When parents in Arizona separate or divorce, a plan must be made for how the parents will make major decisions for the children and how much time the children will spend with each parent, The parties may reach an agreement on their own, or they may need the assistance an attorney or the Court of Conciliation. These agreements must be submitted to the court for approval. If the parties are unable to reach agreement, the court will hear testimony at a hearing or trial and make the final decision with respect to these issues. The court makes a decision in accordance with the children's best interests. The legal factors the court must consider are set forth in A.R.S. § 25-403. The court may not make legal decision-making or parenting time decisions based upon a parent or child’s gender.
Legal decision-making is defined as the authority to make major, non-emergency decisions for the children for educational issues, medical issues, religious upbringing, and major personal care decisions. Legal decision-making may be shared between both parents, known as joint legal decision-making, or held by one parent alone, known as sole legal decision-making. If parents have joint legal decision-making, they must make major decisions jointly. If a parent has sole legal decision-making, that parent alone has the authority to determine legal-decision making issues for the children. An order of joint legal decision-making does not necessarily mean that the parties have equal parenting time.
Parenting time is defined as the amount of time the children spend with each parent on a day-to-day basis. Frequently, there will also be a schedule to address the division of important holidays, vacation time, school breaks, and a summer schedule. Sample parenting plans that can be very helpful and informative for parents can be found at: http://www.supreme.state.az.us/dr/parenttime/PPWguidelines.pdf.
In certain circumstances, the court may order supervised parenting time between a parent or a child, and may place certain restrictions on the parenting time. If appropriate, the court can order drug or alcohol testing as a condition of continued parental contact with the children.
A parenting time or legal decision-making order may be modified following its entry if certain factors are met. You should meet with an attorney to review your case if you believe a modification of legal decision-making or parenting time is appropriate. Court actions can be filed if a parent fails to comply with a parenting time or legal decision-making order and a parent needs the court's assistance to have the other parent adhere to the terms of the order. In the event you are planning to relocate, or your child's other parent is planning to relocate, you should immediately review your situation with an attorney, as Arizona law has several important time requirements that must be followed.
If you would like my assistance with any of these issues, please call (520) 882-2193 to make an appointment.