Yes, under certain circumstances. In Arizona and in most states, legal decision-making authority and parenting time are decided in the child’s best interests. What that means in a specific case is generally determined by weighing relevant factors.
What are legal decision-making authority and parenting time?
Arizona law divides the parenting of children into two concepts: Legal decision-making authority and parenting time. In 2012, the law was revised to remove the outdated concepts of “child custody” and “visitation.”
Legal-decision-making authority refers to each parent’s right to make consequential decisions about the child’s life, such as about schooling, religion or medical care. Parenting time refers to the time each parent spends caring for and raising the child.
The court can grant one parent sole decision-making authority or grant the parents shared decision-making authority. The court can also grant parenting time solely to one parent, under certain circumstances. More commonly, however, courts order the amount of parenting time to be roughly equal.
Are mothers favored over fathers?
Not legally. Arizona law does not allow courts to grant more or less legal decision-making authority and parenting time to a parent on the basis of gender.
Can parents agree to particular parenting arrangements?
Generally, yes, as long as those arrangements are in the children’s best interests. You can negotiate reasonable arrangements as part of your divorce or custody case.
However, you should be aware that once legal decision-making authority and parenting time have been decided, the arrangements become subject to a court order. You and your children’s other parent no longer have the authority to modify that order on your own. Therefore, if you want to make changes to the legal decision-making and parenting time order, you will need to ask the court for a modification.
When can you change a parenting order?
In general, you will need to show that the circumstances have changed substantially since the order was issued or last modified. Again, you will need to show that any proposed change is in the children’s best interest.
In most cases, you will not be allowed to petition for a change in your parenting order for at least a year since the date of the order or last modification. However, if there are circumstances that seriously endanger the child’s physical, emotional, mental or moral health, you can petition for a change earlier.
You can also request a modification of your parenting order whenever there is evidence that domestic violence or child abuse has occurred since the order was issued or last modified.
If the reason you are seeking a change your parenting order is because your children’s other parent has not been following it, you will generally need to wait at least six months before requesting the change.
If you need to change your parenting order, get help
If you are considering seeking a change in legal decision-making or parenting time, you would be wise to contact an experienced family law attorney. The process for petitioning for a change is somewhat complex and there are many rules to follow. Your lawyer can help you build a persuasive case for why your parenting arrangements should be changed in your children’s best interest.