In general, Arizona law encourages equal parenting time when both parents are fit and able to participate. Your actual share of parenting time could depend on your circumstances, but you should start with the assumption that each parent will be with the child about half of the time.
When it comes to divorce, decisions about shared parenting can be the hardest. Over the course of your marriage, you may have established certain habits, such as one parent doing the majority of caregiving. And, rightly or wrongly, you may have built up a level of resentment toward your divorcing spouse. In many cases, those habits and feelings lead one parent to try to limit the amount of time the other parent will spend with the kids.
The children’s best interest is always the primary standard
The starting point for shared parenting policy in Arizona is explained in the beginning of our Marital and Domestic Relations statutes. In general, Arizona’s policy is to promote strong families and strong family values. Decisions about parental decision-making and shared parenting are to be made in the children’s best interest.
According to the statute, it is the state’s position that substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing parenting time with both parents is generally in children’s best interest. Similarly, it is generally in children’s best interest to have each parent participate equally in legal decision-making about them.
Furthermore, the statute governing parenting plans specifically states that, consistent with the children’s best interests, family courts shall adopt parenting plans that maximize each parent’s parenting time and promote shared parental decision-making.
In 2018, the Arizona Court of Appeals held in Barron v. Barron that a family court had been legally wrong when it failed to presume equal parenting time as a starting point.
In other words, Arizona family courts are to begin with the assumption that equal, or approximately equal, parenting time is appropriate in most cases. If a parent seeks to limit the parenting time of their ex, they must show why doing so is in the children’s best interest.
That’s a tough standard to meet, and most parents will end up with roughly equal amounts of parenting time unless there are concrete reasons to limit one parent’s time, such as child abuse, child neglect, domestic violence or addiction.
What if I believe my ex’s parenting time should be limited?
If you have good reason to believe equal parenting time is not in your children’s best interest, you should talk to an experienced family law attorney. Working with your lawyer, you can identify the reasons why your ex’s parenting time should be limited, gather evidence, and develop an argument to present to the family court.