In a divorce, issues related to the children are usually the most important.

Accordingly, questions about how the court will award legal decision making and parenting time are among the most common.

Most people use the term “custody” to describe which parent the child lives with most of the time; however, Arizona now breaks what used to be called “custody” into two categories known as “Legal Decision Making” and “Parenting Time”.

Legal Decision Making is the legal right of a parent to make all non-emergency decisions on behalf of the child. Legal Decision Making includes decisions on education, healthcare, religion and personal care. Legal Decision Making may be Joint with neither parent having Final Decision Making Authority; Joint with one parent having Final Decision Making Authority; or Sole with one parent having all Legal Decision Making Authority.

If the parents have Joint Legal Decision Making, neither parent has superior rights than the other to make decisions for the child or children. So, all decisions are made by communicating and consulting with the other parent, agreeing on the appropriate action and then taking that action.

As many divorced parents know, that isn’t always easy.

So, when the parties have Joint Legal Decision Making and they absolutely cannot agree, they may be forced to seek the assistance of the court to come to a conclusion.

Parenting Time refers to the time that the child spends with each parent. Parenting Time schedules vary greatly. Some parents are able to agree upon a Parenting Time schedule that fits with their work schedules and routine, while others cannot agree and end up with a schedule ordered by the court.

Arizona law begins with the presumption that it is in the child or children’s best interest to have substantial and meaningful contact with both parents, absent compelling reasons to show otherwise. This means that if you believe your child should not spend time with the other parent, the burden is on you to prove why that is best.

In some cases, a parent may end up with only supervised parenting time if the court determines that unsupervised parenting time would seriously endanger the child.

As Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time are usually the issues of highest importance to most parents, it is of the highest importance to have experienced legal representation to protect your parental rights.

If you would like more information about protecting your parental rights and/or to work with one of our experienced Attorneys, please call OWENS & PERKINS at 480.994.8824 to schedule your free 30 minute consultation.