Parenting time, formerly known as physical custody, is the amount of time in which each parent has the physical care, custody and control over his or her child or children. One of the parents may be designated as having primary parenting time, meaning that this parent has more than 50% of the time with the children. The parents may also be awarded joint or substantially equal parenting time. Joint parenting time does not have to be exactly equal in terms of a time division, but it does have to be logistically feasible.
Parenting time is usually divided into three categories: regularly scheduled parenting time, vacation time and holiday time. Holiday time supersedes vacation time and regularly scheduled time. Vacation time supersedes regularly scheduled time.
Allocation of parenting time, also formerly known as visitation, is one of the most litigated aspects of divorces. In order to avoid excessive litigation, Arizona mandates that most of the disputes involving parenting time go to mediation before going to trial. Mediation is most often conducted by the Conciliation Court, a branch of the Superior Court. There is no charge for mediation. In mediation, the parties consult a specially trained mediator and attempt to amicably resolve issues concerning legal decision-making and parenting time. Oftentimes there is a residential parenting schedule put in place, together with holiday and vacation schedules. The mediators appointed by the Conciliation Court do not resolve financial issues such as child support. The mediators only resolve legal decision-making and parenting time.
Although joint legal decision-making and substantially equal parenting time is the preferred resolution, there are many cases where joint legal decision-making and substantially equal parenting time are inappropriate. If so, one of the parents is designated as the primary parent and the other parent receives reasonable parenting time. The Arizona Supreme Court website, www.azcourts.gov/familylaw, subheading: Booklets, contains age appropriate parenting plans.
*The information in this message is general and should not substitute for the advice and counsel of a licensed attorney.