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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 118263
Experience:  Experienced attorney: Family law, Estate Law, SS Law etc.
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I'm in Arizona and my husband has been through ongoing

Customer Question

I'm in Arizona and my husband has been through ongoing post-decree litigation with his high-conflict ex-wife for 10 years.
Yesterday, his judge stated that he has jurisdiction over our mutual kids (i.e. kids whose parents are not divorced/divorcing) since they are the children of my husband and he has jurisdiction over my husband. This was in the context of me contesting (3rd party seeking limited intervention) the disclosure of my children's and my private information (CPS report filed against us by the ex-wife, pertaining only to our children and not hers; concluded as "unsubstantiated" but I disclosed a lot of private information during the investigation, since I believed it would all be kept confidential). I cannot find anything on point regarding jurisdiction over children who are not parties and are not mutual children of the parties. The judge said that because the statute pertaining to the best interests of the children at issue involves their relationships with others (e.g. half-siblings) that he has jurisdiction over those half-siblings via their shared father. I think my attorney was as dumbfounded as I was, since he didn't object (it was a phone conference and I wasn't at the same location, so I couldn't discuss anything with him privately). I'm trying to figure out where to go from here (special action?), but first I need to confirm the jurisdiction error.
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 10 months ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
Actually, the problem is that the best interests of the children is a broad power placed upon the courts. If a party in a custody/support matter has other children from another marriage and there is an issue involving those children that could bear on the issue with the other children, the court may review and consider that information to make a determination. There is actually no AZ statute prohibiting the judge from examining information about your mutual children and your husband's interactions with those children or the interaction of those children with the other children. The AZ case law is silent as to limiting the power of the court in this type of matter and there really are no cases saying the court cannot look at all relationships in determining any custody matter I am afraid.
Customer: replied 10 months ago.
Perhaps I wasn't sufficiently clear. I understand the judge has power to review and consider relationships, interactions, etc. My concern is the release of private information: social security numbers, medical information, etc. that was reported to the DCS agent only because I was told it would be kept confidential.
Additionally, there is another child involved (mine from a previous marriage) who is not a child of my husband and whose personal information and statements are also involved(a different family court judge already has jurisdiction over us for that divorce). I just can't see how this judge has jurisdiction to waive the privacy rights for me and my children (both those shared with my husband and the one that is not) when we are not parties to the case. Sure, we're related to it, but so are many other extended family members, neighbors, and friends, who aren't having their private information released without their permission. No one is subpoenaing the neighbor's credit report and putting the burden on him to prove it's not relevant.
I need to know 1)specific jurisdictional information (i.e. can a judge assert jurisdiction over non-parties' privacy rights with nothing more than a tenuous claim of potential "best interests" of any given child) and if not 2)how to protect our rights from a judge who doesn't seem to know where his jurisdiction ends?
At this point, the judge doesn't even know what's in the report that I don't want disclosed, but he seems to expect me to announce the private information in open court so that he can make a decision. I feel like he has a duty to at least review it in camera before violating my privacy by releasing it to the TI or the opposition.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 10 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
Who did they release the SSN to and Medical information to, since that information is indeed confidential, although it can be released to the court upon valid court orders and not violate the SSN privacy act or HIPAA.
You are also more "related to it" than any of the other members you mentioned, because your children are half siblings of the other children and they share the same father (it is not a neighbor, cousin, uncle etc) and they will end up in the same home.
As far as releasing the information in court in the public record, that is something your attorney needs to file a motion for protective order for to prevent such further disclosure. However, if no protective order was asked for then the judge still has access to that information and for it to be released pursuant a legal court order in this type of situation. Your attorney should be filing for a protective order and a motion to seal that part of the record as well.