In Thornburg v. Thornburg, an unpublished memorandum decision, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the family court’s denial of a petition to modify parenting time and its award of attorney’s fees.
Mother filed her petition for divorce back in March 2017. She requested sole legal decision-making and asked for Father’s parenting time to be supervised based on allegations of domestic violence and child abuse.
The parties eventually agreed to joint legal decision-making with Mother retaining final say authority. After an evidentiary hearing, the family court awarded Father meaningful parenting time pursuant to a long distance parenting schedule because Father relocated to Illinois before the divorce was finalized.
Approximately three months after the family court entered its divorce decree, Mother filed an emergency petition to modify parenting time where she accused Father of sexual abuse against their oldest child and against Mother. The family court denied the emergency petition and set a return hearing. When Mother failed to appear at the return hearing, the family court dismissed Mother’s petition.
A few months later, Mother filed another emergency petition to modify parenting time, a petition to enforce parenting time, and a petition for contempt related to the division of community property. Mother filed these petitions after Father retained one of our attorneys to enforce Father’s summer parenting time.
The family court again denied Mother’s emergency petition and set an evidentiary hearing where it consolidated all of the pending petitions. After Mother presented her evidence, we asked the family court to dismiss her petition to modify because it failed to meet the requirements of A.R.S. § 25-411 and because she failed to assert substantial and continuing changes since the divorce. We also asked the family court to award makeup parenting time to Father, at Mother’s expense, for all of the time Mother withheld the children and to order Mother to reimburse Father’s attorney’s fees pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-324.
The family court denied Mother’s petitions and granted our requests. It awarded makeup parenting time to be exercised as quickly as the children’s academic schedule would allow, ordered Mother to be responsible for all of the travel costs associated with the makeup parenting time, and awarded Father his reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
Mother appealed and argued that the family court reversibly erred by mischaracterizing two of Mother’s trial exhibits. We represented Father on appeal and argued that the family court’s rulings were based on careful consideration of the record and application of the law.
The Court of Appeals found no error and echoed the family court’s reasoning. It agreed with the family court’s conclusion that the evidence failed to establish any connection between the child’s behaviors and Father’s parenting time.
The Court of Appeals also affirmed the award of Father’s attorney’s fees. It found that the record supported the family court’s conclusion that Mother acted unreasonably during the litigation.