ENGSTROM v. MCCARTHY

411 P. 3d 653 (Ct. App. 2018)

In Engstrom v. McCarthy, the Court of Appeals held that the family court’s adoption of a Rule 69 agreement ceases its discretion to reject the agreement at a later date. It also held that the family court should consult A.R.S. § 13-3601, defining domestic violence, in child custody cases where one parent alleges the other has committed acts of domestic violence.

Early in their divorce proceedings, the parties attended a resolution management conference where they agreed to share joint legal decision-making and parenting time. The family court found the agreement to be fair and in the best interests of the parties and approved it as an enforceable order of the Court.

At trial, Mother argued the agreement was temporary and asked the family court to modify the agreement. Though the trial court rejected her argument, it still modified the legal decision-making portion of the agreement and awarded Mother with sole legal decision-making authority. The trial court reasoned that A.R.S. § 25-317 and Rule 69(B) provides family courts with discretion to reject child custody agreements between parents.

The Court of Appeals clarified that this discretion exists before the trial court approves and adopts an agreement, but once the agreement is adopted, the other rules and statutes concerning modifications apply.

Unrelated to the parties’ agreement, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court additionally erred when it: (a) found that Father committed acts of domestic violence without consulting the statute that lists behaviors that constitute domestic violence and (b) awarded Father parenting time without specific findings that Father met his statutory burden, per A.R.S. § 25-403.03(F), to rebut a presumption against parenting time.

2018-11-06T16:58:49+00:00