The Beginner’s Guide to Visitation Rights in Arizona

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Divorce is never easy, but when parents are unable to agree on child custody and visitation rights, things can get really complicated. If you’re in Arizona and are facing a situation like this, it’s important to know your rights. In this article, we’ll provide a beginner’s guide to visitation rights in Arizona. We’ll cover what factors courts consider when awarding visitation rights, as well as some of the common obstacles parents face when trying to arrange visits. So if you’re curious about what to expect in an Arizona family law case involving visitation rights, read on!

What Should I Know About Custody And Parenting Time?

Custody is the right to make decisions about the child’s residence, medical care, education, and religious upbringing. Parenting time is visitation with a child.

Arizona law has moved away from terms like custody to more general terms that reflect that both parents continue to share rights and responsibilities regarding their children following separation or divorce. The new term for custody in Arizona is “allocation of parental responsibility.”

This means that the courts begin with a presumption that it is best for you and your children if you can cooperate, communicate openly about major decisions affecting them, and take shared responsibility for making those decisions together whenever possible.

If there are ongoing conflicts between you and your spouse (or former spouse) involving your children, visitation mediation may help you communicate better with each other, set healthy visitation boundaries for your children, and give you a chance to see the visitation schedule in action before it becomes part of the court order.

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How Does Visitation Get Decided?

The parties can agree about visitation or they can take their chances and let the judge decide. If the parties cannot agree on visitation, either one of them can ask the court to decide visitation based upon what would be best for the child. The person asking for a decision by the court is called the “petitioner.”

The other parent is called the “respondent.” The petitioner must prove that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the last order or that there is an urgent need for immediate relief.

The respondent’s answer to the petition must state what visitation he or she is willing to agree on and why. If the respondent decides not to answer the petition, then visitation will be decided based on what visitation would best serve the interests of the child.

Even if parties agree on visitation, it is still possible for them to ask a judge to decide whether or not their visitation agreement is in accord with what visitation would best serve the interests of the child.

How Does Someone Start An Action About Visitation?

The first step is to determine whether visitation rights are required by law. The visitation rights of divorcing fathers vary widely, even among the states. If visitation rights are required by law, the next step is to determine whether visitation would be beneficial to the child. If visitation would be harmful to the child, visitation should not be incorporated into the divorce decree any more than it already is.

If visitation would benefit the child and visitation rights are required by law, then what’s next? The best way to negotiate visitation with an ex-spouse so as not to have one side “strip” visitation from the other is communication.

Talk about what visitation will look like for your children during their two different homes so that they don’t feel conflicted between households or resentful of having to split time equally between parents. Make sure both parents agree on how much time kids spend with each parent and how often visitation will occur.

If visitation rights are not required by law, it may be possible to negotiate visitation with an ex-spouse on your own. However, if visitation is beneficial for the child but cannot be negotiated easily between you and your ex-spouse, then court intervention may be necessary.

What Visitation Rights Does Arizona Provide?

Arizona serves as one of the more liberal visitation states in the country when it comes to visitation rights. Parents who share joint legal custody have equal authority in decisions about how their kids spend time with each parent during periods of physical separation. Joint legal custody is usually created when parents can come to terms about how they want to handle visitation themselves.

Best parenting practices counterintuitively tend to support visitation rights. This is because children who are given the opportunity to nurture healthy relationships with both of their parents tend to fare better in life on average, even if visitation time must be limited for some reason.

How Does Visitation Work?

Visitation can take place at any reasonable time and location chosen between the two parents so long as it doesn’t interfere with school or any necessary activities. Parents can agree upon visitation through visitation agreements, but they do not need to get the court system involved unless there is a major disagreement about visitation that cannot be resolved on its own. The same goes for minor disagreements about details like transportation reimbursement and custody exchanges.

If one parent denies visitation without just cause or significant interference with visitation, then that parent can be taken to court and forced to pay visitation costs or even visitation fines if visitation is denied for a long period of time.

What If The Visitation Order Is Not Being Followed?

If visitation is not going well, a person needs to file papers in court asking for help or enforcement of visitation rights and responsibilities. The parent who doesn’t follow visitation can be asked by the court to come to a hearing and explain why it isn’t working out. Parents should try to work things out themselves before asking the court to get involved.

Courts don’t usually like to punish people for violating visitation orders if it has just happened once or twice and there are good reasons such as illness, family emergency, job transfer, etc., but they will penalize parents who never let up on visitation even after being ordered to do so by the court.

If visitation hasn’t been going well for a long time, the person asking the court to help and enforce visitation rights and responsibilities should explain to the judge what they did trying to get visitation started or worked out.

An experienced visitation rights attorney may be able to help you enforce visitation rights in Arizona, modify an existing visitation order or create a visitation agreement that is more suitable for your situation.

In the past, visitation matters were usually handled as part of a divorce. In those cases, visitation was worked out between the parents and included things such as:

  • How much time will each parent spend with their children?
  • Will one parent have sole custody and the other be granted visitation only? 
  • Can both parents share joint physical custody and visitation?

Today there are many different custody arrangements depending on each family’s unique needs. Some common types of visitation include shared legal custody (joint decision-making);  sole legal custody (one parent makes all decisions); visitation with a third party, visitation supervised by someone other than the parent, and visitation directly supervised by the parent.

What If I Never Had A Custody Order In Arizona?

For unmarried parents who never established a legal parenting plan before their child was born, they must file a court action called “In Loco Parentis” which simply means that one of them will take on the parental role when the baby is born.

The filing requirements are usually very simple and there is no requirement that either of them must be established in the workforce. However, if the child’s parents fail to make an agreement about visitation after their child is born, visitation can be determined by an Arizona court-appointed visitation schedule.

The parents may always agree on visitation schedules without any need for Court visitation or legal visitation orders in Arizona. If they can’t come to an agreement regarding how much time each parent will have with the baby, then one of them should file a petition requesting visitation rights in Arizona.

Then one parent files a parenting plan showing how he or she wishes visitation to work. Once that parenting plan is filed with the court, it becomes court-ordered visitation rights in Arizona.

If you have questions about visitation rights in Arizona, please don’t hesitate to call us. We can help guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have. Custody and parenting time can be confusing, but with our help, you will be able to make the best decisions for your family.

Are You Looking for a Family Law Attorney You Can Trust?

The attorneys at GillespieShields are well-versed in a variety of different legal fields, ranging from family law to civil suits, employment disputes and probate cases. Although we specialize in several areas of practice, our greatest passion is family law. We believe in giving families peace of mind no matter their situation, and we fight hard to maintain that peace. Whether you’re filing for dissolution or divorce, determining custody of your children, or thinking about adopting children, our experienced attorneys are here to help you every step of the way.  During our private, one-on-one consultation, we’ll take the necessary time to answer all of our questions surrounding Arizona’s family laws, your family’s unique situation, and the possible court outcomes. Contact us today for your consultation!


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