Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 4, 2013

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As the new year brings in new laws, Arizona child custody procedure gets an overhaul. A new state law is aimed at fostering better post-divorce relationships between parents and a more equal approach to shared custody, among other child custody matters.

In effect, the law is intended to more fairly distribute time between mother and father. As traditionally mothers are awarded more time with the child, the law aims to create a more equal parenting plan. Courts are already not supposed to take parent gender into consideration when deciding child custody, but this precedent is reinforced with the new law. The goal, it seems, is not just to level the playing field for fathers and mothers to win custody, but to find ways to give children equal time with both parents; above all, to uphold the best possible outcome for the child. While judges in Arizona have previously been trusted to use discretion when deciding whether to fine parents for delayed courts proceedings or intentionally obstructing the process for their own benefit, judges are now required to do so under law.

The new law is ultimately intended to reduce the risk of children developing the inability to form meaningful social relationships, which according to psychology professional William Fabricius can happen to teenagers who do not get enough time with their fathers, reports Havasunews.com. Family law is a particularly sensitive area of law due to how outcomes can affect children involved. It is often the aim of lawmakers to minimize negative impact of divorce on children. One way to do this is to aid in drafting parenting plans that ensure visitation and child custody arrangements foster the most positive environment for children.

Understanding Parenting Plans

Parenting plans are agreements drafted after a divorce to dictate child custody arrangements and lay out pre-existing agreements on how to address issues that may arise in the future. These written, binding documents tend to include specifies on living arrangements, holiday and vacation schedules, health care terms, details regarding the child’s developmental, physical and emotional needs, as well as financial arrangements.

The parenting plan is ideally created outside of court and often with the help of trusted, family attorneys. But if parents cannot come to an amicable agreement, the parenting plan will be determined by a judge in court. Courts make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child. With the new Arizona law, family law judges will now consider how to best allocate equal time to both parents. In most cases, because judges see many child custody disputes, and because parents know their children best, it is the favorable option for parents to agree on a plan themselves without the help of a judge. But in some cases, where parents are too emotional or hateful toward each other, a judge can make an unbiased decision that will ultimately benefit the child. Every case is different, and parenting plans reflect the specific circumstances of each case.

Read more about Family Law and how to develop a successful parenting plan in Child Custody.