What's a fella got to do to see his kids?
by Dean Hughson
Even with a court order, the police won't enforce a father's rights
Mothers Rule The Law
1995 Phoenix, AZ - Well, this middle aged rural dwelling dad is learning a lot about the legal system. Recently I drove 1450 miles to Arizona with my mother to participate in my son's bar mitzvah and the festivities related to that. Since the divorce in 1991 I was forced not to attend my older daughter's bat mitzvah and I was very hurt by that. So I drove off to Az (took the opportunity to take one of my collector cars out to the airport in Phx for when I fly in out there) and on Friday I went to the Bar Mitzvah practice at our synagogue in Paradise Valley.
Everything seemed like it was going ok but at the end of the practice when I told my ex-wife that I would be over to get the 2 youngest children at 5 p.m., which is part of my divorce custody agreement for the first weekend of each month, she said "I have other plans for the children--I don't care what you say or do...my family is here and the kids are going to be with them. That is it, end of discussion." or something to that effect.
Well, I thought she is just in one of her anger moods. I called the Family and Friends group in Phoenix and they were quite helpful. They called the Scottsdale Police Dept. and a Lt. called me back and told me a bit about state bill 13-1302 which makes interfering with visitation a criminal matter. So I took a dentist friend of mine as a witness (and possible protector if she started hitting me) and off we went to the nice $500,000 house I left my ex-wife paid for in the divorce.
At 5 p.m. I went to the door and knocked on the door---no answer. I called on the car phone--no answer. Tried again at 5:15 p.m., 5:30 p.m. no answer. I went to the police department with a copy of the most recent custody order but the office told me that I had to have the original order also and since it was Friday nite it wasn't possible. Went to the synagogue and participated in my son's bar mitzvah for the weekend but my ex would not allow me to have the children. Flew home and following the advise of the Lt. called and said I wanted to file a complaint with the Scottsdale Police Department. The officer called me back 3 hours later and sent me the following note by fax:
To file a petition one must send $3.45 for shipping and handing to the Family Support Center, 201 W. Jefferson, Phoenix Az 85003 and request a packet to Enforce Visitation. You fill out the forms and then begin the process---it sounds like a very lengthy process.
In 1990, the legislature amended ARS 13-1302 to include visitation interference as criminal conduct. The Domestic Relations Division of the Maricopa County Superior Court has had procedures in place to handle alleged visitation violations. Judge Stephen A. Gerst, the Presiding Judge of the division, requested that these cases be treated in the criminal forum only after the remedies in the Domstic Relations Division has been exhausted. This department (Scottsdale Police Department) agrees with Judge Gerst.
Prosecution may be appropriate in those situations where the Superior Court process has not resolved the problem. In order to insure that we review only those matters where this is true, we will require the following to be included in any departmental report submitted for a visitation interference charge:
A copy of the custody order and visitation schedule.
A copy of the petition for enforcement of visitation. The complaining party completes and files this document with the Superior Court. This alleges the visitation violation and initiates the action taken by the court.
A copy of the Judicial Supervision Officer's report. The court will usually order the parties to attend Judicial Supervision to arrive at satisfactory resolution. The Judicial Supervision Officer will complete a status report summarizing what action is to be taken.
Follow-up investigtaion will include an interview with the Judicial Supervision Officer assigned to the case, noting the JSO's position regarding criminal prosecution. The JSO monitors the case and because of this individual's relationship to the facts and the parties, his/her input is essential to the criminal charging decision. Obviously, where the elements of the offense are present and the JSO recommends prosecution, the likelihood of our filing a charge will be much greater."
Part of me wonders why visitation interference, even when covered by a state law, is allowed to be 'determined' by the police and a hearing officer. It seems to me to be putting visitation interference in an almost impossible to prove status. I have numerous witnesses to my event last weekend but I am not able to do anything except follow the process. As frustrating as it is I am going to follow it through and see what happens--guess the only way we can change laws which aren't fair is to try them and see what happens. I will keep you posted.
Sometimes I think that my white bread, suburban lifestyle prior to my divorce has made my life a lot more difficult because I always believed in the legal system. How wrong I was that the laws are all fair....how naive I was.......wish that every married man in the US could experience the humiliatation I have experienced on numerous occasions in divorce and see how unfair the legal system is ... we could get change then.