In Arizona, parties to a divorce, paternity or modification action are encouraged to reach agreements regarding their children.
The parties must first decide if they will have joint custody or one party has sole custody. Custody is a function of decision-making. Joint custodians make important decisions for the children (medical, educational, religious) together.
Parenting times means, not surprisingly, what days / times the children spend with both parents. Parenting time includes a holiday and vacation schedule.
Where the parties have an agreement to exercise joint custody, they need to submit a Joint Custody Agreement. This written agreement sets forth the terms discussed above, plus additional terms, including how the parties intend to resolve conflicts and how often the parties will get together to review the Agreement. A Joint Custody Agreement can also address agreed-upon restrictions on the parties’ conduct. For example, the parties can agree to terms like the following:
1. The parties will not disparage the other parent to the children or allow third parties to do so.
2. The parties agree to give the other parent the first right to watch the children if the other parent is available for four hours or more.
3. The parties will allow unencumbered phone contact (or phone contact during certain hours).
Parents can tailor the agreement to best fit their needs and concerns. Joint Custody Agreements are just as binding on the parties as any other orders if incorporated into a Decree or other order.
Parents can use a family law mediator to help them: (1) reach agreements as to custody and access; and (2) draft the Joint Custody Agreement. The mediator can guide the parties through the various issues they should address in the Agreement and use conflict resolution skills where there is a dispute. Parents who use a mediator for this purpose generally leave the mediation session with a signed and binding Joint Custody Agreement. The mediator can also help the parties resolve any other issue surrounding their legal action.
Alona M. Gottfried is a family law mediator and attorney in Arizona. If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.