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NPO issues child custody grades by state; How did Arizona do?

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National Parents Organization (NPO) recently released its 2014 Shared Parenting Report Card, a national study grading each state on how well its child custody statute promotes shared parenting. After examining each child custody statute, researchers assessed its effect by measuring how many cases actually resulted in shared parenting plans.

Arizona did relatively well according to NPO's research, one of eight states to earn a B. No state earned an A. Arizona's neighboring states did poorly: New Mexico earned a C+, Colorado a D+ and Utah, Nevada and California were assigned a D.

Here is a quick summary of what Arizona's child custody statute (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-403) does well:

  • Arizona requires courts to "adopt a parenting plan for both parents to share legal decision-making regarding their child and that maximizes their respective parenting time."
  • Arizona sees the value in having both parents playing significant roles in the upbringing of a child.
  • Arizona requires courts to consider when one parent lies or otherwise abuses the legal system to gain preference in child custody issues.

The study also highlighted a few areas where Arizona could improve its child custody statute:

  • There is no explicit presumption of shared parenting during temporary orders.
  • Arizona does not require its courts to provide reasons for refusing to adopt shared-parenting-focused plans.

While Arizona lawmakers are doing better than most states in promoting shared parenting, there is still much injustice in child custody disputes. A skilled attorney is still an invaluable asset for people who want to play a significant role in their child's life after a divorce or ending of a domestic partnership.

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