In this article, you will discover:
- The best interest factors the court considers when awarding parenting time in Arizona.
- The importance of reaching a parenting plan that works for everyone.
- When to seek the court’s help to enforce a parenting plan.
When A Couple Divorces, How Is Custody Generally Determined In Arizona?
In Arizona, instead of custody, we have parenting time and legal decision-making. These are determined by a judge analyzing the best interest factors. The best interest factors are a series of legal factors judges use to determine who gets what kind of rights. There are questions we ask like,
- What kind of relationship do you have with these kids?
- Who are the other significant people in their lives?
- How adjusted are they to your environment?
- Does anyone have physical or mental health issues preventing them from caring for their child?
Judges weigh these factors to figure out who gets what time with these kids and who makes decisions for these kids. These two responsibilities are not necessarily put together.
For example, you might have equal parenting time, but one party has sole legal decision-making power, depending on what the factors indicate is best.
Depending on the age and maturity of the child, a child’s wishes may be considered, but that’s only one factor in this test, and there are a lot of other factors to consider. Their wishes are not the sole determinative question. If you ask me at what age a child can decide whom they want to live with, I will say 18. Before then, we’ll factor their wishes into the decision, giving that more weight as they get older and more mature, but it will never be the sole deciding factor.
What Kind Of Visitation Agreements Can Be Awarded In A Divorce Case In Arizona?
When parents divorce, we see various situational parenting plans, generally depending on what works best for the parent(s). We think we want to do what’s best for the kids, but that must fit into the reality of their parent’s work schedules. There are a few plans we typically see:
- Every other weekend. One person is the main parent, and the other parent has time every other weekend.
- Dividing the week. One person gets two days, the other the next two days, then alternating who has the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Or one parent has three days, and the other has four.
- Equal time plans. One-week-on, one-week-off. Full blocks of time instead of having to divide up weeks.
Dividing visitation really depends on what will work best for the kids AND the parents. If you want a one-week-on, one-week-off plan, but your schedule has you working 8:00 pm to 10:00 am, that plan won’t realistically work unless you have someone else handle all the childcare. There are many different plans, but the right plan must match reality.
In Arizona, What Can Be Done If One Or Both Parties Are Not Following The Parenting Agreement?
If one or both parents are not following the parenting agreement, we have a process called enforcement court in Arizona. We go to the judge and simply say, “You made these orders for a parenting plan we are supposed to be following, and this person is not doing it. We need you to do something about that.”
The judge may order the other party to take additional education about what parenting time is and why it is important to follow these rules. The judge may assess a fine against the other parent. They can order the other parent makeup missed parenting time. The penalty can be as severe as finding the other parent in contempt and incarcerating them. There are several sanctions available, and the judge will try to use the most appropriate one.
If both parents aren’t following the parenting plan, we have to ask, “Is this parenting plan still good?” If both parties are moving away from the plan because it doesn’t fit reality, that may be a reason to modify the plan—so people will follow it again.
If no one is following the parenting plan, but everyone feels good about that, and nobody is mad, leave it alone. Why incur the fees or costs to change the plan if everyone is happy? Just be aware that once somebody becomes unhappy, they will go back to enforcing the plan. This kind of situation might lend itself to a consent modification, an agreed-upon modification of what changes should be made to fit the new reality.