Pending Legislative Changes Affecting Arizona Family Law

by Annette Burns on February 19, 2010

The following bills that have an effect on Arizona family law practices are winding through the Arizona legislature as of February 19, 2010.

HB 2650.   This bill would extend the waiting period for an Arizona divorce from 60 to 180 days after the date of service of the Petition.   It also adds the following specific items to be covered in the already-required parent information classes which are required of all divorcing parties who have minor children: 

"These standards [for the parent education programs] shall require that educational programs at a minimum include instruction related to all of the following: 1.  The emotional, psychological, financial, physical and other short‑term and long-term effects of divorce on adults and children.2.  Options available as alternatives to divorce. 3.  Resources available to improve or strengthen marriage. 4.  The legal process of divorce and options available for mediation. 5.  Resources available after divorce."

The summary of this bill can be found at HB2650 

SB 1314 is a custody bill.   It would amend ARS 25-403 to require that joint legal custody be awarded in a case unless a court finds a parent to be unfit, or unless the parties agree to sole custody.

The REVISED (2-22) Senate fact sheet for 1314 can be found at SB1314 (rev. 2-22-2010)

I am told that the revised version of this Bill has already deleted the requirement for "specific written findings" that appears in the introduced version of this Bill.

UPDATE ON 2-23 :   The following language with a presumption of joint legal custody upon the filing of every dissolution case was added:  

"UNLESS THE COURT FINDS THAT SECTION 25-403.03, 25-403.04 OR 25-403.05 APPLIES, THERE IS A PRESUMPTION THAT JOINT CUSTODY LEGAL IS IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF A CHILD. TO REBUT THIS PRESUMPTION, THE PARENT SEEKING SOLE LEGAL CUSTODY MUST PROVE BY A PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE THAT JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY IS NOT IN THE CHILD’S BEST INTERESTS."

UPDATE ON 2-23:    SB 1314 will be heard in the Committee on Public Safety/ Human Services   on Wednesday February 24 at 9am.

There are FOUR (4) pending bills that have the same language that would change the standard for the admission of expert testimony in a civil case.  Those bills are HB2062, HB2240, SB1189 and SB1312.   With four bills pending, there are probably going to be four committees to keep an eye on to find out the status of those changes. 

The proposed changes in the above-mentioned four bills would require the application of the Daubert standard for expert testimony to civil cases in Arizona.

Arizona has not been a Daubert state but follows the Frye standard (US Supreme Court, 1923) for admission of testimony.    See Logerquist for a discussion of the Frye standard for expert testimony.

A full discussion of the merits of Daubert versus the Frye standard is far too complex to be discussed in a blog (although I'm sure it is elsewhere), but a review of the Logerquist decision will give one a good background of where Arizona's status has been on this issue.

The version of SB1312 listing the proposed Daubert standards test can be found at SB1312.

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