A Court Appointed Advisor is an individual that the Court appoints to testify or submit a report that explains the advisor’s recommendation for what is in the best interests of the minor child/children. This individual can be called as a witness without having to be listed on the witness list. The Court can appoint “only a qualified individual or a non-profit or governmental organization of qualified individuals. To be qualified, an individual must have received training or have experience in the type of proceeding in which the appointment is made, according to any standards established by Arizona law or rule.”
What can a Court Appointed Advisor do?
- Meet with the child(ren) at any location where the child(ren) may be located;
- Meet and interview the parents, spouses, significant others, and all adults living in the household;
- Visit the home(s) of the parents to determine if the environments are appropriate for the child(ren);
- Investigate and review the backgrounds of both parents, their spouses and significant others with regard to criminal arrests and convictions;
- Determine if drug testing for either or both parents is needed;
- Review the child(ren)’s school/daycare records, Parenting Skills records, psychological evaluations, and counseling records;
- Visit and interview the child(ren)’s daycare provider; and
- Review law enforcement, court, or Department of Child Safety reports concerning the child(ren).
In addition to this authority, the appointment will order that any and all child/daycare providers, schools, school districts and personnel will fully cooperate with the Court Appointed Advisor (“C.A.A.”) by allowing the CAA to interview the children, providing access to all education records including behavioral and attendance, as well as any psychological evaluations.
The appointment also orders that all medical staff, offices, and personnel fully cooperate with the CAA to provide the children’s medical records.
The appointment also orders that police and sheriff departments, law enforcement agencies, and DCS will cooperate and provide records and information related to the parents, their significant others, and step-parents, as well as any records and reports related to DCS investigations.
The Court basically requires the cooperation of anyone who has information that will help in determining what is in the best interest of the child(ren) for legal decision making authority and parenting time.
The CAA is required to attend all hearings unless specifically excused.
A CAA may be appointed under A.R.S. 25-321 if the Court finds any of the following:
- Child abuse or neglect allegations;
- Parents are persistently in significant conflict with each other;
- There is a history of substance abuse or family violence;
- Mental health concerns for either parent;
- Child is an infant or toddler;
- Child has special needs;
- Any other reason the Court deems appropriate.
The CAA is extremely important in your case, so making sure to be respectful of this person is incredibly important. He/she will weigh in on your case and can significantly impact your case, your relationship with your children, and your life in general. This means that being prepared when you meet with her/him is important. If you are requesting a change in parenting time but cannot clearly explain why that is in your child(ren)’s best interest, it is not going to go very well. I also recommend making sure that anything you want to provide the CAA is organized in a binder so that he/she can access the information.
Remember that everything you do can be reported, so body language and punctuality are important even though they are not factors from the Court’s determination. You want the CAA to like you or at least believe that you have your child(ren)’s best interest at heart. A smile and positive interactions with the CAA go a long way in achieving that. Also remember that personal inconveniences do not matter to the Court or CAA. So while your commute to work may be impacted by the exchange times and locations, keep in mind that the parents‘ convenience doesn’t matter. The Court is only interested in how the exchange/locations would impact the children. There is a huge difference in these two statements:
“I have to drive two hours just to get the kids.”
“The kids have to be in the car for two hours.”
The key is how circumstances affect the children, not the parents.
Another major thing to remember is that the CAA does not have the power to make rulings in your case. The CAA makes recommendations that the Court may or may not follow. So if the report is not favorable, do not make any rash decisions, agreements, phone calls, or text messages.
The recommendations can also change. There are times when a CAA feels one way at the beginning of the case and completely changes his/her mind. The take-away from this is “don’t panic.” Individuals can and do make poor choices when they think that they are “losing” their case. While I always recommend representation, if you receive a negative CAA report, you should really consider contacting a family law attorney. Even if you do not retain an attorney, you can always attempt to persuade the CAA after the initial report, or simply prepare for trial and hope that the Court does not follow the CAA recommendation. I hope this helps.