Modification of Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time for Military Families: A.R.S. 25-411
In the state of Arizona, family law statutes are in place to protect the rights of parents as well as the well-being of children during legal disputes, especially when it comes to issues of legal decision-making (formerly known as child custody) and parenting time (visitation). A.R.S. 25-411 addresses the modification of legal decision-making or parenting time orders, with a particular focus on the unique circumstances faced by military families.
One-Year Waiting Period: It is generally prohibited for a parent to file a motion to modify a legal decision-making or parenting time decree within one year of its issuance. However, exceptions can be made if there is credible evidence that the child’s current living situation poses a serious risk to their physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.
Domestic Violence and Non-Compliance: Domestic violence, spousal abuse, or child abuse can have a significant impact on legal decision-making or parenting time arrangements. In such cases, a parent can petition the court for modification at any time after a joint legal decision-making order is entered, or six months after its entry based on non-compliance by the other parent. If one of the parents is charged with a dangerous crime against children, the other parent may petition the court for an expedited hearing.
Military Deployment Consideration: If a parent is a member of the United States armed forces, the court will take into account the terms of that parent’s military family care plan to determine what is in the child’s best interest during their deployment. Importantly, the court cannot use a military parent’s absence due to deployment or the potential for future deployment as the sole reason for modifying a custody arrangement.
Temporary Delay or Orders Due to Deployment: When the parent with whom the child resides a majority of the time receives military deployment orders involving a substantial move, the court cannot enter a final order modifying parental rights and responsibilities until ninety days after the deployment ends, unless both parents agree to the modification. The court can issue temporary orders to modify parental rights and responsibilities during deployment if it is in the best interest of the child and the military parent’s deployment would impact their ability to exercise these rights.
Modification Process: To modify a parenting time or legal decision-making order, a person must submit an affidavit or verified petition that provides detailed facts supporting their request. This motion can be denied by the court if it finds inadequate cause for a hearing on the matter. If the modification action is “vexatious and constitutes harassment,” the court will assess attorney fees and costs against the petitioning party.
Court Modification: The court itself can modify an order regarding parenting time whenever modification would serve the child’s best interests. Likewise, the court cannot restrict parenting time unless it finds the parenting time would endanger the child in any way.
Superior Courts in Arizona do not take modifications of parenting time lightly. In fact, they expect such modifications to be a last resort and recommend services such as counseling before turning to legal action. For a judge to approve parenting time modifications, you usually must be able to prove a “substantial and continuing change of circumstances.”
If you need assistance with your parenting plan or a modification, give Rideout Law Group a call today.
Rideout Law Group handles cases throughout the entire state of Arizona, with offices located in Scottsdale and Lake Havasu City. Our attorneys are experienced in handling legal decision-making, parenting time, and military family cases. For a free consultation, call 480-584-3328.