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On January 1, 2013, Arizona courts amended the laws regarding child custody. In an effort to encourage parents to work together and to provide each with fair time, sole custody or weekends-only situations are now less likely to be awarded. Judges will continue working to construct orders that benefit the child(ren), but their involvement – and the litigation that accompanies divorce cases – will be minimal.
The divorce legal process in Phoenix concerning custody now considers and awards “legal decision-making” as opposed to “custody.” Legal decision-making in Arizona refers to the legal responsibility and right to make any and all major decisions for the child(ren). This includes, but is not limited to:
• religious practices
• personal care (i.e. what they wear)
For all intents and purposes, legal decision making in Arizona means legal custody, and can still be either sole or joint, as the Court sees fit. When awarding legal decision-making, the Court will consider factors such as parental behavior during the proceedings (intentionally misleading the court or purposely creating delays affect final decisions), as well as parental use of drugs and/or alcohol, especially within the preceding year. In the past, only a drug conviction was considered cause for consideration of child best interest.
This awarded time that parents receive while providing their legal decision making is now referred to as “parenting time.” As it applies to parental rights in Arizona, parenting time refers to the court approved schedule that each parent has the child(ren). Here, A.R.S. § 25-403.02 dictates that the Court decides upon a parenting plan that allows for shared legal decision making in the best interest of the child(ren). To accomplish this, the amendment requires that each parent submit a detailed parenting plan to the Court that includes information such as how they wish to handle visitation changeovers and how they will communicate about the child(ren).
One reason for these amendments is the belief that only parents know what is best for the child(ren), and that litigation may actually work to complicate matters further (if an abusive parent is unwittingly awarded sole custody, for example, the ruling is very difficult to overturn once set). Furthermore, it is believed that assistance in the form of divorce mediation in Arizona can help parents construct favorable and feasible parenting plans on their own, ultimately working through conflict to create a platform for trust, respect, and circumstances that are in the best interest of the child(ren).
For any questions or concerns about legal decision-making and parenting time, please call Simon Law Group of AZ. Managing partner Craig Simon is an Arizona attorney with a deep understanding of the divorce legal process in Phoenix. His team of professionals is passionate, responsive, and committed to client satisfaction. Call 480-745-2450 today to set up a free consultation with an experienced child custody lawyer in Phoenix.