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Visitation (Parenting Time)
The term visitation in a divorce with children is giving way to the more popular term “parenting time”. During the custody hearing portion of a legal separation or divorce process, the parents are given the opportunity to construct a parenting plan and visitation schedule that both agree to.
If the parents are unable to agree, the court will impose its own judgment using visitation guidelines which customarily gives the non-custodial spouse parenting time every other weekend (or 1st and 3rd weekends of every month or 2nd and 4th), a non-overnight weekday evening, alternating holidays, Mother’s and Father’s Days, and four or more weeks in the summer. This starter plan usually comes up short for both parents, and omits details that will be argued over for years. A Parenting Plan online guides you to include the smallest detail, often omitted in the court’s plan. Arizona family courts must apply the “best interests of the child” standard.
In the absence of a legally compliant agreement, the court will determine the visitation rights of a noncustodial parent, ordering ‘reasonable’ visitation when the parents agree that they will be able to determine a fair schedule without the court’s help. This method only works when both parents are generally agreeable. If you suspect that you’ll have difficulties with your spouse putting together a Visitation Schedule, you should insist on a schedule and Parenting Plan where the details are spelled out. Should you find after the divorce is final that your ex is uncooperative on a visitation schedule, you can return to court and request relief.
Should you return to court asking for such relief, and the court finds the visitation interference charges to be true and without good cause, AZ statute 25-414 allows the court any of the following remedies:
- Find the violating parent in contempt of court
- Order visitation or parenting time to make up for the missed sessions
- Order parent education at the violating parent’s expense
- Order civil penalties not to exceed one hundred dollars for each violation
- Order both parents to participate in mediation or some other appropriate form of alternative dispute resolution at the violating parent’s expense
- Make any other order that may promote the best interests of the child or children involved
- Within twenty-five days of service of the petition the court will hold a hearing or conference before a judge, commissioner or person appointed by the court to review noncompliance with a visitation or parenting time order
- Court costs and attorney fees incurred by the non violating parent associated with the review of noncompliance with a visitation or parenting time order will be paid by the violating parent. In the event the custodial parent prevails, the court in its discretion may award court costs and attorney fees to the custodial parent.
Each parent is entitled to reasonable parenting time to ensure that the minor child has substantial, frequent, meaningful, and continuing contact with the parent unless the court finds, after a hearing, that parenting time would endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.
Visitation by persons other than the parents – grandparents and great grandparents can request visitation rights (parenting time) either during the divorce phase or by a separate petition afterward. It must be in the best interests of the child to be ordered. Conditions must exist:
- One or both parents have been deceased or missing for at least 3 months OR
- The child was born out of wedlock OR
- The parents of the child have been divorced for at least 3 months.
The court will examine the relationship(s) between the parties, the motivation and any possible negative impact on the child.
[Based on Arizona Revised Statutes; §25-401 to §25-415]
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