Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Year, New Law

By: Jessica M. Cotter, Esq.

There have been some significant revisions to the laws regarding dissolution cases involving children and in paternity cases. The Court will no longer determine who has custody of the children, as that term has been replaced by the concept of “legal decision making”.  The court will now determine who the “legal parent” is and whether as a couple will they make “legal decisions” jointly or that one parent will make the “legal decisions”.  The “legal decisions” that the Court is focusing on are non-emergency decisions for education, health care, religious training and personal care decisions. At this time the definition of “personal care decisions” is unclear as the law is so new and no definition of “personal care decisions” is included.

The statute also defines the parents’ responsibility during their “parenting time”.  During the time that they exercise “parenting time” parents are responsible for providing food, shelter, clothing and making routine decisions concerning the child’s care.

 The new law will not affect custody and parenting time orders that were entered prior to January 1, 2013, the effective date of the change, however, modifications to existing orders will be subject to the new language and definitions set forth in the new law.

 Arizona Revised Statute §25-401 which contains these new definitions  is set forth below:

In this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:

1. "In loco parentis" means a person who has been treated as a parent by a child and who has formed a meaningful parental relationship with a child for a substantial period of time.

2. "Joint legal decision-making" means both parents share decision-making and neither parent's rights or responsibilities are superior except with respect to specified decisions as set forth by the court or the parents in the final judgment or order.

3. "Legal decision-making" means the legal right and responsibility to make all nonemergency legal decisions for a child including those regarding education, health care, religious training and personal care decisions. For the purposes of interpreting or applying any international treaty, federal law, a uniform code or the statutes of other jurisdictions of the United States, legal decision-making means legal custody.

4. "Legal parent" means a biological or adoptive parent whose parental rights have not been terminated. Legal parent does not include a person whose paternity has not been established pursuant to section §25-812 or §25-814.

5. "Parenting time" means the schedule of time during which each parent has access to a child at specified times. Each parent during their scheduled parenting time is responsible for providing the child with food, clothing and shelter and may make routine decisions concerning the child's care.

6. "Sole legal decision-making" means one parent has the legal right and responsibility to make major decisions for a child.

7. "Visitation" means a schedule of time that occurs with a child by someone other than a legal parent.

     Also see the statute at the following link

This is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for legal  advice for your situation and in your state. This information is only valid for the State of Arizona. 

Contact Information:
The Law Firm of Jessica M. Cotter
18301 North 79th Ave
Suite F-168
Peoria, Arizona 85308

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