Arizona state law refers to the issue of visitation in divorce as “parenting time.” When parents divorce, the matters of child custody and parenting time are typically at the forefront of any disputes between the divorcing spouses. The family law courts in Phoenix and statewide prefer whenever possible to keep both parents involved in the children’s lives in light of the fact that the children can benefit from spending time with both the mother and the father. Disputes over custody and visitation, however, are decided according to the principle of what is in the best interests of the children, so it often occurs that one parent receives custody and the other is awarded parenting time.
In most cases, the parental visitation arrangement will be established with “reasonable parenting time.” This means that the children will spend a substantial amount of time with the non-custodial parent, although the majority of their time will be spent in the home of the parent who has custody. The parents may reach an agreement concerning the schedule for reasonable parenting time or the issue may be decided by decree of the judge. Alternatively, the non-custodial parent may be given supervised parenting time, an arrangement in which the visitation time will be in the presence of a third party.
Supervised parenting time is typically ordered in cases in which the visiting parent is known to abuse drugs or alcohol, has a history of domestic violence or child abuse, or is in any other way believed to be incapable of providing a safe environment for the children. Whether you are concerned with ensuring that you receive maximal parenting time in your divorce or you are expecting to receive custody and want to limit the amount of time that the children spend with your ex-spouse, you can come to Stewart Law Group for help. Our Phoenix divorce attorneys have 65 years of combined experience, and we can work to defend your rights as a parent during and after your divorce.
The court orders that you receive concerning custody and visitation are legally enforceable, whether they were handed down in a contested divorce or you and your spouse negotiated an agreement in an uncontested divorce. If either parent violates the orders or interferes with the other parent’s rights in any way, it may be possible to obtain relief by bringing the matter to court for enforcement of the orders.
It is also possible under certain circumstances to have the terms of the orders modified. If, for example, you were awarded only supervised visitation rights and now want to have the requirement for supervision lifted, it is possible to bring a petition to court with evidence that you no longer need to have another person present during your parenting time. Conversely, the custodial parent may submit a petition to modify the other parent’s visitation rights so that supervision will be required or even to have the other parent’s rights of visitation revoked based on evidence that the children are unsafe during their time with that parent.
If you were not married to the mother of your child at the time that the child was born and did not at that time take action to affirm that you were the child’s father, you have no automatic legal rights in respect to your child. State law does not make any presumption concerning the identity of the biological father of a child who is born out of wedlock. This means that you cannot be held responsible to pay child support, but it also means that you have no right to visitation with your child. Any visitation time that you do spend with your son or daughter is at the discretion of the mother because she is the only person with legal authority over your child.
Fortunately, it is possible for you to gain rights of visitation by filing a paternity action. A Phoenix family law attorney from our team may be able to assist you by facilitating DNA testing to prove conclusively that you are the biological father. Once this has been done, we can represent you in court with a petition for visitation rights and introduce evidence that it would be in your child’s best interests to spend time with you.