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Child custody changes that divorcing Arizona parents should understand

It is important for parents considering a divorce to understand the changes and the specifics of the present law.
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    January 22, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Child custody laws are often one of the first issues that parents who are preparing for a divorce think about. The custody law that governs parents going through a divorce in Tucson and other parts of Arizona changed less than a year ago, and the new law encourages a fairly different distribution of parental rights and responsibilities. With this in mind, it is important for parents considering a divorce to understand the changes and the specifics of the present law.

Law gives each parent maximum time

Various small but important legal changes have been made under the new law. According to an article published on AZ Central, physical and legal custody are now known as parenting time and decision-making authority, respectively, and the law promotes more balanced parenting arrangements. In the past, it was not rare to see one parent awarded with decision-making authority and significantly more parenting time, but now, the law makes a few provisions to encourage more even arrangements:
- The court cannot discriminate against a parent based on his or her gender or based on the gender of the child.
- The court must adopt a plan that allows both parents the maximum amount of time possible with the child, unless one parent is abusive.
- Fines are mandatory, rather than optional, for parents who are dishonest in court or try to slow down the case.
- Parents who are moving must give the other parent an earlier notice and opportunity to respond.

These changes encourage a joint parenting model more than the previous law did, but of course, judges still have discretion in each individual case.

Factors that affect custody decisions

The website of the Arizona State Legislature share some of the factors that are taken into account when decision-making authority and parenting time are determined. Some key considerations include the relationship of the parent and child, the child's personal preference, the parent's conduct in court, the parent's behavior toward the other parent, the health of everyone involved and the child's ability to adjust to the terms of the new arrangement.

Although the new law encourages a more equal parenting time plan, this outcome is not guaranteed, especially since the court must evaluate so many factors. When abuse, coercion or other misconduct on the part of one or both parents has occurred, this is also weighed into the final decision.

It is usually in the best interest of any parent seeking a divorce to speak with an attorney about parental rights and different custody arrangements. Although modifications of child support and custody orders can be sought after a decision has been made, it is best if parents go into the initial settlement with a full understanding of the arrangement that they are committing to.

If you are preparing for a divorce in Arizona, you can benefit greatly from contacting an attorney. An attorney can help you understand the current relevant laws and improve the likelihood that you arrive at the arrangement that will be best for you and your child.

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