Arizona’s Shared Parenting Time & Legal Decision-Making: A Model for Other States

Q: Is Arizona’s shared parenting policy a “model worth copying” for other states?

Nationally, many states are moving toward a more egalitarian concept of “shared parenting” after divorce–which is a step away from the more stringent, less balanced child custody and visitation processes that have existed for decades. Historically, courts have often granted custody to one parent, relegating the non-custodial parent to infrequent visitation, resulting in significantly less time and involvement in the child’s life.

In Arizona, “custody” is now called “Legal Decision Making”. It covers the ability to make major decisions about and on behalf of the child such in areas including education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and personal care. As long as it’s in the child’s best interests, both parents should enjoy legal decision-making authority jointly.

In Arizona, the physical custody or placement of the child –or “Parenting Time”– is the time the child will be with a specific parent. During parenting time, that parent is responsible for providing the child’s food, clothing, housing, and other care and is allowed to make routine decisions concerning the child’s care without consulting the other parent.

Shared parenting proponents believe children benefit most by spending equal or close to equal amounts of time with both parents after a divorce– just as they did when living under one roof before the divorce. It’s least disruptive to the child. In addition, both parents should have equal input in the decision-making regarding the child’s care after divorce. This more equitable arrangement may result in a reduction of the parental alienation often caused by one parent having significantly more time with the child and more responsibility for the child care decisions than the other. Reportedly, “20 states had pending child custody law reforms since a year ago”.

Those opposing shared parenting and concepts like it, including some feminist groups and bar associations, claim a “reliable physical dwelling” is more important than the child spending substantial time with both parents in separate dwellings.

In Arizona, as in most states, decisions regarding Parenting Time and Legal Decision-Making issues—or whatever each state calls those respective terms– are made after careful consideration of what would be in the best interests of the child.

If you are considering divorce, or are already divorced but would like to discuss a modification of Legal Decision-Making or Parenting Time Orders, or have a Child Support issue or question, Cohen Family Law can help. Contact us here or call 602-714-8898. We serve families throughout the greater Phoenix, Arizona area.