The law requires courts to adopt plans that increase as much as possible both parents’ time with a child and forbids judges from giving one parent preference based on the parent’s or child’s gender.
The Arizona Republic reports (http://bit.ly/W4NR7W) that, under the new law, judges now must fine any parent who lies to the court or tries to delay court proceedings. Such fines were previously optional.
Physical custody will now be called parenting time and legal custody will now be called legal decision-making authority. Parents with decision-making authority have power over decisions of a child’s health and education and over personal-care matters such as haircuts and ear piercing.
There are stricter reporting requirements for parents to notify the other parent when they move a significant distance away. And the new law still requires judges to make decisions based on the children’s best interest, but their best interest now includes maximum time for both parents.
“We are moving away from the every-other-weekend custody arrangements or Mom automatically being named the custodial parent,” said Mesa family-law attorney Billie Tarascio.
The law is among a handful of new statutes that take effect Tuesday.
The new laws include a measure that increases the continuing-education requirements for real-estate brokers and makes changes to the course requirements.
Arizona is among the states leading the push for shared parenting time.
A handful of other states have passed similar laws aimed at parents in recent years. Unlike Arizona, which gives judges authority to decide exactly how much time each parent gets, many states have minimum requirements. Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and North Dakota, for example, now require that each parent get at least 40 percent parenting time.
The standard visitation of every other weekend and one night a week adds up to about 20 percent parenting time for the non-custodial parent.
Other states have considered increasing parenting time. The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill this year to give the non-custodial parent at least 35 percent parenting time, up from 25 percent. But the governor vetoed it.
Advocates for mothers’ rights say the laws are a ploy to help fathers. Groups that combat domestic violence are watching the effort closely to assure it doesn’t expose children to an abusive parent.
The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence initially opposed the law but later changed its stance to neutral after lawmakers made some adjustments.
Phoenix family-law attorney Tom Morton said he doesn’t expect a flood of parents seeking changes in their parenting time as soon as the law goes into effect. He said the change will likely be gradual. Courts require that a parent have some sort of change in circumstances before requesting a change in custody arrangements, and a change in law would not apply.