By James Jennings
We’ve all heard it at one time or another, “Women always get custody of the children. It’s so unfair!” Well is that really true? Do women ALWAYS get custody of the children?
How about this one, “She won’t allow me to see the kids so that means I can’t see them anymore.” That’s the one that really gets my goat. You stop being a father because she said. Really?
From a legal perspective, the Family Court in Arizona is obligated to focus on the best interests of the children. Ariz.Rev.Stat. §25-403 is the statue that the court must take into consideration when determining which parent will have legal decision making authority (what most people call custody) and what the parenting time (what most people call visitation) will be in all cases regarding minor children.
§25-403(A) says in part:
“The court shall determine legal decision-making and parenting time, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child. …”
You noticed what the standard here is? The standard is: “… in accordance with the BEST INTEREST of the child”.
Does it say anything about male or female, mother or father, or anything else about gender? No, the law is completely gender blind when it comes to custody determinations. The only thing that the law cares about is the children and what is best for them.
This notion that men should automatically be deemed an inattentive, emotionally distant and a poor caretaker by virtue of his chromosomal makeup is silly. Just as much a woman be presumed inherently skilled at care taking, being attentive to the emotional needs of her children, or a more nurturing parent purely by virtue of her uterus. All aspects of humanity are relative and the good people over at state legislator know this to be true. That’s why they had the good sense to pass such an awesome law.
I have seen a lot of my male clients get custody of their children solely on the fact that it was better for the kids to have dad make all the major decisions regarding the kids than it was for mom to do it. Women like men can have their faults and sometimes those faults are not conducive to raising a child.
The court looks at a lot of factors when determining who gets custody. §25-403 has a whole laundry list of things that help judges make this determination.
The court shall consider all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being, including:
1. The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.
2. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
3. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.
4. If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.
5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
6. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. This does not apply if the court determines that a parent is acting in good faith to protect the child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.
7. Whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent.
8. Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse.
9. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time.
10. Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.
Number 10 is the required Parent Information Program or PIP class that all parents must take in a divorce, legal separation, annulment or paternity case filed in Arizona. Don’t take this required class and you may find yourself not getting custody. See Ariz.Rev.Stat. §25-351 for more details.
11. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02.
It is obviously, not all men make great fathers just like all women are not vindictive. The majority of cases I see involve two parents whose lives together didn’t work out, want what is best for their children and understand the role each parent plays. But divorce does strange things to people. They will sometimes act out of character and with the urging of friends and attorneys take on a “win at all costs” attitude. And when this takes place it is invariably the child that ends up losing the most.
If at all possible, both parents should work together and ask the court for Joint Legal Decision Making (Joint Custody). Joint Legal Decision Making doesn’t mean that the children live half of the time with mom and the other half of the time with dad. It means that BOTH parents will work together in making the decisions regarding the upbringing of their kids. The will work in concert in deciding what school they go to. What doctors they see and what the treatment plan is should they become ill and so on.
I know from experience that most judges are happy to award Joint Legal Decision Making. It far better to have two parents working together for their children than it is for one.
If you need assistance in preparing a Joint Legal Decision Making Parenting Plan as part of your case call me. I have twenty years of experience and we can discuss all the options available to you so that you can come up with a plan that will work for you and pass the requirements of both the law and the court here in Arizona.
I like what Jane Dee Hall, the 20th Governor of Arizona said, “At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.”
A truer thing has never been said. Governor Hall was a wise woman.
If you have any questions regarding a specific legal matter or legal strategy you should contact an attorney for legal advice. If you would like to get started on a family law or bankruptcy case call us today, 602-896-9020, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website at DiscountDivorcePro.com.
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