“Legal Decision-Making” has replaced the term “custody”.
There are three types of legal decision-making orders that can be entered:
1. Parents can have joint legal decision-making of their children. This means that both parents make the major decisions together about their children such as education, medical care and religion. Legal decision-making includes the right to make decisions with doctors and other health care providers about the child, the right to access medical, psychological, and educational records, the right to get information from the other parent about the child's health, welfare, and education, the right to discuss their child with school officials, and the right to consent to emergency treatment. Effective joint legal decision-making requires the parents to cooperate in decision-making and it must be logistically possible.
2. Parents can have joint legal decision-making of their children, but with one parent having “final say” in the event that the parents disagree.
3. One parent can have sole legal decision-making. This means that the parent with sole legal decision-making makes all decisions pertaining to the children alone without needing the agreement of the other parent. Parenting time is allocated between the parents, typically with the sole legal decision-maker having substantially more parenting time than the other parent. In some cases, a parent can prove that sole legal decision-making is in the best interests of the child.
Joint legal decision-making is encouraged by the courts wherever feasible. This means parenting together as much as possible for the benefit of the child.
Because of the raw emotions involved in a divorce or paternity dispute, parents often find it difficult to work together in order to effectively co-parent their children. Co-parenting is hard work, and it takes effort. If parents allow their anger or distaste for one another to outweigh their love and affection for their children, disaster may result. Thus, parents must do everything in their power to try to work with one another for the benefit of their children.
I advise my clients with a list of Co-Parenting Do’s and Don’ts which will hopefully help minimize the conflict that may arise between you and your co-parent.
Parenting Time has replaced the term “visitation”.
Parenting time is allocated between the parents, typically with one parent having primary parenting time and the other parent having secondary parenting time. Parents can also have essentially equal parenting time. In cases where one of the parents is deployed with the military, special parenting plan arrangements need to be negotiated.
In disputes regarding parenting time, parents can utilize parenting plans to allocate the time that each parent spends with the child. There are model parenting plans available from the Arizona Supreme Court which provide guidelines for parents and the court to consider. I am also experienced in helping you craft a personalized parenting time schedule.
Key factors in determining a parenting time allocation that is in the best interest of the child(ren) include:
Age of the child(ren)
Relationship of the child(ren) to each parent
History as to which parent provided primary care to the child(ren)
Work schedule of each parent
School and extra-curricular schedule of the child(ren)
History of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence for either parent
History of alcohol or drug abuse for either parent
Another factor involved in determining parenting time is which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent.
Parenting time to be allocated includes a regular schedule for weekdays and weekends, holidays, school breaks, summer break, and vacation.
Free mediation through the Family Court of Conciliation is available and mandatory if there is any dispute regarding parenting time or legal decision-making.
In some circumstances a custodial evaluation and/or parenting time evaluation are ordered by the Court to assist the Judge in deciding what is in the best interest of the children.
Although it may seem like a daunting task to sit down with your ex-spouse or ex-partner or soon to be ex-spouse to work out a parenting plan, one thing is certain-- you and your co-parent are the only two people who truly know your children, their needs and your schedules. Only you can create the plan that will best fit the needs of the divided family. In order to create a plan that works, you must work together. You must co-parent. Co-parenting includes coordinating your schedules and those of the children, working together for visitation exchange, working out holidays and making collaborative decisions regarding the children.
By cooperating with your co-parent in creating an effective parenting time schedule, you will create a framework that allows for the active participation by each of you in the lives of your children. Remember, parents who created a parenting time schedule jointly are more likely to comply with it than if a plan is imposed upon them by a third party.