What does it mean to have “Joint Decision Making” parenting rights?
While many divorcing parents still think in terms of “sole custody” or “joint custody”, the terms used in Arizona law are actually “legal decision making power” and “parenting time”. This is not just a change of verbiage, but it is a shift in the way custody and parenting responsibilities are thought of by the court.
What’s the difference? Legal decision making power can either be granted to one parent or it can be split between the two parents. Split decision making power does not necessarily mean you will have to agree with your former spouse on all of these decisions; different parents may instead be granted different decision rights. The mother might be granted the legal decision making power when it comes to religion and education, but the father might be granted legal decision making power over all medical decisions.
While typically the child will mainly reside with one parent, called the custodial parent, there are many ways the court can divide “parenting time.” They may try for an equal split, but more often one parent will be the main home of the child and the other parent will have holidays, weekends, or some other visitation schedule.
The courts will consider what is in the best interests of the child, and also the current relationship of the parents and how well they are able to make decisions together. Generally, what the court will believe is in the best interest of the child is to still have both parents be active and important factors, as long as there are no safety or instability concerns with either parent.
If you are in the process of divorce, consider creating a parenting plan with your spouse before going to court. The court generally looks favorably on plans mutually created by parents through arbitration or mediation. Whether or not you attempt to make amicable parenting plans or whether you need to fight for your needs in the courtroom, you need an experienced Scottsdale family law attorney on your side, to make sure your rights are protected and you understand all the legal ramifications of your actions. Contact us today to consult on your case.
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