What was previously referred to as “custody” is now referred to as “Legal Decision-Making.” Legal decision-making is the term that describes the authority to make legal decisions regarding your child/ren.
There are two types of legal decision-making:
This is where one of the parents makes all of the major decisions regarding the child/ren (i.e. decisions regarding education, medical, religion, and personal care). This type of legal decision-making is generally only awarded to a parent if there are parental fitness issues regarding the other parent or the parents have a history of significant domestic violence.
This is where the parents make the major decisions regarding the child/ren together. In Arizona, if there are no parental fitness issues regarding either parent, no significant domestic violence has occurred, and it is logistically feasible, then the Court generally awards joint legal decision-making to the parties.
Parenting Time refers to the time each parent spends with the child/ren. Arizona has statutes (laws) that set forth specific factors that the Court is required to address in deciding the best interests of the children with regards to legal decision-making and parenting time. These factors are located in Arizona Revised Statutes Section 25-403. There are other factors, which may not be written in the statutes, but may be important.
The Superior Court provides certain programs to assist the Court in determining what is in the children’s best interests. One of the major programs available through Conciliation Services is a “Parenting Conference.”
The first step in a Parenting Conference is for a mental health provider to meet with the parents and attempt to negotiate agreements. If negotiations are unsuccessful, the mental health provider will interview the parents and may then interview the child/ren depending on the ages of the child/ren. The mental health provider is permitted to contact other persons that have a significant role in the child/ren’s lives (i.e. teachers, etc.). The mental health provider will then provide a written report to the Court containing the information the provider gathered from the process. The report normally provides recommendations regarding custody, parenting time and other matters to the Court for the Court’s consideration. Unlike mediation, the matters addressed during Parenting Conferences are not confidential and may be addressed to the Court. The fee for Parenting Conference services is $300.00 per parent. If needed, the Court will allow you to pay this fee in monthly installments.
DISCLAIMER: Providing the above information does not establish an attorney-client relationship. To create such a relationship, both the attorney and potential client must sign a written fee agreement. The information contained herein is meant only as general information and is not meant to be relied upon for the purpose of taking legal action. you should contact an attorney in person for further and specific information.
Barbara L Fuqua of Fuqua Law Firm P.C., is licensed in Arizona only.
If you have questions about LEGAL DECISION-MAKING and/or PARENTING TIME, or if you would like to discuss your situation with an experienced family law attorney, please contact attorney, Barbara L. Fuqua, today.