Gilbert, Tempe and Mesa Arizona Divorce and family Law Lawyer Discusses Significant Changes to Family Law Statutes
01-Dec-2012

Submitted by Attorney Douglas C. Gardner

As of January 1, 2013, Arizona Courts will no longer decide custody cases.  Parents will no longer receive visitation with their children in divorce and other child related cases.  There are several significant and important changes to Arizona statute that will go into effect on January 1, 2013.  I hope I have your attention.

Many of these new changes are semantics, and simply a change in the words we use and the definition of those words.  Courts will still undertake the same issues, but rather than entering orders for sole custody or joint custody, the Court will enter orders regarding which parent will be the “legal decision makers.”

Also, by definition, a parent will no longer have “visitation” but will have “parenting time.”  Only grandparents and other non-parents can get court ordered “visitation.”

While peripherally, these changes will simply make it difficult for attorneys and judges to remember what the new jargon is, the real change will come as time marches on.  These new changes are intended to dramatically further the co-parenting and the joint involvement of both parents.

Up through the late 1970s and  early 1980s, the Courts were legally to consider the presumption that a mother was the parent with whom children of “tender years” were to reside with.  This was legally eliminated some 30 years ago, but has continued to linger while slowly going away.

Over the last few years, there has been a dramatic additional shift towards having father’s more significantly involved.  More and more judges are starting with the presumption of an equal parenting time plan rather than the presumption that mom will have the children except on alternating weekends.

Another big change is the elimination from the list of items for the Court to consider in custody cases of “which parent has been the primary care provider.”  This often favored mothers, as mothers more often provide the primary care for younger children.  This has been replaced with “the past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.”  This more future looking consideration may have a very significant impact on many child related cases.

The long term effects of these changes are yet to be determined.  The clear intent of the legislature is to ensure that there is no bias based upon the gender of the parents.

If you are involved in a divorce case or other parenting time case involving “legal decision making” (the new word for legal custody), or other simple or complex issues and want experienced legal representation, please call 800-899-2730 and ask to speak with Douglas C. Gardner, or visit our website at www.yourarizonadivorcelawyer.com.