Any breakup or divorce where a child is involved can be stressful, especially if you’re not on good terms with your ex and you’re not sure what parental rights you’ll have or what you’ll have to fight for. Understanding how Arizona determines parental rights and getting help navigating the process can help relieve the stress of the unexpected. Here is everything you need to know about parental rights in Arizona.
Who Has Parental Rights?
In Arizona, when a baby is born to married parents, the husband is automatically assumed to be the father. This means that in a divorce, both parents will have an equal shot at parental rights if they were married at the time of the child’s birth.
If you’re breaking up but are unmarried, or weren’t married when your child was born, parental rights can be a bit trickier. Paternity can be agreed upon by both parents on an official document, but if that’s not possible, the father will have to file with the courts and get a paternity test. Until paternity is proven, the mother retains all parental rights.
Decision-Making vs. Parenting Time
In order to make family law more clear, Arizona dropped terms like “custody” and instead now divides parental rights into two categories: decision-making rights and parenting time. Decision-making rights determine who can make decisions about the child’s upbringing, everything from education to medical decisions. Often, both parents share decision-making rights, which means you will have to consult with one another and make these important decisions together.
Parenting time is a completely different issue, as it refers to where the child spends their time. Does the kid stay at one parent’s house during the week and the other parent’s house on weekends? Do the parents divide both weekday and weekend time equally? The courts make these decisions based on what is best for the child’s needs, so the division of parenting time may not be the same as the division of decision-making rights.
How Are Parental Rights Decided?
The most important factor that the courts consider isn’t what’s most convenient for the parents, but what’s best for the child. Typically the courts prefer to divide parental rights between the parents fairly equally, but may award sole custody to one parent based on factors that could endanger the child, such as the other parent’s history of physical abuse, alcohol abuse, or abandonment. The best way to get a favorable division of rights is for both of you to agree on a detailed parenting plan, but if you can’t agree, mediation or legal representation may be necessary.
Navigating the realm of divorce and parental rights may seem overwhelming, but it’s more straightforward than you might think. It’s the missteps and fighting along the way that makes it difficult. Legal representation can help you to remove your personal feelings and keep mistakes to a minimum. To schedule a consultation and give yourself the best possible chance of a favorable outcome, contact Simon Law Group, PLLC, today.