When getting divorced in Arizona, a range of issues will need to be sorted out either through a settlement or with litigation. You need to divide property, and if you have children, you will need to have a parenting plan. Parenting plans in Arizona can be easier when things are amicable between you and your ex, but often times that’s not the case.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
This is simply a document that outlines the decisions parents make about the legal decision-making and parenting time for their children. This essentially refers to “custody”, but that’s a term that is no longer used in AZ. Let’s get a quick look at what each of these entails.
Legal decision-making refers to who is allowed to make the big decisions about their child’s life. This would include things like healthcare, religious training, and where they go to school, for example. Parenting time is the amount of time a parent spends with their children.
There is a presumption in Arizona law regarding these things. Typically, it is presumed that there will be equal decision-making and equal parenting time.
Of course, we all know that real life doesn’t always allow for everything to be 50/50 for a host of reasons. One parent might have to work odd hours or might work more than the other parent. This could affect parenting time, for example.
Therefore, the parents should work together and try to create a plan that can account for their family’s unique situation.
What Need to Be Considered?
Some of the most important things included in parenting plans in Arizona include:
- Parenting schedule for weeks, weekends, vacations, and holidays.
- Transportation plan between parents’ houses.
- Responsibilities of different parents for various contingencies, such as a child that has to stay home sick from school.
- How contact between parents will be handled regarding information about the children.
- How custody disputes can be resolved.
- How financial responsibilities should be shared
- Who has legal decision-making—typically, this is equal between both of the parents.
The parenting plan should include these elements and anything else that will be important to your family and your unique situation.
Sometimes the Presumption Is Wrong
Even though the presumption in Arizona is that parenting time is 50/50 and both parents have legal decision-making rights, it isn’t always the case. Sometimes, a parent might be dangerous, and they shouldn’t have the same level of access to their children for one reason or another.
If you feel that your ex could be a problem due to issues like physical abuse or substance abuse, you will want to bring these up with an attorney. They can help you learn the steps you need to take next to ensure your kids are protected.
Things to Keep in Mind
You have to think about your ability to care for your child. Being a single parent is hard. Although child support can help to shore up some of the financial problems, there are also logistical problems.
One of the things you have to keep in mind when you are creating parenting plans in Arizona is that it is not about what you want. It’s always about what is best for the kids. Even though you may want to have the kids the majority of the time, if you are living in a one-bedroom apartment, and your spouse has a larger apartment or house, it might make more sense for the kids to live there.
Always remember that your ex has emotions and attachment to the kids, too. They might not be a good spouse, but if they are trying to be a good parent, that’s great. You don’t want to punish them by trying to reduce or eliminate the amount of time they spend with the kids.
Be honest when you are trying to create a parenting plan. If you are working full-time and may need to take a second job to make ends meet, you may not be able to have the kids the majority of the time.
Are Parenting Plans Needed?
You are going to need to provide a parenting plan to the court if you have children and are getting divorced. Without it, there isn’t a legal framework that will cover certain things that happen in your children’s lives.
The parenting plan will take care of all of the fundamentals of what happens with the kids after the divorce. Where will they live? Who will make certain decisions for the kids? Where will the child spend vacations and holidays? How are parental disputes solved?
If you and your spouse are unable to agree on a parenting plan, you can’t simply “wing it”. It will end up going to court, and the judge will be the one who makes the final decisions on the parenting plan. This might end up being less than ideal for both you and your ex.
Going to court is also going to take up more time, effort, and money. You will need to provide evidence and documentation for the judge, as well. It’s generally better for you, your ex, and the kids to find some way to come up with parenting plans in Arizona.
Do You Need an Attorney?
If you and your spouse are capable of working with one another to hash out a plan that is agreeable and fair to both of you, then you don’t need an attorney. However, most of the time, it’s hard for parents to sit down together to create a plan, even though they are doing it for the kids. Often, it will be easier to work with an attorney or a mediator that can help to make the process easier to bear.
A Final Tip: Don’t Use the Parenting Plan as Revenge
You might hate your ex. You might feel they are the worst human to have ever set foot on the planet, and you could be correct. However, you should never try to use a parenting plan as a means to enact revenge on them or to make them suffer. What ends up happening in most cases is that it just ends up hurting the kids more. That’s the last thing you want.