After a divorce or separation, the court will issue orders on how and when the parents will spend time with the children. In the best case scenario, each parent will cooperate and equally share time with the children, and equally, share responsibilities. However, even undisputed divorces, custody, and parenting time can be a source of contention. Some parents may fail to comply with court orders, make parenting time complicated, or even make false accusations to keep a parent from spending time with their own child.
Visitation and Parenting Time
Parenting time is generally determined by the parents, either on their own or with the help of the Conciliation Court, working with the court for approval of the parenting plan. Arizona no longer uses the term "custody." Rather than "custody" we now use the term "Parenting Time." While one parent may have sole or primary parenting time in very rare situations, parent with primary parenting time of the child cannot unilaterally determine the parenting and visitation rights of the other parent.
In determining parenting time, the Arizona courts generally consider what they determine would be in the best interest of the child. This includes a general assumption that both parents are fit for caring for the child, both desire an ongoing relationship with the child, and both parents are able to carry out a childcare plan. The court may hear testimony and evidence from both parents to determine what plan would be in the best interest of the child.
While the Arizona Supreme Court has basic guidelines for parenting time, based on the age of the child and the distance separating the children, the ultimate goal if for each parent to have equal time with the children, unless circumstances and safety prevent realization of that goal.
Court-approved parenting plans differ according to the specific circumstances of each case, including making provisions for family vacations. Generally, the court does not recommend keeping a child under the age of three away from the primary parent for more than a week at a time. As children get older, children should not be deprived of contact with a parent for more than two consecutive weeks. For children over the age of 6, vacations may be extended up to 10 weeks, but should generally be in the range of two to four weeks long. Each parent should be afforded two weeks of uninterrupted out-of-town travel with the child.
Parenting time arrangements may be more complicated when a parent lives out of town, or out of state. For school-age children, a parent may have summertime parenting time with the child, from four to 10 weeks, with consideration taken for the child's other activities. Additional access is recommended during the school year, especially during extended weekends. If you have any questions about parenting time or making changes to parenting plans, contact your Arizona visitation rights attorneys.
Enforcing Parenting Time
It can be extremely frustrating when a parent is making it difficult for the other parent to spend time with their child. It may start with last-minute changes to the plan, vacation schedules that conflict with parenting times, or claims that the parent or child has come down with a cold. In some cases, a parent could pressure the child into saying that they don't want to go to the parent, or make up lies to cause conflict between the child and the other parent.
It may be tempting to fight fire with fire, and engage in similar aggressive activities with the other parent. However, taking the law into your own hands is not only harmful to the interests of the child, it may also be illegal. If the parent is violating the parenting and custody orders, the parent seeking to enforce visitation rights should take the issue to the courts. The court can enforce visitation orders, and impose penalties or sanctions against the parent for violations of the visitation agreement.