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Recent legislative changes to Arizona statutes regarding parenting time and custody will became effective January 1, 2013, for all matters filed on or after this date. Among the changes are the following:

  1. “Legal custody” is now called “legal decision-making.”
  1. The term “visitation” will no longer apply to time spent between a child and a parent, but only time spent with a child and a non-legal parent.
  1. The definition of “parenting time” has been changed to include the time a parent has the child, and the time the parent is responsible for providing the child with food, clothing and shelter.
  1. Statutory factors the court must consider in awarding decision-making authority and parenting time no longer include the wishes of each child’s as to custody or whether a parent has provided primary care. The child’s wishes is now only be considered if the child is of a suitable age and maturity to express such a wish.
  1. New factors the court considers include the past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and child; which parent is more likely to provide frequency of contact with the other parent; meaningfulness of contact with the other parent, and continuity of contact with the other parent; and whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, increased the cost of litigation, or persuaded the court to give legal decision-making or parenting time preference to that parent.
  1. If the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, each must submit a proposed plan to the court. The court may not consider either the parent’s or the child’s gender when approving parenting plans.
  1. Parenting plans must now also include a procedure of parenting time exchanges, including location and responsibility for transportation, as well as a procedure for communicating about the child, including methods and frequency.
  1. The new law also establishes certain mandatory and discretionary sanctions if a parent knowingly presents a false claim regarding custody factors, domestic violence, and substance abuse. This also applies if a parent knowingly and falsely accuses an adverse party of doing so. If this occurs, the court must award attorney’s fees and may award other sanctions against a parent.

Contact us at Hallier Stearns PLC for more information about divorce and child custody issues.