Parenting Modifications

Family Law

Once a legal decision-making or parenting time order has been entered, it is possible to request modifications.  No parenting order is set in stone.  The process, however, may be arduous, so you will need a qualified family lawyer on your side to help you through it.  If you are seeking modifications to your legal decision-making or parenting time arrangements, talk to our attorneys.  With more than 100 years of combined legal experience in family law, we have faced these types of challenges before.  Put our knowledge and expertise to work for you and your child: just give us a call at 602-279-1900 to get started.

Modifications to Legal Decision-Making (Legal Custody)

When someone talks about “child custody,” they are often referring to “legal custody,” which is now known in Arizona as “legal decision-making.”  The parent with legal decision-making rights has been granted the authority to make all major child-rearing decisions.  For example, these decisions may involve the child’s education, religious upbringing, or healthcare.

If only one parent is responsible for making these life-altering decisions, that parent has “sole legal decision-making.”  When both parents are awarded equal responsibility for making major decisions in the child’s life, this is referred to as “joint legal decision-making.”  There are other types of orders, too, such as joint with final decision-making authority given to one parent, and split-issue orders, in which one parent has sole (or final) decision-making authority over educational decisions, and the other parent has sole (or final) decision-making authority over health care decisions.

When an initial order is entered, the court clearly indicates who is ultimately responsible for making decisions on the child’s behalf.  It is possible that these original orders could remain in effect until the child reaches maturity.  Often, however, parents may have reason to seek modifications to custody orders.  Some of those reasons could include:

  • One of the parents has physically relocated so as to make equal parenting time difficult or impossible
  • The child has experienced emotional, physical, mental, or sexual abuse
  • One of the parents is struggling with substance abuse issues
  • The needs of the child have changed significantly since the current order was entered
  • A parent is experiencing severe mental health challenges
  • One of the parents refuses to abide by the current order
  • A parent’s living situation has changed considerably

Modifications to Parenting Time (Physical Custody)

Parenting time, which used to be called “physical custody,” refers to how the child’s time is divided between each parent.  You may also see the terms “visitation” and “access” used when discussing parenting time.

For example, if one parent has primary physical custody, that means most of the child’s time is spent in their care. The non-custodial parent is then permitted access to the child, or time for visitation.  Parenting time can also be split equally, with each parent entitled to spend the same amount of time with their child.  Equal parenting time is now the norm in most cases, though there are several ways to implement equal-time arrangements.

Circumstances could change after the initial court ruling regarding parenting time has been made, however.  If you have reason to believe that a modification of parenting time would be in your child’s best interests, you can petition the court to have the order changed.

Timing of Custody and Parenting Time Modifications

In the state of Arizona, you cannot request modifications to legal decision-making and parenting time orders any time you like — there are certain guidelines that must be followed.

Parents are allowed to request a modification if there has been a substantial change in circumstances.  However, parents ordinarily cannot petition the court for modifications if the current custody order was issued in the last year.  The current orders must usually be in place for at least 12 months before any changes can be made.

There are exceptions to this rule for certain situations.  For example, if one of the parents routinely disregards the current custody order, you do not have to wait a full year to file a petition requesting a modification.  When a parent is non-compliant with parenting time or custody agreements, the waiting period is reduced to six months after the original decree was issued to request a change. 

Most importantly, these limitations do not apply if your child is in danger.  If a child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health has been endangered, a parent is permitted to petition the court at any time with no waiting period required.

It’s also important to note that every time a parenting time order is modified, child support, too, becomes an issue ripe for modification.

Contact The Scottsdale Family Law Team Today for Help with Modifications

Getting your child custody and parenting time orders modified will likely require some time, energy, and expense. But with our team of child custody experts on your side, your case will progress much more smoothly. To talk to a member of our Scottsdale Family Law team about modifying your child custody or parenting time orders, just give us a call. We can be reached at 602-279-1900. We look forward to protecting your child’s interest and helping you reach a satisfying outcome.

Key Expertise:
  • Representation in decision-making modification proceedings
  • Representing the client in parenting time modification proceedings
  • Extensive trial experience

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