Much has been written on the subject of child custody and visitation. It is difficult to imagine, if you are not in the middle of a family breakup. Most families are ill prepared to be able to handle the expense of having two households, no less the emotional toll it takes on all involved
What are the issues that parents face when children are involved in a divorce? In Arizona, the rules that came into effect as of January 1, 2013, speak of “parenting time” and “legal decision-making authority”. At the height of the politically correct movement, these terms were to take the place of visitation and custody as we all came to know them. The underlying idea was to avoid talking about the children as a possession to be fought over. The new law instructed the courts to maximize the child’s relationship with both parents.
Custody, or Legal Decision-making Authority may be awarded as sole or joint responsibility. If there are no unusual circumstances and both parties are adequate, the court will award joint decision-making authority.
The Arizona Statute that guides the court in awarding legal decision-making authority is A.R.S. 25-403. They are:
1. The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.
2. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
3. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.
4. If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.
5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
6. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. This paragraph does not apply if the court determines that a parent is acting in good faith to protect the child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.
7. Whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent.
8. Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to section 25-403.03.
9. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time.
10. Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title. (Mandatory Parent Education Class)
11. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02.
The above factors are addressed by the court in any decision made in a contested matter and should be placed upon the record as part of its written decision.
Parenting time is also guided by these factors. In addition, it would do you well to consult the guidelines published by the county in which your particular case would be filed.
Maricopa County has a publication at:
Coconino County has a 68-page booklet with suggested parenting schedules that may be found at:
Yavapai County has guidelines and instructions at:
A mandatory parenting class is required for each dissolution or paternity action involving children. Custody and visitation is covered in this class extensively.If parents cannot agree to joint legal decision-making authority and a parenting schedule, the court offers mediation. If that fails, the court will hold a hearing or trial on the matter.
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