What you need to know.
Joint Legal Decision Making
Married mothers (and married fathers) have joint legal decision-making until a Court says otherwise. The parenting time schedule determines when each parent gets to see the children.
Equal Rights of the Father
In Arizona the law now recognizes the equal rights of fathers during separation and divorce. Courts in Arizona no longer follow the “tender years doctrine” where mothers were favored when it came to determining parenting schedules for young children.
Married parents are considered to have joint legal decision-making and equal access to the children. The courts cannot favor one parent over another based on gender, however, and must take the facts of each case into consideration when they make a decision.
You or your husband may also be required to pay child support for your child to the other parent. Child support is calculated according to many factors, including both you and your husband’s income and the parenting time schedule in effect.
Decision-making and parenting time can be handled in a variety of ways. You can have sole legal decision-making and equal parenting time. You can also have joint legal decision-making where one parent spends more than 50% of the time with the child. Thus, married parents are viewed equally in the eyes of the law until, and unless, evidence is presented to the Court that shows equal parenting time and/or joint legal decision-making are not in the child’s best interest.
Parenting time for divorced couples can be an equal arrangement where the children live with each parent approximately the same amount of time. If one parent is the primary residential parent, he or she has more than 50% of the time with the children. So, the two choices are either equal parenting time or a primary residential parent who spends more than 50% of the time with the child.
Agreements with Father
If you are able to come to an agreement with the father of your child you are presumed to have joint legal decision-making and equal parenting time.
You are allowed to agree to an arrangement different than the presumed joint legal decision-making and equal parenting time that you already have.
You also may be able to come to an agreement on a number for child support to be paid or an agreement to waive payment of child support completely. Once an agreement is reached, it is only a matter of getting the correct documents together.
Whenever you are dealing with official documents it is a good idea to have experienced family law attorneys help you to make sure that everything is done correctly and that you understand the consequences of what you are signing.
No Agreements with Father
If you and your husband cannot agree on joint legal decision-making and/or a parenting plan, the Court will decide for you.
Conduct such as domestic violence, drug/alcohol abuse and criminal activity are good reasons for a Court not to grant joint legal decision-making and equal parenting time.