Sundstrom v. Flatt (2017)

In Sundstrom v. Flatt, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the family court’s award of sole legal decision-making to the parent against whom the petition to modify was filed.

When the parties divorced, they agreed to share equal parenting time and to give Mother sole legal decision-making. Mother subsequently filed to modify legal decision-making, parenting time, and child support where she asked the family court to reduce and/or supervise Father’s parenting time.

Father filed a motion for temporary orders where he requested sole legal decision-making. In Father’s pretrial statement, he reiterated this request. Mother objected on the basis that Father had not filed his own petition to modify legal decision-making. At trial, Mother moved to withdraw her petition to modify. The family court denied her request, conducted the evidentiary hearing, and awarded Father sole legal decision-making.

On her appeal, Mother argued that the family court erred in its award because Father had not filed  petition to modify legal decision-making pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-411 or Arizona Rule of Family Law Procedure 91.

The Court of Appeals rejected Mother’s argument and found that when she filed her petition to modify legal decision-making, parenting time, and child support, she put the issue of legal decision-making before the court. She had notice it would be resolved and had opportunity to defend against Father’s request for sole decision-making.

*Note: The Court of Appeals “will not reverse a case for alleged noncompliance with A.R.S. § 25-411 absent a showing of prejudice.”