Spending time with your children or grandchildren is the most important right you have and you need an attorney who will vigorously fight for those rights. In Arizona courts, the word “visitation” typically refers to any rights that a third party may have to visit with a child. As a parent, time spent with your children is properly referred to as “parenting time”. Unless a parent is subject to “supervised visitation” by court order, the parents of the child will have some degree of legal and/or physical custody of the children. Therefore, visitation usually does not mean the same thing with regard to parents as it does when referring to third parties.
There are several important components that must be considered when creating a plan for parental access to children:
- Parenting time schedules
- Custody agreements between the parents
- Grandparent’s rights to visitation
- Violations of parenting time schedules
It is important to understand that having legal decision making authority does not mean you are guaranteed equal time with your children. Only an experienced attorney can help you sort through all of these considerations and come up with the best plan for your family.
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How is parenting time decided?
The courts generally prefer that both parents come up with a mutually agreeable plan for spending time with their children. This is known as a “parenting plan”. If you and the other parent want to come up with a plan that does not involve the courts, it is best for you to each have legal representation. This ensures that nothing is overlooked and all of the necessary plan components are included in the agreement.
The requirements of a complete and effective parenting plan include:
- A statement outlining what type of legal decision making power each parent will have based on the requirements in A.R.S. 25-401
- The rights and responsibilities of each parent for taking care of the child’s needs. This could include the child’s education, health care, and transportation needs.
- A workable schedule for parenting time that accounts for holidays, birthdays, vacation and other important dates.
- A plan for when and how exchanges of the children between parents will occur. Things to consider are location, and the time of the exchange. This should be regular and predictable.
- A plan for modifying the parenting time schedule or dealing with violations of the schedule. Schedules and parenting obligations change and sooner or later you will need to make alterations that both parents can agree to.
- Periodic review of the parenting plan by the parents to ensure that it is effective.
- A detailed plan for how and when parents will communicate with each other about their children. The overall plan cannot be effective if the parents are not talking to each other about the child’s well being.
I have been accused of domestic violence. Will this affect my visitation rights?
As with every decision regarding children, the court believes that the child’s well-being is paramount. There is a strong belief that children should have access to both of their parents even if one of the parents is accused of a crime. This is because there are options that allow the parent to have time with the child while simultaneously shielding the child from harm.
Decisions regarding parenting time made in the midst of a domestic violence investigation will be case specific and very fact intensive. If the domestic violence was against the mother or another family member, as opposed to being directed at the child in question, a denial of visitation is less likely. If you are accused of abusing the child who you would like to visit with, the court is less likely to grant visitation without a social worker present to make sure the child remains safe. You really need an attorney’s advice because they can build your case based on the outcomes of other similar situations and make a case prediction based on that knowledge.
What if a parent violates our agreed upon parenting time?
If you and the other parent created a parenting plan during the divorce proceedings or have another court order addressing violations, then you can seek whatever recourse you agreed to. You notify the court of the violation and ask them to order the other parent into compliance.
If your agreement was not formalized, then you have fewer options. The best course of action would be attempting to have a calm and reasonable discussion with the other parent about their breach of the agreement. Without a formal agreement, there are few reasons to lose your temper and inflame the situation. Being a few minutes late because of a flat tire is very different than disappearing with the kids for two weeks. In the former situation, you should be able to reach an amicable agreement. In the latter, you really should contact a family attorney who can help you draft a formal agreement to prevent the spouse from absconding in the future.
Can grandparents get a court order for visitation or custody?
Generally the answer is yes. There is a presumption that grandparents and great-grandparents should be involved in the lives of their grandchildren. Depending on your circumstances, grandparents may also have custody rights if the parents are unable to care for the child. Grandparent’s rights are discussed in much greater detail on other portions of this site.
How does supervised visitation work?
If you are required to spend supervised time with your children, a trained social worker will be present to monitor and facilitate your interaction with the children. This protects the child and protects the parent from false accusations of child abuse because the visit is monitored. When you are visiting with your kids, it is important to control your temper and be respectful of your former spouse if they are present. Be sure that the limited amount of time you spend with your kids is “quality” time.
If you have any concerns or questions about visitation, feel free to call Attorney Judd Nemiro. He has a great deal of experience in family law and visitation law. He can provide guidance for successfully gaining access to your children and grandchildren and making sure that the time spent is beneficial for you and the child.