Are you getting divorced? Although divorce is always going to be hard on you mentally and emotionally, things become a lot harder when children are involved. Reaching agreements with the other parents about many elements of the divorce can become trickier with complex custody cases.
Too often, it seems like the kids are put into the middle of the divorce and become pawns or bargaining chips. This isn’t good for them or you, and it’s something that you should never do. Still, cases pertaining to things like custody have the potential to become very difficult no matter how careful you might be. Parents need to have a good understanding of the types of things they can expect, particularly when it comes to difficult cases.
What to Know About Custody and Parenting Time
First, it’s important to have a quick and basic understanding of the terms used in Arizona. Custody might be a term that’s used in many parts of the country and on television, but it’s not the term you’ll typically see in the courts. Instead, you will see parenting time and legal decision-making.
Legal decision-making is the right of a parent to make certain legal decisions regarding the care and welfare of the child. This includes making decisions on their religious training, education, healthcare, etc. The person who has legal decision-making (aka legal custody) is often called the custodial parent. Often, the custodial parent will have the children with them most of the time. In Arizona, both parents will typically have legal decision-making for their children.
Parenting time refers to the amount of time the children spend with each parent physically. Again, the courts will often try to make sure that the children get to spend equal time with their parents when possible.
When going through a divorce, and even after the divorce has been finalized, the parents might disagree about legal decision-making and parenting time and try to go back to court to have modifications made for one reason or another. Regardless of when these disagreements occur, they are going to make the process far more complex.
Agreements Could Be Possible
In some cases, the parents might agree on how they want the parenting schedule and legal decision-making to work. If that’s the case, and both of the parents are truly in full agreement, then the courts will often let them use their agreement. This is one of the best-case scenarios, but it doesn’t happen quite as often as you might hope.
Often, one parent will not be happy with the arrangement the other parent is trying to make for one reason or another. These complex custody cases can form for a host of reasons. When you know that the parenting time and custody case is beginning to become more difficult, you need to be sure you have everything in order.
Prepare for Your Case
Always make sure you prepare properly for your case. You have certain things that you want to present to the court regarding your side of things, your children, and your ex. You need to have that information and evidence gathered. This could include things like financial records, medical records of abuse, etc. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the type of information and evidence that will be needed is going to vary. Talk with your attorney about what you will need and be sure you prepare early.
When Things Become Difficult
Sometimes, things go beyond just some disagreements with parenting time or who gets to make certain decisions about the children. Sometimes, you may feel that your children could be in danger if they are with the other parent, for example.
Was there violence and abuse in the relationship between you and your ex? Was the abuse physical, mental, emotional, or a combination? Were the children witness to the abuse or were they victims themselves? In cases like these, there is a chance that the courts will not want to provide that parent with the same rights to the children as you would have.
However, it’s not a guarantee. There are many factors they will consider. They want to know whether the children would be in danger if they are with that parent. The court will often require various types of evaluations from experts to determine whether the parents are fit to have unsupervised parenting time with their children and if they should be allowed to make decisions for the children.
Other issues that might present themselves include issues with alcoholism and addiction. Remember, the courts want to do what’s best for the children. The presumption is that spending time with both parents is what’s best for them, but this is not always true. You will need to prove that the other parent is somehow unfit if you don’t want them to have parenting time or legal decision-making.
This is not always easy to do, so you will want to get help from an attorney. Keep in mind that you need to be honest about the case. If you make up stories about your ex and they aren’t true, whether they relate to abuse, drinking and driving, etc., the court will find out. When they do, it could lead to legal repercussions for you.
One of the other types of issues that might come up in your case is relocation. What if you need to move to another part of the state for work? What if your ex needs to move out of state and wants to take the children with them. This is another complex issue that the courts are going to need to resolve if you and your ex can’t reach an agreement.
Don’t Represent Yourself
When it comes to the time you spend with your children and keeping your kids safe, you can’t take any chances. You don’t want to make the mistake of representing yourself in a case like this. It’s a complicated area of the law, and if you aren’t fully prepared, you will not likely get the outcome that you want. Make sure you take the time to find an experienced family law attorney who can help you, specifically in situations where complex custody cases are unavoidable.