What options are there for legal decision-making and parenting time?
Sole Legal Decision-Making. This is when one parent is responsible for making the major decisions about the care and welfare of the child. Although both parents may talk about these issues, only the parent who is granted sole legal decision-making has the authority to make a final decision if the parents cannot agree.
Joint Legal Decision-Making. This is when each parent has the same rights and responsibilities for making major decisions regarding the care and welfare of the child. With joint legal decision-making, neither parent’s rights are superior to those of the other parent. In the best interest of the child, the court may direct that certain decisions be made by only one parent, even when joint legal decision-making is granted. Having joint legal decision-making does not mean that the parents also have equal parenting time. Joint legal decision-making usually involves the parents talking with each other and making decisions jointly. Since cases of domestic violence involve control, fear and an imbalance of power, joint legal decision-making usually is not the best option.
Parenting Time. This refers to the schedule of time that each parent will have with their child and where the scheduled time will take place. A parent who is not awarded sole legal decision-making or who has joint legal decision-making is entitled to some form of meaningful parenting time with their child. However, joint decision-making does not mean the parents will automatically have equal parenting time. If the judge finds that parenting time could endanger the child, such as if there has been past domestic violence or child abuse, the court can order no parenting time or supervised parenting time.1
1 A.R.S. § 25-401; See also A.R.S. § 25-403.02 for more information about parenting plans