If you’re divorcing with children, you may have a disagreement with your divorcing spouse about how to share parenting time with the kids. If you can’t agree, each of you will have to develop a proposed parenting plan to submit to the court. Then a judge will decide which plan provides for each parent’s legal decision-making authority over the child and maximizes each parent’s parenting time.
The main thing to remember is that parenting plans must be in your children’s best interests. That is the legal standard the court will use when evaluating the plans.
Under Arizona law, the court will not prefer one parent’s plan to the other simply on the basis of the parent’s or the child’s gender.
Here are the basic requirements for the parenting plan you will submit to the court:
- A designation of sole or joint decision-making authority by the parents
- Each parent’s rights and responsibilities for the general personal care of the children and for decisions regarding healthcare, education and religious training, etc.
- A practical schedule of the parenting time to be spent with each child, including what to do with holidays and school vacations
- A procedure for exchanging the kids between parents, including a location and responsibility for transportation
- A procedure for proposed changes to be resolved, such as using mediation, private counseling or conciliation services. Potential changes involve relocation of the child.
- A procedure for periodic review of the parenting plan by the parents
- A procedure for how the parents will communicate with each other, including what method and how frequent the communication will be
- A statement that each party has read, understands and will abide by the law regarding people convicted of sex offenses, domestic violence, child abuse or murder having access to the children
Generally, you will work with your attorney to come up with a parenting plan that meets these requirements and is in your children’s best interest. Then, the court will consider your plan and the one submitted by your children’s other parent. Where there are elements that disagree, the court will rule on those elements.
The court does have the right to consider any necessary factors that are necessary to protect the children’s physical health and emotional wellbeing. That includes interviewing the children as to their wishes about parenting time, if the judge feels your children are mature enough to have a considered opinion. The court can also seek the advice of professional personnel.
Creating a solid parenting order is a major part of a divorce with children. Discuss your goals and concerns with an experienced divorce attorney.