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If you are involved in a divorce or a child custody case in Arizona, you need to know the specifics of Parenting Plans in Arizona divorce and child custody cases.
The two most basic components of an Arizona Parenting Plan are (1) legal decision making and (2) a parenting time schedule. But first, let’s talk about the legal requirements of a Parenting Plan in Arizona.
All Arizona Parenting Plans must meet the requirements of A.R.S. §25-403.02 which requires the following in any Parenting Plan submitted to a judge in Arizona:
- Each party’s rights and responsibilities for the personal care of the child and for decisions in areas such as education, health care and religious training;
- A practical schedule of parenting time for the child, including holidays and school vacations;
- A procedure for the exchanges of the child, including location and responsibility for transportation;
- A procedure by which proposed changes, disputes and alleged breaches may be mediated or resolved, which may include the use of conciliation services or private counseling;
- A procedure for periodic review of the plan’s terms by the parties; and
- A procedure for communicating with each other about the child, including methods and frequency of that communication;
Failure to address any of the factors in A.R.S. 25-403.02 will result in the court rejecting your proposed Parenting Plan.
Provisions for Legal Decision Making for a Child in an Arizona Parenting Plan
One of the most important issues that need to be addressed in an Arizona Parenting Plan is how important decisions will be made for the child in the areas of healthcare, education, religious upbringing and extracurricular activities.
Joint Legal Decision Making
Parenting Plans that provide both parents with joint legal decision making result in both parents being involved in making the major decisions for the child. In joint legal decision making, neither parent’s opinion wins out over the other parent’s opinion on any issue.
In short, if the parents do not agree on a major decision for their children nothing changes and the status quo prevails.
This means disputes over which school a child should attend will result in the child simply staying at his or her current school or, possibly, the school to which the child will matriculate according to school district rules.
Joint Legal Decision Making With One Parent Having “Final Say”
Another form of legal custody is joint legal decision making but one parent is given the right to “final say” if the parents do not agree on a major decision affecting their child.
Typically, the parent given the final say on an issue will also be ordered to consider in good faith the other parents wishes. If they fail to do so, the other parent may petition to transfer final say from a parent acting in bad faith to the more cooperative parent.
In other words, final say does not give a parent the blanket right to completely disregard the other parents wishes pertaining to the major decisions affecting the children.
Sole Legal Decision Making
A parent granted sole legal decision making (i.e., sole custody) of a child has the right to make all major decisions for the children regardless what the other parent’s opinion may be.
It is fairly uncommon for a parent to be awarded sole custody of his or her children because Arizona judges want both parents to be actively involved in the decisions impacting their children.
A judge could award sole custody to one parent if there is significant domestic violence, a clear inability fo the parents to effectively communicate with each other, or one of the parents has a significant problem with drugs or alcohol.
Parenting Plan Provisions for Emergency Medical Care for a Child
No parent wants to think about their children suffering from a major emergency medical situation, but Parenting Plans should still include provisions allowing either parent to make medical decisions for the child in an emergency situation regardless of the form of legal decision making being joint legal decision making, joint legal decision making with final say, or sole legal decision making.
A child in an emergency needs both parents to have the legal right to make medical decisions quickly and without first getting the other parents opinion on that medical care.
As a result, a good Parenting Plan in Arizona will provide each parent with the right to make emergency medical decisions regardless what form of legal decision making is contained in the Parenting Plan.
Provision will also usually be made requiring the parent making those emergency decisions to notify the other parent as quickly as feasible given the nature of the emergency.
Parenting Plan Provisions For The Day to Day Decision Making for Children
Not all decisions affecting a child arise to the level of a major decision. For example, the child’s daily routine cannot be completely controlled by the other parent or even require one parent to tell the other parent how he or she plans to spend their time with the children.
In other words, a parent is free to spend his or her time with the children any way he or she wishes without having to obtain approval from or report back to the other parent regardleess of the type of legal decision making being awarded.
Although this may seem obvious to some people, there are parents who believe they should be told precisely how the other parent intends to exercise his or her parenting time.
To avoid this misunderstanding, your Arizona Parenting Plan should clearly spell out each parent is free to make the day to day decisions for the children regardless of the form of legal decision making ordered.
Parenting Plan Provisions Addressing Parents Access to Medical, Educational, Psychological and Other Records
Arizona revised statute section 25-403.06 provides that, absent a court order to the contrary, both parents are entitled to receive copies of their child’s medical, educational, and psychological records. A well written Parenting Plan should clearly notify both parents of the right to obtain these records.
It is also helpful to have this spelled out clearly in a Parenting Plan to enable a parent to show it to a school or doctor if the other parent attempts to interfere with the other parent receiving these records.
Although beyond the scope of this article, there are circumstances when the school, doctor, or counselor may refuse to provide a parent with a child’s records if doing so would endanger the child.
Provision for Parental Communication in an Arizona Parenting Plan
A good Arizona Parenting Plan will have guidelines for the manner in which the parents will communicate with each other. Examples of terms regarding parental communication can include the following:
- Neither parent shall use the child to communicate information to the other parent;
- A method of communicating about the child, such as email, and rules for timely responding to those communications;
- A prohibition on both parents from communicating with the child about what happens in court proceedings;
- A prohibition of either parent saying anything derogatory about the other parent, or allowing others to do so, in the presence of the kids;
- A requirement that the parents be cordial and polite to each other at parental exchanges of the children;
- A requirement for the parents to communicate regarding any educational or medical issues the child may have to the other parent;
Parenting TIme Schedules in an Arizona Parenting Plan
The next major part of an Arizona Parenting Plan is the actual parenting time schedule. The time each parent spends with the children can be as diverse as the parents’ and child’s schedule permits. However, most parents choose either an “every other weekend” schedule or an “equal parenting time schedule”.
Additionally, the parents should agree to a holiday parenting time schedule that departs from the regular parenting time schedule for all major holidays and provide, typically, one to two weeks of vacation time for each parent with their child.
An “Every Other Weekend” Parenting Time Schedule
An “every other weekend” schedule is exactly what it sounds like. One parent will be the primary custodial parent while the other parent will have parenting time with the children every other weekend.
Typically that weekend parenting time will begin when the child is released from school on Friday and will end either Sunday evening or Monday morning when the child returns to school or some designated time if school is not in session.
A parent with an “every other weekend” parenting time schedule will also typically receive on evening visit lasting a few hours during the week to ensure he or she is spending time with the child on a frequent and continuing basis.
An “Equal Parenting Time” Schedule
Some parents choose, or a court orders, an equal parenting time schedule. An equal parenting time schedule is precisely what it sounds like. Each parent will receive roughly an equal amount of parenting time with the child.
A “Week on/WeekOff” Equal Parenting Time Schedule
In some cases, the parents may exercise a “week on/week off” schedule where the child spends one full week with one parent and the other parent the following week and the schedule repeats thereafter.
Most people with this type of schedule choose for the weekly exchange to occur when the child is released from school on Friday or a designated time on Friday if school is not in session.
One addvantage of this equal parenting time schedule it cuts down on the number of exchanges of the child every month; which may provide the child with more stabbility. The disadvantage of this type of schedule is that it creates longer periods of time a parent does not spend time with the children.
A a “2-3-3-2” Equal Parenting Time Schedule
Another option for equal parenting time is what is commonly referred to as a “2-3-3-2” schedule. Under this schedule, one parent will have the children every Monday and Tuesday while the other parent has the children every Wednesday and Thursday and the parents alternative the Friday through Monday weekends with the children.
The advvantage of this schedule is it promotes regular and frequent time spent by each parent with their children. The disadvantage is that it creates a significantly greater number of exchanges of the child; which may be seen by some as being more disruptive to the child’s weekly schedule.
Other Parenting Time Provisions in an Arizona Parenting Plan
There are also other parenting time provisions a parent may want in their Arizona Parenting Plan.
These provisions include rules for the transportation of the children for exchanges between the parents, rules allowing each parent to communicate with the child during the other parent’s parenting time, and what is referred to as the Right of First Refusal.
Parenting Plan Provisions Regarding Transporation of the Children for Parental Exchanges
In most cases, the parent who is starting their parenting time is responsible for picking the child up for that parenting time.
That arrangement provides the parent receiving the children for parenting time to be able to control the timing of the exchange at the designated exchange time as opposed to waiting for the other parent to show up.
Most exchanges are scheduled to occur upon the children’s release from school. This has the added advantage of cutting down on the number of times both parents are present for parenting time exchanges; which can cut down the chance of a dispute occuring in the children’s presence.
Parenting Plan Provisions Regaring Parental Communication With the Children
Most Arizona Parenting Plans include agreements permitting a parent to communicate with their child during the other parent’s scheduled parenting time.
Typically, limits are placed on the timing and frequency of those communications, such as phone calls with the child, to ensure a parent cannot intentionally substantially interfere with the other parent’s parenting time by making repeated daily phone calls to the child to interfere with the other parent’s parenting time.
Parenting Plan Provisions Pertaining to the Right of First Refusal
There are times when a parent cannot exercise their parenting time. A Parenting Plan containing a right of first refusal would require such a parent to notify the other parent and provide them with the choice to take care of the children instead.
Some Arizona judges are not in favor of including a right of first refusal in an Arizona Parenting Plan because it can cause a lot of additional litigation if one parent accuses the other parent of not honoring the right of first refusal because, for example, someone else in a parent’s household is watching the children during the time the parent cannot personally be with the kids during their normally scheduled parenting time.
Provisions in an Arizona Parenting Plan for a Parent’s Relocation
Another issue to address in an Arizona Parenting Plan is what will happen if one of the parents moves away from their current residence.
Arizona revised statute section 25-408 prohibits either parent from relocating the children more than 100 miles absent a written agreement between the parents or a court order permitting the relocation.
Since a relocation can occur, every Arizona Parenting Plan should address that the moving parent must notify the other parent about the proposed move in accordance with the requirements of A.R.S. 25-408.
Parenting Plan Provisions for Resolving Parenting Disputes
Every Arizona Parenting Plan is required to contain a provision about how the parents will resolve disputes about their Parenting Plan that does not involve the court, such as using mediation or some other alternative dispute resolution process.
Provisions for a Periodic Review of the Parenting Plan
Arizona law requires every Parenting Plan to contain a provision requiring the parents to periodically review the Parenting Plan to ensure it continues to serve the best interests of the children.
The court is not involved in these periodic reviews; just the parents discussing if circumstances have changed sufficiently to make changes to their Arizona Parenting Plan.
Any such changes would need to be submitted to and approved by the court before they have the effect of being a court order.
Enlist the Helpful Services of the Attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC to Draft Your Arizona Parenting Plan
Developing a thoughtful, workable parenting plan requires an open mind and a willingness to compromise. But the rewards are great.
Hire an experienced family law attorney to help you write a comprehensive parenting plan. The less left undecided, the less chance you and your ex will come to blows. And the more chance your kids will emerge from your divorce undamaged.
If you have questions about parenting plans courts use in an Arizona divorce or child custoedy case, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona divorce and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in divorce and family law cases.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your Arizona divorce or family law case around today.
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