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Joint Custody Definition: What it is and what it isn’t Q & A

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Joint Custody Definition: What it is and what it isn’t Q & A
1. What is the joint custody definition?
In 2012, Arizona changed the language of its custody laws. The word “custody” is no longer used.
2. What was “custody” changed to?
The courts now use the phrases “legal decision making” and “parenting time.” Legal decision making refers to what parent will have the ability to make decisions for the child, such as religion, medical, and educational decisions. Parenting time is the actual time you or the other parent physically has the child.
3. Can you have joint parenting time or joint legal decision making?
Yes. There is joint legal decision making. This means that both parents have an equal say on all decisions regarding the child. Neither parent gets final say nor is more superior to the other. It requires that the parents co-parent with each other. Communication should be very good between the parents as well. Most often parents will have parenting coordinators or mediators assigned to their case so that they can discuss their issues if they are unable to reach an agreement before they go to court on the issue.
There is no joint parenting time. However, there is equal parenting time. This means that the parents have the child the exact same amount of time. There are a variety of schedules that will count as equal parenting time. They could vary from a week on, week off schedule, or a 5-2-2-5 plan. It really depends on what works well for the parents and the child. Equal parenting time is also factored in child support calculations.
4. Am I guaranteed to get joint legal decision making or equal parenting time?
No. Some states have specific laws that state that there is a presumption for joint or equal. Arizona does not have this. However, it is extremely common for a judge to award joint legal decision making and equal parenting time. If the parties agree to it, it is almost guaranteed that the judge will grant the parties’ request.
 5. I want sole legal decision making. Is this difficult to get?
Obtaining sole legal decision making can be very difficult to get. Keep in mind that there has to be a very good reason why the judge should award you this. You will see it awarded most often in cases where there is domestic violence, child abuse, or substance abuse. However, it is awarded in other situations as well. For example, if a parent is living in a different state, the court may award sole legal decision making to the parent who has the child more often to make things easier. A court may also award sole legal decision making if it finds that one of the parents is so uncooperative that the parties would never be able to co-parent. Sometimes a court may award final say on one particular thing. For example, if one of the parents is a doctor, the judge may give that parent final say since they are so specialized in the area. There is no set rule for what the judge must give, however. There are a set of factors the court will analyze in determining who will get what.
6. If I am awarded sole legal decision making, does that mean I can do whatever I want?
No. Even with sole legal decision making it is very important that you still make an effort to discuss issues with the other parent. The other parent does not get kicked out of all of the decisions. They are still allowed input and opinions on the child’s issues. However, with sole legal decision making, you ultimately get the final decision if you and the other parent cannot agree on something.

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