Many residents of Arizona may be unaware that as of January 1, 2013, both the mother and father are viewed as equals by the Courts when it comes to qualifying for primary custody of a child after a divorce. Mothers no longer receive favorable treatment over the father in child custody cases, providing more opportunity for the best interests of the child to be met during what is no doubt a difficult time for them and their family.
The new laws in place give equal duties to a mother and father for legally protected parenting rights and responsibilities. The same laws apply to soon-to-be mothers and fathers.
The equal rights and responsibilities given to both parents include parenting time, child custody, adoption notification and financial support for the child.
Decision-Making Authority, Parenting Time
Some of the most significant changes include: The terms ‘legal custody’ and ‘physical custody’ were instead changed to ‘legal decision making’ and ‘parenting time.’ The reason for this was to eliminate the emotions that can often come from the use of the term ‘custody,’ which would often result in court battles over who would get ‘sole custody,’ taking the focus away from the best interest of the child during such a difficult time for them.
Legal decision making authority is, according to ARS 25-401, “the legal right and responsibility to make all nonemergency legal decisions for a child including those regarding education, health care, religious training and personal care decisions.” Either parent may be granted sole of join legal decision making authority.
Parenting Time, Visitation
Parenting time is now regarded as “the schedule of time during which each parent has access to a child at specified times. Each parent during their schedule parenting time is responsible for providing the child with food, clothing and shelter, and may make routine decisions concerning the child’s care.”
Under previous laws, the term ‘visitation’ caused confusion and conflict because of its side by side use with ‘parenting time,’ giving a parent the assumption that a parent only had visitation rights with their own child, separate from parenting time. Under the new law, visitation is now defined as “a schedule of time that occurs with a child by someone other than a legal parent.”
The new law encourages, but does not mandate, equal parenting time. This is a plan that can be adopted by the court, further maximizing a parent’s parenting time. The court, however, is not permitted to modify the parenting plan based on the gender of the parent.
For more information about child custody and how these new laws impact you and your child custody parental agreements, contact a Glendale child custody attorney at The Sampair Group. Visit Sampair Group for a free consultation.