Most States Failing on Shared Parenting Laws—Except Arizona

How does Arizona’s “shared parenting” differ from other child custody arrangements?

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.  []  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. 

Protecting Your Children from Parental Kidnapping

Deciding how to best care for your children after a divorce or break-up is a difficult matter.  Things like child custody and support are not often easily agreed upon, especially if you and your former significant other are on bad terms. The court might need to get involved to make a decision in such a dispute.  Unfortunately, that might not be the end of the matter.  You might be concerned that your ex is going to take your kids despite a court decision.  This is a legitimate concern in some situations and happens regularly in the State of Arizona and across the country.

Recently, a 21 year old Phoenix woman took off with her 2 year old son.  Isabella Guervara lost custody of her son to her ex after the judge became worried about the child’s safety.  His father was awarded full custody but Guervara refused to abide by the order.  She would not turn her son over to the father and at this point cannot be found.  The Phoenix police are looking for her and she is wanted on charges of custodial interference.

So, what should you do if you are concerned that your child’s other parent is going to abduct them in disregard of your court ordered custody?  It is recommended that you be proactive.  If you are worried about parental kidnapping, compile all of the facts and express your concerns to the court or to your lawyer so that they can address them.  You can request supervised visitation under certain circumstances, and if there is a valid threat to you or your child, you may be able to get a restraining order to stop contact with your ex altogether.  If your ex does abduct your child, Federal and Arizona law is on your side.  This is a crime which can be addressed federally if the child is brought out of state and you should call the police immediately at the first sign your child has been abducted.  Once your child is safely returned to your care, you should work with a family law attorney to change the custody agreement to ensure this never happens again.

If you are a parent and are worried that your ex may attempt to abduct your child, do not wait.  Work with an experienced family law attorney to protect your child from the initiation of custody proceedings.  Contact the Scottsdale, Arizona family law attorneys at Nirenstein Garnice by calling (480)351-4804 for a consultation today.