Phoenix Lawyer: Child Custody and Parenting Time
Parents are often divided about who should have custody (now referred to by our Courts as legal decision making authority). Too often the discussion focuses on the terminology used rather than on what is best for the child and the family. At the R. J. Peters & Associates law firm in Phoenix, Arizona, we work closely with our client to make good things happen for the family, emphasizing the child's best interests.
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Child custody (legal decision making authority) refers to the rights, responsibilities and relationships between the parents and their children when the marriage ends in divorce or legal separation. The court can order sole legal decision making authority or joint legal decision making authority. At the R. J. Peters & Associates law firm, we believe the most important aspect of custody, rather than deciding what legal term to use, is to decide how both parents will share responsibility for the children.
What is sole custody or sole legal decision making authority? An order of sole legal decision making authority generally gives one parent the full legal responsibility for the child, with regard to making all decisions in the child’s life. The other parent will generally have visitation (parenting time) rights.
What is joint custody or joint legal decision making authority? In joint legal decision making authority, both parents have equal say in the major decisions of a child’s life, such as education, major medical treatment and religion. Joint legal decision making authority does not affect the amount of support the non-custodial parent is required to pay, or otherwise affect parenting time. In some cases, the parents can also share joint legal and physical custody. Joint legal decision making authority does not necessarily mean that each parent will spend equal time with the child or children.
What is visitation? Parenting time (child-parent access) is ordered so that the parent who does not have primary decision making authority of the child can still see the child. The court considers it very important for both of the parents to remain an active and important part of the child’s life.
How is child visitation decided? The court will order reasonable visitation according to the age of the child, but the amount of visitation can vary by agreement between the parents. A Judge cannot force a parent to visit a child if the parent does not want to. Provisions are normally made with regard to weekday, weekend, holiday and summer access.
The Maricopa County Superior Court publishes guidelines for establishing child visitation in a contested case. The guidelines might help you and the other parent reach an agreement without the delay and expense of a contested court trial. If you are unable to agree, the Judge will have to decide what is in the best interests of the child.
What is supervised visitation? Supervised visitation means that the non-custodial parent only has visitation with another person present. Supervised visitation can be ordered when there is evidence of drug or alcohol abuse, violent or abusive behavior or lack of parenting skills. Supervised visitation is not intended to punish the parent, but to protect the child.
Can the custodial parent refuse to provide custody or visitation rights if child support is not being paid? Child support is a separate issue from child custody. A parent cannot be denied access to a child merely because that parent is not paying support. Likewise the non-custodial parent cannot deny support because of visitation issues.
Can child visitation be totally denied a parent? This is a last resort and is used solely to protect the child. A no-contact order may be appropriate if the non-custodial parent has seriously harmed or abused the child or is otherwise a serious danger to the child's emotional or physical health.
We take sides at the R. J. Peters & Associates law firm. This is an important concept that we do not take lightly. Settlement of the difficult issues which arise in family law matters is always an important effort, but not always possible. Our child custody attorneys focus on fighting for our clients whether in settlement efforts or in litigation. Our only business is family law. From our office located near downtown Phoenix, we represent clients in Maricopa County and throughout Arizona.
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