Child Custody

Child Custody Attorney in Yuma

Protecting Your Legal Decision-Making Authority

Legal decision-making is what Arizona courts call child custody rights. These rights refer to your authority to make major decisions that affect the health and welfare of your child. If you are in conflict with your child’s other parent over important matters regarding your child’s upbringing, you can negotiate a resolution as part of your parenting plan for your child or ask the court for the authority to decide those matters yourself. The Law Office of Phil Hineman, P.C. helps parents assert their right to exercise legal decision-making so they can continue to have a positive effect on their child’s development.

To learn more about how our Yuma child custody lawyer can help you navigate this complex process, call (928) 224-3230 or contact us online today.

Legal Decision-Making Laws in Arizona

Parents must make countless decisions for their children regarding a range of topics, such as where the children go to school, whether they will receive religious education, what to do about medical issues, enrichment activities, and extracurriculars, and more. When parents live together, they would (ideally) make these critical decisions together. But when parents divorce, they must draft a parenting plan that formalizes the way they make, implement, and respect decisions or they must let the court rule on the issue.

Legal decision-making can be granted in one of two ways:

  • Sole — One parent has the exclusive right to exercise legal decision-making authority. This is appropriate when only one parent is fully equipped for parenthood and engaged in the children’s lives. It can also be appropriate when a child has special needs and one parent has specialized knowledge of the condition. In such a case, legal decision-making can be limited to specific health issues.
  • Joint — The parents share the right to make important decisions. This is appropriate when both parents are equipped for parenthood and can reasonably cooperate. Parenting plans that call for joint decision-making authority often contain mechanisms for resolving strong disagreements. Parents could agree to mediate such disputes or appoint a trusted individual to be the final arbiter.

Legal decision-making does not include routine matters such as chores for the children, bedtimes, and permissible TV viewing. Such matters are typically the domain of each parent under the general principle of “my house, my rules.”

Resolving Conflicts

A family law attorney must be adept at helping parents resolve conflicts over decision-making and visitation rights so they can present a comprehensive parenting plan to the court for approval. Reaching a negotiated or mediated solution is generally preferable, as it gives parents greater control over the final outcome and, thus, greater buy-in and willingness to commit on a long-term basis.

However, there are times when you must aggressively litigate to gain sole legal decision-making for the good of your children. If your situation demands a court battle, we are ready to fight to help you obtain the results you need.

Modifying Court Orders

No parenting plan lasts forever. As your children grow, their needs and interests change, and parents must adapt. The passage of time brings change for parents, as well: new career challenges, relationships, and concerns for their own aging parents. In the normal course of life, you can expect to revisit and amend your parenting plan every three years or so. However, there are also circumstances that are out of the ordinary that can prompt you to seek a modification of your order. At the Law Office of Phil Hineman, P.C., we can help you petition the court to change your child custody order or defend the status quo.

Grounds for Modifying Parenting Time in Arizona

To modify a parenting plan court order, you must have substantial evidence that this is what is best for your child. In fact, the Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-411 (F) direct the court to punish a party whose petition for modification “is distressing and constitutes harassment” by ordering that person to pay the other party’s legal fees. You should also be aware that, under A.R.S. § 25-411 (C), a court “shall not restrict a parent’s parenting time rights unless it finds that the parenting time would seriously endanger the minor child(ren)’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.”

With that in mind, here are a few reasons the court would modify an existing parenting time plan:

  • A custodial parent has become unfit due to a circumstance such as substance abuse
  • A custodial parent has committed physical, verbal, or sexual abuse of the child
  • Contact with a person in a custodial parent’s household is detrimental to the child
  • The child has developed special needs that a custodial parent cannot meet
  • A custodial parent is no longer able to provide an appropriate residence for the child
  • A custodial parent wants to relocate with the child out of state or to a destination that would burden the parenting time of the other parent
  • A custodial parent is actively interfering with the parenting time of a noncustodial parent
  • A noncustodial parent has completed the necessary steps to assume part-time custody

Parties must come to court fully prepared to present facts that support their case. Because of the potential ramifications under the above statutes, it is critically important to consult an experienced child custody attorney rather than simply filing a motion on your own.

The Court Order Modification Process

There are two ways to modify your parenting time plan:

  • By agreement outside of court; or
  • At a court hearing after filing a Petition to Modify a Court Order for Parenting Time or Parenting Time and Child Support.

The first process is much less adversarial. You and the other parent admit that your current parenting plan doesn’t fit your family’s needs and agree to negotiate a new plan or enter family law mediation to develop a new plan. When you reach an agreement, you draw up a new parenting time plan and present it to the court for approval.

Unfortunately, parents do not always agree that amending a parenting time plan is necessary. This is especially true when one parent alleges that the other is unfit. The petitioning parent must file a motion and the court will hear the case. The motion must give reasons why legal decision-making or parenting time should be altered. The court may issue a temporary order of modification as it investigates the allegations further. Often, an accused parent is limited to supervised visitation for a period of time. The case may continue for several months before the court is ready to rule.

Trust Our Attorney to Handle Your Case

Any family law matter requires sensitivity, compassion, and skill. At the Law Office of Phil Hineman, P.C., we have dedicated more than 30 years to developing our legal skills, and we care deeply about helping parents do what’s best for their children. Families throughout Arizona trust us with their most important cases, and we work tirelessly to secure the best possible resolutions for every case. Get started with an initial consultation by contacting us today.

Bring Your Case to the Law Office of Phil Hineman, P.C.

Our child custody attorney in Yuma understands how important your children are to you. We can help you fight for their welfare and for your right to maintain an involved and loving relationship with them. Since 1988, we have handled more than 5,000 family law cases, and we want to put this experience to work for your family.

Call (928) 224-3230 or contact us online to begin building your case. We look forward to using our skills to protect your best interests.

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