Getting a divorce or fighting for custody of your child can be a stressful time, but you’re not alone. In fact, it might reassure you to know that many of the questions you probably have about family law right now are similar to the questions our clients ask us. Here are a handful of the most frequently asked questions to help get you started.
How does custody work in Arizona?
To be more clear about how custody works, Arizona family law divides it into two categories: decision making rights and parenting time. Decision making rights means the right to make crucial decisions, such as decisions about health care or the child’s education. Parenting time is the time the child actually spends with the parent. In most cases, the court tries to divide both decision making rights and parenting time fairly equally between the parents whenever possible.
Do mothers automatically have more parental rights?
One common misconception about family law is that mothers automatically have more rights than fathers. In Arizona, the courts approach each case assuming that both parents have equal rights to make decisions and spend time with their child. When making decisions, the courts also prioritize the best interests of the child over the preferences of the parents.
How do fathers get equal parental rights?
Typically fathers are already treated equally to mothers in Arizona, but paternity must be established first. If the parents were married at the time of the child’s birth, the father already has equal parental rights under Arizona family law. If the parents were unmarried at the time of the birth, someone will need to petition the court to establish paternity, but once that is established, the father will have the same rights (and the same responsibilities) as a father who was married.
Can you get full custody in Arizona?
While Arizona family law tries to approach most cases with the assumption that both parents are equally important to a child’s development, the courts do make decisions based on the best interests of the child. This means that in some cases, the courts may decide that it’s not in the child’s best interests for one parent to have decision making rights and/or parenting time. For instance, in cases of abuse, neglect, substance abuse, abandonment, mental illness, or long-term incarceration, the courts may decide to grant sole custody.
How does long distance parenting affect custody?
If one parent has to move away for work or another reason, obviously an equal split of custody may no longer be possible. Typically, both parents still keep equal decision making rights, but the division of parenting time is affected, since school, transportation, and other considerations make it too difficult for the child to alternate frequently between co-parents. For consistency, the child typically will spend the school year with the parent who stayed in the old neighborhood, and school vacations with the parent who has moved away. The parents take turns getting the child for important holidays and greater communication between the child and the long-distance parent is encouraged.
Do I need an attorney to manage my case?
As you navigate your situation, you may have many more questions than just these few. Having an attorney to answer questions and guide your decisions can be not just reassuring, but may also protect you from expensive mistakes. For more information about Arizona family law or to schedule a consultation regarding your case, contact Simon Law Group, PLLC, today.