In Davis v. Davis, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the family court’s evidentiary ruling to admit as evidence a Court Appointed Advisor’s report and testimony.
The parties were divorced in 2010 and, pursuant to that decree, shared joint legal decision-making for their two children. In 2016, Mother filed a petition to modify parenting time. Pursuant to Rule 10, the family court appointed a Court Appointed Advisor (“CAA”), an individual whose responsibility is to investigate the facts and allegations of the case, interview the parties and children when appropriate, prepare a written report for the judge, testify at trial if necessary, and make recommendations related to parenting time and legal decision-making.
The CAA interviewed the parties and the children before preparing a seventeen page report, which contained recommendations for parenting time. Father requested the CAA’s recordings of the children’s interviews, but the CAA did not record the interviews. Consequently, Father filed a motion in limine to preclude (or exclude) the CAA’s report and testimony from evidence.
Father’s argument was that Rule 12 required child interviews to be recorded by court reporter or electronic medium. The family court rejected this argument and denied Father’s motion. Ultimately, Mother was awarded final say legal decision-making for medical decisions and additional parenting time. Father filed this appeal and asked the Court of Appeals to vacate the family court’s ruling.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the family court’s decision to deny Father’s motion to exclude the CAA report and testimony. It reasoned that Rule 12 did not apply to CAA interview because it was not ordered “to ascertain the child’s wishes as to … parenting time” but rather to facilitate the CAA’s appointment and complete investigation. It also noted that Father failed to demonstrate that he was prejudiced in any way by admission of the CAA’s report. The family court did not simply adopt the CAA’s recommendations, it relied on the report only as evidence to support its independent rulings.