Submitted by Attorney Kirk Smith
In many cases, parents divorcing, or parents who were not married but are now separating, will fight a merciless custody battle for their children. The extreme acrimony attendant with such battles, in my experience, can have a very real impact on the children of these divorces. Increased cooperation between the parents lessens this emotional impact, and by itself, should be sufficient incentive for most parents to “play nice” during the subsequent legal process.
None the less is there a strategic reason for one parent to be gracious to the other, outside altruism, that benefits them in the court’s final custody determination?
In most cases one parent will become the primary physical custodian of the children, meaning that that parent will have the children at their residence the majority of the time each week. There are specific statutory factors the family law court examines when determining who becomes the primary physical custodian of the children. See Generally A.R.S. §25-403.
One of the factors the court looks at in determining who should receive primary physical custodianship is;
Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent. This paragraph does not apply if the court determines that a parent is acting in good faith to protect the child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.A.R.S. § 25-403 (6)
Of course in some cases the other parent is a real danger to the children therefore it is necessary to diminish that other parent’s time with the children or ask that it be supervised. More often then not, however, both parents are usually suitable to care for the children, and an attempt to completely eliminate the other parent’s time with the children will be seen by the court negatively. The parent trying to “thwart” the other parent’s visitation with the children then could seriously and detrimentally effect that parent’s chance of becoming the primary physical custodian because that parent did not “allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent.”
A rule of thumb, assuming that the other parent is not a danger to the children, is to allow and encourage the other parent’s time with the children. This does not mean that you must have a half time schedule with the other parent, nor does it mean that anytime the other parent asks for time it must be provided. What it does mean is that going to extremes by trying to eliminate the other parent’s access to the children without good cause, strategically speaking, can backfire and decrease your chances of gaining the final custody determination from the court you wish.