By Jessica M. Cotter, Esq.
By Jessica M. Cotter, Esq.
Once the court determines paternity the next two items that the court must determine are who makes the legal decision’s (Custody) for the minor child and how much parenting time does each parent exercise.
Legal decision making authority means the legal right and responsibility to make all non emergency legal decisions for a child including those regarding education, health care, religious training and personal care. 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 authority means legal custody.
There are two types of Legal decision making authority and they are:
· Sole legal decision making authority which means one parent has the legal right and responsibility to make major decisions for a child or children
· Joint legal decision making authority which means both parents share decision-making authority and neither parent’s rights nor responsibilities are superior except with respect to specified decisions as set forth by the court or agreement of the parents in the final judgment or order.
The statutory authority court uses to determine what type of legal decision making and parenting time is in the best interest of the children is codified in the Arizona Revised Statutes at 25-403, 25-403.01 and 25-403.2. The judge will look at the following factors:
· Whether or not the parents can agree on joint legal decision making authority
· If there is no agreement, why. Is the failure to agree reasonable or is it influenced by another issue that does not involve the best interest of the child(ren).
· The past present and future ability of the parents to cooperate in making decisions regarding the child(ren)
· Is the contemplated order logistically possible?
· What do the parents want?
· What are the wishes of the child(ren)?
· The child's relationship with other family members or other people that may impact the child's best interest.
· The child's adjustment to home, community and school.
· The health of parties, this includes mental health.
· Who will allow frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent?
· Who has been the primary caregiver?
· Has there been any coercion of duress in obtaining an agreement.
· Have the parties taken the parenting class.
· Has there been domestic violence or child abuse as defined in A.R.S. 25-403.03
· Whether one parent has intentionally mislead the court to cause a delay or increase the cost of litigation.
When the court rules on legal decision making authority, the judge must make specific findings based on the above factors to justify their ruling.
As you have already read there are several unique issues when there is a child born out of wedlock. Please see the blog posted on July 8, 2013 and also a future post regarding child support.
Please set up a consultation with our office if you would like to discuss your case or an consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area.
The Law firm of Jessica M. Cotter, P.L.L.C.
18301 North 79th Ave. Suite F-168
Glendale, Arizona 85308