In the past, if a couple divorced and children were involved, the mother was largely considered the only choice for things like custody. But times have changed, and today Arizona’s laws recognize that fathers have rights too. Read on for more info.
How Do Arizona Courts View Family Law When It Comes to Fathers?
Contrary to the conventional wisdom that thinks mothers have the upper hand in all family law matters involving children, that’s not so in Arizona. The law looks for the most equitable situation for both parents, except for cases involving abuse, neglect, or addiction issues.
That’s because the courts have found that most of the time, the child benefits from having equal access to both parents as they grow up. Judges understand the value of having the father actively included in the child’s life.
How Is Legal Custody Usually Determined in Arizona?
Arizona no longer uses the word “custody.” Legal decision-making has replaced the term “custody.” Joint legal decision-making is usually the order entered. But that’s not physical custody. That means the parents share in the important decision-making for the child.
“Important” refers to the larger child-raising questions, such as health, education, extracurricular activities, and religion. It also means both parents should have full access to the child’s medical and educational records. What it doesn’t mean is that the endless rounds of small daily decisions, such as what the child has for breakfast or if they’re going to play with a friend after school, has to be a joint decision. Those types of decisions will fall to whichever parent is caring for the child at that moment.
The same applies to routine medical appointments as well as emergency visits. The parent handling those types of appointments should keep the other parent informed, and the other parent should have full access to medical records of any type of care. But in an emergency, the focus is getting treatment for the child as soon as possible, not getting the other parent’s permission.
Will We Share Physical Custody in Joint Legal Decision-Making?
Not necessarily. “Joint legal decision-making” is a legal term that refers to decisions and input for the child’s upbringing, not where they’ll live. “Physical custody” is a separate concept that determines where the child lives. If the mother is awarded full physical custody, both parents could still be named as having joint legal custody, so both would be involved in those important decisions.
Arizona courts award physical custody based upon the best interests of the child. The courts try to maximize the parenting time with both parents taking into account hardship on the child such as driving distance and work schedules. Frequently a 50/50 plan is awarded.
However, in cases where there has been significant domestic violence or substance abuse, the courts have been known to limit the abusive parents’ parenting time to supervise parenting time. In cases where the judge is concerned for the child’s safety and well-being but thinks they would still benefit from time with the noncustodial parent, they can order supervised visitation. The supervisor could be the custodial parent, another adult, or from someone who works for a professional agency.
The important thing to note here is that it’s not necessarily the mother who would get sole physical custody or the majority of joint physical custody. Equal parenting time/physical custody is frequently awarded and it could very well be the father, depending on the overall situation.
What if the Child’s Parent Is Violating Our Visitation Schedule or Joint Physical Custody Arrangements?
These situations are taken seriously by the courts, regardless if it’s the mother or the father committing the violation, and regardless if it’s the father or mother who is being deliberately kept from their child.
If this is happening to you, it’s a good time to bring in an experienced family law attorney. It’s also a good time to stop using phone calls or personal visits as the communication mechanism with your ex. Instead, use some form of writing (email, text, Facebook Messenger) to document the violations (and be specific). Using the same communication tool, ask the mother to commit to abiding by the court-ordered custody or visitation and to put that in writing for you.
If she refuses to do so and continues the violation, there are legal steps we can help you take, including a child custody modification request or a contempt of court.
What Should I Do if I Want to Ensure My Rights as a Father Are Protected?
Call the Sampair Group at 623-777-3926 for a free case evaluation. We understand that your rights as a father are vital to you, and we will work with you to ensure that you’re protected.
We’re experienced and knowledgeable in divorce cases that involve children. Every case is unique, and we’ll work to help you achieve the best possible outcomes.