Is There a Presumption in Favor of Equal Parenting Time?
A.R.S. §25-103 provides as follows:
25-103. Purposes of title; application of title
A. It is declared that the public policy of this state and the general purposes of this title are:
- To promote strong families;
- To promote strong family values.
B. It also is the declared public policy of this state and the general purpose of this title that absent evidence to the contrary, it is in a child's best interest:
- To have substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing parenting time with both parents.
- To have both parents participate in decision-making about the child.
C. A court shall apply the provisions of this title in a manner that is consistent with this section.
While there is no formal 'presumption' of equal parenting time, the policy of the State of Arizona is clear. The policy is to ensure "substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing parenting time with both parents".
Does that mean equal? Not necessarily, but "substantial", "frequent", "meaningful" and "continuing" leaves little room for restricting parenting time. In order to do so, evidence will have to support a finding that it is not in the best interest of a child to spend substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing parenting time with a parent.
The burden of proof will be on the person seeking to prove that it is not in the best interest of a child to spend substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing parenting time with a parent. And in view of how these items are being viewed by the Court, that may be a difficult burden to meet unless evidence is presented which includes, but is not limited to, drug and/or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, criminal acts, or child abuse.
While there is no formal 'presumption' in favor of equal parenting time in the State of Arizona, the existence of A.R.S. §25-103 is certainly a clear step in that direction.
About the author: Mervyn Braude is a family law attorney at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk. He is a certified family law specialist by the State Bar of Arizona. Mervyn is a 2010 Southwest Super Lawyer. Got a legal question for Mervyn? Contact him here.
This article is not intended to provide legal advice and only relates to Arizona law. It does not consider the scope of laws in states other than Arizona. Always consult an attorney for legal advice for your particular situation.