As of 2013, Arizona has revised its statutes (laws) regarding custody (legal decision making) and parenting time.
First and foremost, the term “custody” is no longer used in the statutes. The reason that such term was deleted is that parents often thought the term custody meant who gets the children. To the contrary, the term custody means legal decision making. Accordingly, the statutes have been changed to use the term “legal decision making” instead of legal custody. Such legal decision making responsibilities include decisions regarding the children’s education (i.e. what school they attend, what classes they take, what programs they are involved in etc.), and health care decisions (i.e. what physician they see, whether they should attend counseling, elective procedures, etc.).
A new term has been added to the laws with regard to legal decision making, i.e. “personal care decisions”. The statutes recognize that each parent should make minor and routine decisions for the children during his / her own parenting time – i.e. bedtimes, homework, hygiene etc.). However, the more important decisions depends upon whether parents share joint legal decision making or whether one of the parties has sole legal decision making. Such major decisions may involve a child’s desire to have a tattoo or other body piercings, whether a child should be allowed to be alone with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and other decisions which may significantly impact a child’s best interests.
One of the most important considerations for the Court in determining legal decision making is whether the parents have the ability to communicate and make important decision together. If one of the parents refuses to communicate with the other in a civil manner and absent abusive and derogatory statements, etc., or refuses to respond to important inquiries, the Court may award sole decision making to the other party.