Advocates of “shared parenting” in divorce cases have been trying to change a decades-long tradition of giving child custody to one parent, usually the mother. Typically, a non-custodial parent gets far less time with the child. Supporters of shared parenting believe that, unless there has been some form of abuse or neglect, parents should receive equal time with their children.
A survey by the National Parents Organization shows that most states are lagging in adopting child custody laws friendly to shared parenting. Nearly half of the states rated received a “D,” and some received an “F.” The states with the highest grades were Arizona and Alaska.
Legislators in some states may continue to view mothers as better qualified to care for a child, or may worry that a 50-50 division of time with a child will result in more conflict between parents.
Arizona, however, has a different view, and has been a leader in the movement toward shared parenting. In 2012, state legislators adopted a law designed to encourage parents in a marital dissolution to engage in joint parenting. [http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2012/12/26/new-arizona-law-encourages-more-joint-parenting/] Arizona state law forbids courts from giving preference to a parent based on the gender of the parent or the child and requires courts to try to ensure that both parents spend time with their children.
Under the law, physical custody is referred to as “parenting time,” while legal custody is “legal decision-making authority.” A parent with decision-making authority can make decisions about a child’s health and education, as well as over personal matters such as grooming or getting a piercing. Parents are also subject to strict notification requirements when they move a great distance away.
The Arizona law requires judges to consider the child’s best interest when making all decisions, but maximum time with both parents is generally preferred over granting custody to one parent while giving the other occasional visitation.
Disputes over child custody can be contentious in every jurisdiction. In Arizona, laws on shared parenting may add new layers of complexity. If you are contemplating a dissolution of marriage in which child custody may be an issue, or if you already have a child custody arrangement that you seek to modify, the experienced matrimonial law attorneys at Nirenstein Garnice can help. Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, we have years of experience handling all types of divorce and domestic relations issues, including child custody disputes. Contact us today at (480)351-4804 for a confidential consultation.