Some of the 2013 Arizona child custody law changes went into effect on January 1st of this year which is particularly interesting since they have remained mostly unchanged for some time now.
I reside in the Sunshine State of Arizona (the REAL sunshine state, it’s hotter here than Florida) so this website automatically gets preference to what changes are happening in family law that has the potential to affect me and my daughter.
Arizona has good ol’ Sheriff Joe Arpaio who enjoys corralling non-custodial parents that are past due on their child support on holidays and throwing them in jail. We have so many illegal immigrants that a lot of the Southern half of the state is in Spanish and anyone is allowed to carry a concealed weapon. It’s a lot like the Wild West.
When I originally started out, I wanted to provide clear-cut family law resources for each jurisdiction in the United States so non-custodial parents across the nation would have access to quick and easily digestible child custody and child support laws. After beginning that process, it became a nightmare, so for now I’ll just stick with what is going on in Arizona. Sorry other 49 states, your time will come eventually.
Here is the new definitions section of A.R.S. 25-401 related to child custody:
1. “In loco parentis” means a person who has been treated as a parent by a child and who has formed a meaningful parental relationship with a child for a substantial period of time.
2. “Joint legal decision-making” means both parents share decision-making and neither parent’s rights or responsibilities are superior except with respect to specified decisions as set forth by the court or the parents in the final judgment or order.
3. “Legal decision-making” means the legal right and responsibility to make all non-emergency legal decisions for a child including those regarding education, health care, religious training and personal care decisions. For the purposes of interpreting or applying any international treaty, federal law, a uniform code or the statutes of other jurisdictions of the United States, legal decision-making means legal custody.
4. “Legal parent” means a biological or adoptive parent whose parental rights have not been terminated. Legal parent does not include a person whose paternity has not been established pursuant to section 25-812 or 25-814.
5. “Parenting time” means the schedule of time during which each parent has access to a child at specified times. Each parent during their scheduled parenting time is responsible for providing the child with food, clothing and shelter and may make routine decisions concerning the child’s care.
6. “Sole legal decision-making” means one parent has the legal right and responsibility to make major decisions for a child.
7. “Visitation” means a schedule of time that occurs with a child by someone other than a legal parent.
Cool. So what does that mean? My interpretation of these 7 changes are as follows:
1. Arizona’s new law still requires judges to make decisions based on the children’s best interest, but their best interest now includes maximum time for both parents. BOTH PARENTS.
2. There is no child custody statue anymore. Basically, the word “custody” is done for. The phrase “legal decision-making” is replacing “custody”. This sounds like semantics, but this small change could mean that equal decision-making and equal parenting time could become the norm.
Fellow non-custodial parents, lets not celebrate just yet. These laws are still up to a judge’s interpretation. It is too early to tell how these Arizona custody law changes will sway a judge’s decision-making, but luckily for all of you, and not so much for me, I will be able to tell you first hand as I am due in court sometime in 2013.
If these Arizona child custody law changes are as good as they sound, I’ll come out a victorious and happy father that finally has seen the light of justice. If not, I’ll be joining the ranks of non-custodial parents across the state that are fed up with the gender-bias in our family courts and grabbing my picket.
Only time will tell if the term “non-custodial” will be erased and Arizona’s Child Outcome Based Support model (COBS) gets squashed for good, finally allowing children to live healthy, beneficial lives with both parents.