Child Visitation Lawyer Phoenix
The end of any relationship can be painful, but when the breakup or divorce involves a child or children, many additional questions must be answered. What amount of time will the children spend with each parent? Does one of the parents have to pay child support? Who makes the decisions about school, healthcare, and religion?
The Law Office of Cosmas Onyia helps parents establish their rights with regard to their children. If you have concerns about your legal rights involving your children, contact our Phoenix law office and schedule an initial consultation.
Arizona Child Custody Factors
Under Arizona law, there is a presumption that both biological parents have equal rights with respect to raising a child, regardless of the gender of the parent or the gender of the child. Naturally, there are factors that can impact the way each parent’s suitability is viewed by the courts. These factors can affect child custody and visitation:
- Each parent’s desire to raise the child
- How the child gets along with each parent as well as other household members
- Each parent’s physical, mental, and emotional condition
- The surrounding communities that each parent resides in, including schools
- The past roles of each parent with respect to the child
- The willingness of each parent to allow the child to communicate with their counterpart
- Whether or not one of the parents has been convicted of a domestic crime or has a history of alcohol or drug abuse
- Whether one of the parents has attempted to obstruct the legal process regarding visitation or has been unjustifiably uncompromising
- Whether either parent has tried to force or coerce the other’s counterpart
The courts want to ensure the best possible circumstances for the child, so any signs that indicate they would be placing the child in a disruptive environment could result in their favoring the other home.
Essential Concepts in Child Custody Arrangements
The state of Arizona makes a distinction between physical and legal child custody. In addition to determining the child’s schedule for overnight stays, it’s also essential that each parent’s role is defined with regard to decision-making about the child’s welfare.
This is also referred to as legal custody. Joint legal means that both parents have the ability to make decisions about the child’s welfare. Examples include school choices, medical decisions, if and where they will attend church, etc.
With joint custody, the courts may decide to further clarify who makes a decision with regard to particular issues. For instance, both parents may believe that the child should attend school in their respective districts, so the court may determine that one parent is able to decide about education.
Sole legal custody means that one parent makes all of these critical decisions, even if the child spends equal time in both residences.
The Arizona family courts prefer plans where both parents have more-or-less equal access to the child. Joint physical custody means that the child shares time between both residences. This time may be equal, but there are exceptions. For example, if exchanges during the school week are disruptive to the child’s life, the court may decide that the child should stay with one parent or the other on school nights.
Physical custody means that the child primarily lives with one parent. This does not usually mean that the other parent loses their visitation rights unless the court determines it’s necessary for the child’s well-being.
How is Child Visitation Decided?
The parents can informally arrange a child visitation plan, or they can be ordered by the courts. Without a compelling reason that they shouldn’t, the court will guarantee the child visitation rights of a non-custodial parent. Family lawyers usually encourage a legally executed parenting plan so that a non-custodial parent’s rights are respected by the custodial parent.
What Can’t Affect a Child Custody Decision?
Many individuals are under the impression that the custodial parent has the right to deny child visitation to the non-custodial parent at their discretion, but this is usually not the case. If the non-custodial parent has child visitation rights, they must be allowed access to the children within the limits of the agreement. Naturally, if the non-custodial parent is likely to put the children in harm’s way, the custodial parent is under no obligation to honor the agreement. However, the custodial parent must seek court intervention so that the court can address any issues that arise regarding parenting time or visitation.
For example, if the non-custodial parent shows up for child visitation in an intoxicated state, the custodial parent can make the decision to postpone the visit. Incidents like this could also cause the court to suspend the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights.
Voluntary Parenting Plan Agreements
It’s often in the best interests of both parents and children to determine the best arrangement for themselves. For instance, a one-week-on, one-week-off schedule might work best for some parents, while a three-days-on, four-days-off schedule might work better for others. If you can come to an agreement with other parents with regard to child custody, child visitation, and important decision-making, you’re much more likely to be satisfied with the outcome than if you leave it in the hands of the courts.
It’s important to keep in mind that barring a compelling reason — drug abuse, a history of violence, etc. — the Arizona courts are not likely to deny the other parent child visitation, even if you do get sole custody.
Arizona Custody FAQs
These are some of the most commonly asked questions with regard to child visitation and child custody that family lawyers hear from clients. For specific answers to your questions, contact the Law Office of Cosmas Onyia to speak to an experienced family law attorney.
At what age can a child refuse to see a parent in Arizona?
While the court will consider the desires of the child, it’s not the only factor that affects child custody decisions. Furthermore, minor children cannot just refuse to participate in child visitation. When they are 18, they can make their own decisions about whether they want to visit a parent.
What is supervised visitation?
In some cases, the court will appoint a supervisor to oversee child visitation. This usually happens when the non-custodial parent has a history of substance abuse, physical violence, child abuse, mental illness, etc. After a period of time, the non-custodial parent can petition the court to lift the supervised child visitation requirement.
Can child visitation totally be denied to a parent?
In certain instances, the parent who has child custody can deny child visitation. For instance, if they have a founded belief that they are actively involved in criminal activity, are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or that they are likely to abuse the child during visitation. The parent with child custody cannot deny visitation because the other parent is behind on alimony or child support.
If I’m the custodial parent can I move out of state with my child?
You cannot legally interfere with the other parent’s visitation by moving out of state. You can only leave the state with your child if you have a court order or if the other parent consents to give up their visitation rights.
How do I change a Child Custody or Visitation Agreement?
If both parents agree, an attorney can draft a modification to the agreement that you can both sign. If the other parent does not agree, you will have to make your case in court.
Phoenix Child Custody and Visitation Attorney
For years, the Law Office of Cosmas Onyia has been helping Phoenix residents develop parenting plans that cover legal custody, physical custody, child support, and visitation. If you have been denied the right to visitation or if you need assistance protecting your legal rights as a parent, call today.