Legal Decision-making and parenting time (Custody)

The Berkshire Law Office has always been on the cutting edge of the law in areas related to children. Recently in Woyton v. Ward, the Berkshire Law Office won an appeal which will be major precedent in Arizona for decades on parenting time disputes. In Woyton, the Court of Appeals held that there is a presumption of equal parenting time. Previously, when the Arizona Legislature undertook a massive rewrite to the Arizona Custody statutes in 2013, Keith Berkshire was part of the legislative committee that wrote the laws. This first-hand experience makes the Berkshire Law Office familiar with all the intricacies of Arizona custody and parenting time laws.

Legal Decision-making

Legal decision-making (custody) is defined under A.R.S § 25-401 as which party can make legal decisions regarding the children. These decisions do not affect parenting time as described below, but rather impact legal decisions such as medical decisions, educational decisions, and in certain circumstances, religious decisions. When the parties are joint legal decision makers, they are required to make all significant legal decisions together. This means choosing schools, doctors, and other legal decisions must be made jointly, with neither party having any veto power. When parents have Joint Legal Decision-making, neither parent’s rights are superior to the other parent’s rights.

Sole legal decision-making is when one party can make all legal decisions without consultation with the other parent. This does not mean that the parent with sole decision-making can determine what parenting time the other parent gets, but rather is limited to decision making. Sole legal decision-making is often difficult to obtain, and our attorneys can describe the requirements.

The Court may also do a hybrid called “Joint with Final” where the parents must consult each other on legal issues, but one party is the “tie-breaker” when the parents cannot agree.

Parenting Time

“Parenting time” defines what days of the week each parent spends with the children. Parenting time is also often referred to as “physical custody.” A parenting plan is the document that includes the day-to-day parenting time agreement as well as specific holidays, vacations, and other events. The crafting of an enforceable and comprehensive parenting plan is what separates quality attorneys from those not familiar with recent developments in family law. Many parenting plans ignore potential areas of conflict and don’t foresee issues that may arise. We can help craft a plan that will be in the best interest of your children, while remaining enforceable.

Court Factors

In determining both legal decision-making and parenting time, the Court must consider the following under A.R.S. § 25-403:

1. The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.

2. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.

3. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.

4. If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.

5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.

6. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. This paragraph does not apply if the court determines that a parent is acting in good faith to protect the child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.

7. Whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent.

8. Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to section 25-403.03.

9. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time.

10. Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.

11. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02.