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Arizona moves towards post-divorce joint parenting

Joint parenting and co-parenting are the new focus in divorce courts throughout the country. As people move away from gender stereotypes and more restrictive lifestyles, the courts are changing their approach to the legal rules and social policies around parenting after a divorce. Part of this new approach as implemented in Arizona includes a new parenting law kicked in beginning Jan. 1, 2013. The purpose of the law is to promote parents working together to provide children with more access to each parent and to discourage delay of court proceedings and dishonesty with the family courts through incentives and fines.

At least two main goals are part of the new law: increased communication among the parents and the court and increased time for the children with each parent. The move is away from the more traditional split where one parent has primary physical custody and the other parent sees the child only on alternating weekends and summers. Instead, the judge reviews the situation of the parents and comes up with a workable schedule that maximizes the time that the children spend with each parent throughout the year. Unlike in the past, mothers are not automatically named as the custodial parent.

Parents are encouraged to be forthcoming with the courts and to work in a timely fashion to achieve markers and goals set for the resolution of post-divorce conflicts. Dishonesty with the court and delay by parents are discouraged by mandatory fines. In the past fines were given by the court at the discretion of the judge.

To increase communication among the parents about their plans, Arizona parents must provide significant notice to each other when planning to move to a different area of the state or country. There are additional rules and policy shifts that parents dealing with divorce should learn about so that any problems that arise can be quickly resolved with the new goals in mind. For parents whose children's lives are evolving along with the new court approach to family law, a lot of knowledge is a good thing.

Source: The Prescott Daily Courier, "New Ariz. law encourages more joint parenting after a divorce," Dec. 27, 2012

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