When it comes to raising children, circumstances change over time whether parents are married or divorced. For divorced parents in Arizona, however, this means that both legal custody and parenting time arrangements included in court-filed parenting plans may need updating. When creating new or modifying existing parenting plans, parents should keep the best interests of their children in mind.
What are Parenting Plans?
Parenting plans, which are required and must be court-approved in Arizona, are the blueprints for how divorced parents manage the responsibilities for raising their children. Plans include details about physical housing and visitation arrangements, as well as religious, educational and other decisions agreed to by the parents. If there are outstanding issues, parenting plans outline which parent makes those decisions for the children or the process by which disputes should be resolved, like mediation. Plans also may indicate when they should be reviewed or updated.
How Do Parenting Plans Help Children?
Barring any extraordinary circumstances of abuse, neglect or other mistreatment, it is in the children's best interests to have ongoing and productive relationships with their parents. Parenting plans help facilitate this, allowing both parents and children to adjust to new living situations post-divorce. Plans provide consistency, maintain stability and can mitigate future conflicts. When two parents, whether married or divorced, work together to meet their children's needs, everyone benefits.
When Should Parents Rework Existing Parenting Plans?
Circumstances that warrant reworking a parenting plan may take the form of good, bad or ugly changes. When one parent must relocate for a job, an existing plan for parenting time may require updating. Parents who violate parenting plan agreements or schedules may trigger the need for modification. Remarriages, bankruptcies and a host of other dramatic scenarios could also mandate the review and renegotiation of outdated parenting plans. Every family situation is unique, but parents know when current plans no longer fit their family's needs.
Who Can Parents Call for Parenting Plan Modification Advice?
Some parents may be tempted to try to rework an existing parenting plan themselves, outside of mediation or court supervision. While this can work for certain co-parents, it is not the recommended mode for modifying parenting plans. Working within the legal system, or agreeing to using mediation to update a parenting plan, formalizes any new or altered arrangements, removing the uncertainty and vulnerability of informal modifications.
If you or your co-parent recently experienced a significant change in circumstances, which has impacted your existing parenting plan, it may be time to consider reworking your plan. Contact an Arizona family law attorney to discuss the modification process and your legal rights and options. Updating your plan sooner rather than later can lessen the impact your children could experience from prolonged conflicts and complications.