Child Custody

Child custody can be an issue before, during and after a divorce.  If you want to continue raising your child after a divorce or legal separation or if you think the other parent’s time with your children should be limited, a family law attorney can help resolve your issue.

When parents divorce or legally separate, child custody is an issue. No matter how badly the broken couple wants to completely sever their relationship, the parents remain tied by their children. For this reason, Blehm Law advocates resolving custody disputes through alternative forms of dispute resolution, like mediation. When parents litigate their dispute in court, the process takes longer to resolve. And litigation is conflict. What often results is a lengthy and hostile battle that consumes the family’s wealth and/or significantly increases their debt. In the end, the parents are often unable to communicate about anything, including the well being of their children. That is not in the children’s best interests.

When parents can set aside their differences and come together to resolve their dispute through mediation, the parents tend to leave the relationship on healthier more stable ground.  This helps them move forward with separate lives while maintaining their ability to communicate about their children and to co-parent.  This in turn leads to healthier and happy children.  And those who come together to resolve their dispute rather than to fight about it save thousands of dollars that is better spent raising their children.

Legal Decision Making Authority

Legal decision making authority is not legal physical custody. Rather, it refers to who has the power to make major life decisions for the children. In other words, who has the power to make decisions concerning the children’s education, health, and religious upbringing. Legal decision making authority is normally shared by the divorced or separated parents who will be expected to communicate when making those decisions. If the parents cannot agree, one may ask the court to intervene and make the decision for them. Even when one parent exercises more parenting time than the other, joint legal decision making empowers both parents as equals in making major life decisions. When the parents share legal decision making authority, Arizona law also grants them equal access to the children’s education and medical records.

Parenting Time

In Arizona, parenting time refers to physical custody. A parenting plan will state when each parent exercises physical custody of the children. Separating or divorcing parents can agree to a parenting plan. If not, the court will impose a plan based on what it believes is in the best interests of the children. In Arizona, there is a presumption that both parents are equally capable of raising their minor children and that it is in the children’s best interests to share the parents equally. For this reason, Arizona courts are likely to impose a parenting plan that places the children with each parent equally.  Common examples are a 5-2-2-5 plan or an alternating week plan.

There are times when it is not in the best interest of the children to exercise parenting time with a parent. In cases involving domestic violence or drug/alcohol abuse, the court can and will limit the abuser’s contact with the children. Though Arizona law allows a parent without custody to have frequent and continuing contact with his/her children, courts will impose limits to protect the children’s physical, mental, moral, and emotional health. Because child custody cases can be complex, you should seek guidance from an experienced attorney who can help you prepare a plan that meets the needs of the children. For a free consultation with a family law attorney, contact Blehm Law.