In mediation, most of my divorce clients reach their own agreement about custody and parenting time. However, in other cases, the Family Law Court will make orders regarding child custody and parenting time. In those cases, the court follows the Arizona Child Custody Statutes.
Effective January 1, 2013, Arizona’s Child Custody Statutes have changed. The main change is that the term “custody” has been changed to “legal decision-making” and the term “visitation” has been changed to “parenting time.” “Visitation” now means time spent with a child by someone other than a legal parent.
Legal decision-making is defined as the legal right and responsibility to make all nonemergency legal decisions for a child, including education, health care, religious training and personal care decisions.
The factors that the court will use to determine legal decision-making and parenting time are now:
- The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.
- 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.
- The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.
- If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful 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.
- 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 parenting time preference to that parent.
- Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to section 25-403.03.
- The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time.
- Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.
- Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02.
Additionally, a new section has been added which specifies that the court can award sole or joint legal decision-making and the factors the court can consider in making such an award.
In our divorce mediations session, we will review the relevant child custody and parenting time law changes. Ultimately, however, the couple decides what is best and most workable for their family – which is usually a good decision for everyone.