Arizona parents who are divorcing or separating need to know that the child custody law in Arizona was changed as of January 1, 2013. In fact, under Senate Bill 1127, ‘custody’ no longer applies. It is now called ‘legal decision-making’, but it means the same thing. It refers to whoever has the legal right to make education, health and religious decisions for their minor child. Decision-makers also can make ‘personal care’ decisions for the minor child. While this has not been precisely defined, ‘personal care’ probably includes tattoos and piercings. Either or both parents can be legal decision-makers. Unless there is evidence otherwise, the Courts are more likely to be in favor of joint legal decision-making.

This new statute also directs the Courts to favor any parenting plan which comes close to providing each parent with equal time with the children. In practice, this is a move away from the every-other-weekend custodial time that has been more traditional in many custody arrangements. Of course, no two custody cases are alike and the Courts try to determine what would be in the best interests of the children. The distance between the two parents’ homes is also a factor. There are also stricter reporting requirements when a parent moves.

The Courts are also taking an increasingly disapproving stance on any parent who knowingly lies to, misleads or attempts to delay the Court. Anyone who makes a false claim can be ordered to pay the other parent’s fees or be charged with civil contempt. The Court will also be more likely to rule against that parent when deciding legal decision-making or parenting time. Any parent who is tempted to mislead the Court should discuss the possible ramifications with a Child custody lawyer in Sierra Vista.

Joseph Mendoza has been practicing law in Arizona for 9 years at the Law Offices of Joseph Mendoza, P.L.L.C. He received his Juris Doctorate from McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in 1998. Prior to that, he majored in Criminal Justice at California State University in Fullerton, graduating in 1995. This full service law firm strives to provide personal attention and legal expertise to each client.