Anthem Law

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Key Takeaways:

  • Anthem Law Attorney Nicole Oblinger offers a wide array of family law services in areas including divorce, separation, legal decision-making (custody), division of property, child support, spousal support, paternity cases, grandparents’ rights, non-married separations, and adult guardianship. Much of her practice focuses on legal decision-making (custody) cases.
  • In Arizona, custody is referred to as “legal decision-making”. The term was changed in order to clarify that custody is about who will physically have the child but is actually about who has the authority to make decisions regarding the children’s upbringing.
  • The bar to modify parenting time/legal decision-making orders is very high. It requires specific and extensive proof of changed circumstances.

I’ve been doing family law since I first started practicing, in 2008. That was also the year I joined Anthem Law. We’ve gone through several different incarnations since then, but it’s basically the same law firm to me.

Today, our firm provides pretty much everything you would expect from a full-service, small-town law firm. Sam, my partner, handles all our estate planning and our business set-up, as well as some of our business dispute cases. I am the firm’s litigator, and the bulk of my practice is family law.

At our firm, I provide pretty much any family law service or representation that you can think of. The one exception currently is minor guardianship. I do handle adult guardianship cases, but I do not currently do minor guardianship.

In addition to adult guardianship cases, I have handled:

  • Divorce
  • Separation
  • Legal Decision-Making (formerly known as “Custody”)
  • Child Support
  • Spousal Maintenance
  • Division of Property
  • Paternity Cases
  • Grandparent’s Rights

I also offer representation for separating long-term couples who haven’t been married but own a joint property, and/or have children together.

Why Do You Want To Write This Book On Modifications To Parenting Time, Or “Legal Decision-Making”? What Do You Want Or Hope That Your Readers Can Take Away From These Pages?

Right now, I would say almost all my cases concern modifications to parenting time, or “legal decision-making”. More specifically, most of my cases are about post-decree enforcement or modification. It certainly seems like this type of case is coming up more often, so I felt that more people should know about how this area of law actually works in real life.

If there was one thing that I could tell people about Family Court, and that I hope people come away from this book understanding, it would be exactly how high the bar is for changing decision-making enforcement or parenting time orders.

In fact, the bar you would need to reach in order to successfully ask the Court for that type of modification is quite high.

Another thing people should be aware of is that there’s really is no “modification”, per se, without a change in circumstances. Without any change in circumstances, there is no real chance of changing the Order.

Further, just because you have a change of circumstances doesn’t mean it will be considered significant enough by the Court to merit changing the Order. The Courts do require a fairly significant showing to even be able to file. So, in order to even agree to hear your case, the Court would have to consider the change in circumstance significant enough by their standards.

So, if I could help people understand one thing, I would like people to understand what that “modifications” actually mean and how they work, especially in relation to what that might mean for their own case.

What Is The Legal Definition Of Parenting Time Or Custody In Arizona?

Parenting time is the schedule of time during which each parent has access to a child at a specified time.

During each parent’s scheduled time, that parent is responsible for providing a child with food, clothing, and shelter, and is responsible for making routine decisions concerning the child’s care.

That is the definition of parenting time, according to the Arizona Family Code statute.

What Is Legal Decision Making?

Legal decision-making is what we used to call “custody.” It’s “legal decision-making” now, because the legislature likes nothing more than to make something that was one word into three words.

Actually, there is a good reason why they changed it from “custody.” I always try to explain this to my clients. The reason that they changed it from custody is that when people hear the word “custody”, they think physical custody. They envision it as the physical, actual, possession of the child, having the child with you.

In the State of Arizona, however, that’s not really what custody means. In Arizona, parenting time is what we call the actual physical possession of and responsibility for the child, i.e., which parent will have the child at what times/days. As we discussed above, parenting time is scheduled time during which that parent is responsible for providing a child with food, clothing, and shelter, and is responsible for making routine decisions concerning the child’s care. The legislature wanted to make it clear that custody doesn’t just mean physically having the child, but instead also involves the rest of those rights and responsibilities.

This is the reasoning behind the legislature’s decision to change the term from what we used to call “having custody” to “having legal decision-making authority”. Regardless, that is now the term that is used in all official Arizona legal matters. We don’t use the word ‘custody’ in any of our documents. It’s not even in the statutes any longer.

In terms of terminology, “legal decision-making” is specific to Arizona. For the purposes of interpreting or applying any international treaty federal law, any uniformed code, or the statute of other jurisdictions in the United States, legal decision-making means legal custody.

As for the “legal decisions” portion of legal decision-making, the parent with legal decision-making authority has the legal right and responsibility to make all non-emergency legal decisions for their child. This includes any decision regarding education, healthcare, religious training, and personal care decisions.

For more information on Family Law In Arizona, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (623) 526-5597 today.

Samuel T. Crump, Sr.

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(623) 526-5597

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