During your divorce or legal separation process, parents must decide how much time the child(ren) will spend with each parent and which parent will be responsible for providing daily care. Since 2013, Arizona law has used the terms legal decision-making and parenting time instead of custody and visitation. This has changed the perception of custody and has influenced the family bar to more often design equal time parenting plans.
Co-parenting refers to the post-divorce, or separation, relationship between parents.
There is no legal definition of co-parenting, but it is a way to describe the relationship between parents who are divorced or separated .i.e. do not live together and live in separate households. Co-parents need to understand how they are going to raise and care for their children together, how they will split time, and whether one parent or both parents have decision-making authority. In Arizona, shared or joint legal decision-making does not necessarily mean equal parenting time. One is about major decisions, and the other is about time with the child(ren).
In Arizona, parenting time is the time a parent spends with his or her child(ren). It can be every day, every other weekend, or every other week pr partial weeks. Parenting time can also be split between parents or shared equally between them. In Arizona, joint or equal parenting time is the default parenting order for divorces with children.
In Maricopa County many shared parenting agreements are configured in a 5-2-2-5 schedule. This is the most popular plan, and parties find it more appealing than other options. In this arrangement, the children spend five nights with one parent and two nights with the other, then alternate between each parent’s home for an equal number of nights over a two-week period. It allows each parent to have one weekend with the child(ren) and one weekend without the children and tending to their separate lives.
Devising a parenting plan
When parents are going through a divorce or separation, it’s important to create an effective parenting plan that works well for both parents and their children so that everyone can move forward with their lives in a healthy way without interfering with each other’s rights as parents.
It is important that parents work together to decide what is best for their children. A good start is writing down specific goals for what each parent wants out of the arrangement and how they want to handle things like holidays or school activities when they occur during times when the children are with the other parent. All parenting plans must include:
- Parenting time schedule for regular visits, holidays, and vacations
- A designation of the legal decision-making as joint or sole
- Each parent’s rights and responsibilities for the personal care of the child and for decisions in areas such as education, health care and religious training
- The procedure for the exchanges of the child, including location and responsibility for transportation
- A procedure for communicating with each other about the child
See the complete list of parenting plan requirements here: https://www.azleg.gov/ars/25/00403-02.htm
When parents in Arizona can’t agree on legal decision-making and parenting time for their child, the court steps in to resolve the issue. Judges must consider several factors (“403 factors”) when determining legal decision-making and parenting time, including:
- The wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to his or her custody
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parent or parents, siblings, and any other persons who may significantly affect the child’s welfare;
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
- Preference of the child when old enough to express a preference;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse.
See the complete list of relevant factors: https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/50leg/2r/bills/sb1127s.pdf
If you have questions, it is best to consult with an experienced family law attorney.
If you are in the process of getting divorced or are considering moving out of Arizona and wish to better understand what this means for your child custody/parenting time rights, then it is important that you contact an attorney immediately.
We hope this article has been helpful in understanding the ins and outs of co-parenting. If you are in the midst of making your own parenting plan or trying to resolve difficult co-parenting issues with your ex, now is the time to act. Call McMurdie Law and Mediation at (480) 777-5500 to schedule a consultation.