightly. There are many ways an Order of Protection can affect your life.

In Arizona, Orders of Protection are governed by the Arizona Rules of Protective Order Procedures. An Order of Protection is sought when someone feels they are in danger of being physically harmed or have been physically harmed by another person. The other person must have had some type of relationship with the person they are seeking the order against. There are many relationships the parties could share or have shared in the past giving rise to a need for an Order. These relationships could include former lovers, relationship through marriage or blood, residing together, or having a child in common.

ConfrontationIn order to get an Order of Protection, the Plaintiff (requesting party) needs to go to Court and file a Petition for the Order of Protection.  The Petition could be filed with a municipal or justice court in places like Mesa, Glendale, or Scottsdale, or in the Superior Court in Phoenix.  The Court will consider the Petition for Order of Protection and can grant the Order based solely upon what the Plaintiff says.

Once the Order is granted, it is served on the defendant (other party).  At that point, the Defendant has the right to contest the Order of Protection.  If a hearing is requested, both parties need to appear in the Court and the judge will decide whether the Order should be kept in place, modified, or dismissed. This is a crucial point in the case. If an Order is not defended or contested properly, it could have lasting implications on you.

What could that mean for you if the Order is issued against you, or upheld against you after a hearing?

Orders of Protection are likely to show up on background checks run by potential employers, preventing you from obtaining certain jobs. An Order of Protection could also get you terminated from your current position or reassigned to other duties within a company or government office. Orders of Protection prevent you from possessing a firearm and, if you already own one, force you to relinquish it. The Court could also order the exclusive use of a common residence to the Plaintiff.

Gated Patio

The Order may also limit your ability to see or communicate with children, and that could also have an effect on any other pending family court cases.  Orders of Protection cannot list a child unless the judicial officer believes that “physical harm has resulted or may result to the child, or the alleged acts of domestic violence involved the child,” but the weight that the judge gives to allegations in protective order hearings is often greater than what would be given in other types of cases.

Under emergency circumstances, a judge may err on the side of caution and enter a child on a temporary basis even with a minimal allegation of danger. This is a small consolation because in the end an Order of Protection could affect permanent parenting time and legal decision-making.

Although many parties proceed without representation in Order of Protection hearings, the severe consequences of having an Order entered against you may justify retaining an attorney.  Even though the Order is temporary, its impact can last a lifetime.

Special Divorce Considerations for Physicians

After representing numerous doctors (and the spouses of doctors) in Arizona, we realized that physician divorces are different.  It is not that the law treats doctors uniquely.  It is that there are a host of considerations that are not present in many other divorce scenarios.  Sure, there are the usual issues, but there are complicating factors unique to physicians, such as valuation of medical practices, high asset divisions, as well as spousal maintenance claims.

There are no clear studies on physician divorce rates, but a recent article (sources not confirmed) did not glamorize success rate of doctor’s marriages.  See http://voices.yahoo.com/the-top-7-professions-high-divorce-rates-7627712.html.  While the statistics are undetermined, it is indisputable that these dissolutions necessitate a different level of attention due to the issues involved.  Physicians generally have complex financial issues that begin with oppressive student loans, but are also typified by numerous investments including homes, vacation homes, timeshares, retirement accounts, financial accounts, non-traditional investments and the medical practice itself.

While not meant to be comprehensive, we put together a list of special considerations that are generally critical to physician divorces.  We use this list when initially consulting with physicians (or their spouses) to gather information necessary to form a deliberate legal strategy:

1.  Spousal maintenance:  In Arizona our statute details factors for the Court to consider in awarding maintenance (elsewhere known as alimony).  These factors include, but are not limited to, length of marriage, standard of living during the marriage, and the disparity of income.  While we have seen a number of physician/physician divorces, we also frequently see cases where the physician’s income is significantly higher than the spouse.  Usually the non-physician spouse can also argue that they supported the physician through medical school and residency and gave up their own opportunities in the process.

2.  Practice valuation: Some medical practices have an actual value, much like if the family owned a restaurant.  In Arizona, the spouse would have a claim to their community share of the practice value.  However, this does not apply to all physicians.  For example, an Emergency Room doctor who is employed by an ER practice may simply be paid a rate for his work, much like the hospitalist trend that has taken root here in Arizona.  In those situations there would not be a value to the practice.  However, if that ER doctor were a partner and had an ownership interest in his practice, the analysis would be significantly different.  Similarly, some medical offices have assets to value.  Task for example a radiology practice that may own MRI machines.  Some of these machines have used market values in excess of $1,000,000.  If the physician spouse purchased the machine and paid it off during the marriage, then non-physician spouse would be presumably be entitled one-half the value of the equipment.

3. Debts:  It is not uncommon for physicians to have large student debts that still need to be paid off.  Furthermore, while some physicians may be very conscientious of the state of their marital financial affairs, others may be simply too busy and stressed with work to know the intimate details.  For example, they may have no clue that their spouse has racked up significant credit card debt, which is presumably community debt to divide in a divorce.  Knowing what debts you have and your options for ensuring that they get paid, including offsets from other property or even reduced maintenance, are key to a comprehensive settlement. 

4. Parenting Time:  Some physicians have routine and well-established schedules.  Others do not and may work off a rotating schedule, or work off-hours.  Still other divorcees may be in med school and looking at internships, residencies, and other job-relocating issues.  These all play an important role in determining parenting time for the children.  For physicians, or soon-to-be physicians facing divorce, it is important to maximize the quality parenting time with your children.  Your parenting plan may need built in flexibility or other creative ways to deal with potential scheduling issues that may arise. 

5. Child Support:  In Arizona, child support is calculated pursuant to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.  The guidelines provide the amount of support based upon the respective incomes of the parties.  The guidelines, however, do not compute additional support for combined parental incomes of over $20,000 per month (i.e. your child support is essentially capped once it is calculated at any combined monthly income of the parents at $20,000).  But for physicians it is not uncommon for incomes to be in excess of this per month, and by extension it is not uncommon for children to be accustomed to life styles that require higher than normally calculated child support.  Whether or not an upward deviation of the child support should apply is something that a skilled attorney can assist with. 

6.  Time and Disclosures:  Often, physicians are not used to having to fully disclose all information regarding their finances to attorneys.  They are also very busy with their practices and may even have schedules that are incompatible with normal working hours.  This makes obtaining information that is required to be disclosed more complicated than usual.  On top of this, perhaps the only exposure physicians have to attorneys before entering into a divorce proceeding is in malpractice suits.  Consequently, it is not uncommon for physicians to be too busy/skeptical/jaded when asked to provide years’ worth of financial records.  Despite this, the best policy is to be forthcoming with all required disclosures.

 

Summer Breaks and the Effects on Parenting Plans

For parents of school-aged children summer break from school can be a challenging time.  The biggest challenges are keeping your children occupied and finding child care (assuming both parents work).  These challenges may be compounded with separated parents. 

Here are some tips and ideas to consider when developing your parenting plan to alleviate frustration when it comes to summer breaks:

1. Alternate Summer Time Schedule:  Most parenting plans provide for one parenting time schedule that is followed year round.  There are usually provisions for vacation time to each parent, but nothing specific as to parenting time guidelines during the children’s release from school.

Having the same parenting plan year round may be great for some families; however,    even if you utilize the same parenting plan, you may need to revisit the specific schedule to see if anything needs to be tweaked (for example, exchanges at school probably won’t work anymore).

For high-conflict parents, limiting exchanges may be best.  Parents may want to consider longer durations of time with each parent during summer months, such as switching from a 5-2-2-5 schedule to a week on/week off schedule.

Some parents may create two separate parenting plans.  One plan for the school year and one plan for the summer.  This is very common for long-distance parenting plans, but can also be done for parents living in the same area.  Here, one parent may be the primary parent during the school year, and then the other may be the primary parent during the summer.

2. Child Care and Camps:  If both parents work, then there will need to be some discussion and agreement about who will be watching the children during the summer and whether they will be attending camps.  Parents should consider including provisions in their parenting plans for who is responsible for finding child care and/or camps, when the arrangements need to be made by, and who is paying for the costs.

Parents should also consider whether another family member, even if out of state, may be able to provide child care during the summer months.  While this may cut into both parents’ parenting time, it may be the most cost-effective route to go.

3. Vacation Plans:  Parents frequently take children on longer vacations during the summer months because it does not interfere with school.  Make sure your parenting plan has specific provisions about how much vacation time each parent may exercise, when notice of a vacation should be given, what information must be exchanged regarding contact information, and whether there are any additional requirements to get approval from the other parent for out of state or out of country travel provisions.

4. Anticipate Issues Early:  Almost every school has online access to their calendar and thus all parents should know when school will be released and when it will resume.  Parents should work together before school ends to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding summer plans.  If there are any anticipated issues with the summer schedule, address it with the other parent as early as possible, consider mediation or contacting your Parenting Coordinator, and if necessary, an attorney to help clarify or modify the schedule as needed. 

5. Keep Children’s Best Interests In Mind:  Regardless of what your parenting plan says, parents should always keep the children’s best interests in mind.  This may mean that for parents of older children that they listen to what their children want to do as part of the decision making process.  If a child wants to spend time with their friends, or attend a certain camp, or even go out of state to visit their grandparents, the parents should work together to make sure everyone’s summer is enjoyable.