When it comes to divorce, fathers have historically been dealt a less than the favorable hand. However, in the state of Arizona, the tide has shifted to a more balanced resolution of custody. As of January 2013, the state of Arizona now recognizes the rights of fathers as being equal to those of the mother’s when it comes to divorce. As such, both parties now have a fair shot at custody, rather than the presumption of favor towards the mother.
Courts now recognize that a child benefits the most from an equal amount of influence of both parents. While this bestows fathers with shared rights, it also gives them equivalent responsibility, including:
- Parenting time
- Child support
A Father’s Rights in Custody Matters
A father is entitled to equal rights in custody, even if he was never married to the mother of the child. More often than not, this means Arizona Courts grant 50/50 custody to the parents of a child. However, there are certain circumstances when fathers may be barred from joint custody.
In these types of cases, the burden of proof is on the mother to provide reasonable evidence that joint custody would not be in the best interest of the child. Typically, these types of problems stem from substance abuse or fear for the mental, physical and emotional well-being of the child. There are also some instances where fighting for your rights as a father may become necessary, like if a mother is attempting to bar access from your child or demanding child support payments in excess of what you can afford.
In these types of cases, retain legal counsel who can file the necessary paperwork in a timely fashion and fight for your parental rights. If you feel you are getting a settlement that is less than ideal, your legal team can file a petition that allows the court to examine the evidence and decide whether the proposed custody and child support arrangement is fair.
After a petition is filed, there is a period referred to as “Discovery.” During this time, attorneys from both parties examine all of the evidence that may help their cases and request that it be used at a hearing. This is also when your representatives gather any witnesses on your behalf. They may also order depositions (or transcribed interviews) during this time.
Generally, it is in the best interest of both parties to reach a settlement before the case goes to trial. Trials can be drawn-out, costly affairs that may affect the well-being of your family. Because judges are aware of this, they will make every effort to get both parties to come to an agreement before a trial becomes imminent. However, if a case does go to trial, it’s imperative that your attorneys prepare an exhaustive set of resources during discovery.
If you contest a child custody arrangement and the case goes to trial, the courts will look at various factors when making their decision:
- The preferences of the child
- The ability of each parent to provide a loving relationship
- The wishes of the parents
- The child’s level of comfort with his or her home and school
- Mental, physical and emotional well-being of the child
- Evidence of past child abuse
- Evidence of domestic violence
- Presence of duress of coercion to reach a custody arrangement
- Criminal convictions for substance abuse or sex crimes
- Which spouse acts as primary caregiver
A Legal Team to Fight for Your Rights
When it comes to a father’s rights in divorce, you will want a passionate advocate in your corner to get you the custody arrangement you deserve. If you have any questions, want to contest a custody arrangement or want to schedule a consultation, contact our office today.