• 18
  • June
    2012

When in comes to Father's rights to custody in Arizona, recently state lawmakers, judges, lawyers, university researchers and activists have worked to change custody laws. In 2010, Arizona law chnaged to state that, unless there is evidence of domestic violence or substance abuse, it is in the child's best interest to have "substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing parenting time with both parents."

A law that into effect in January of 2013, further encourages Father's Rights and joint parenting, including requiring the court to adopt a plan that "maximizes" both parents' time with the child and forbids the court from giving one parent preference based on gender.

For decades, judges usually made mom the primary care-giver. Mental-health experts, lawyers and judges generally agreed that a father should play a role in his child's life, but gave little thought to the quantity of time. "They thought it best for the kids to stay in the same home, have one parent, one set of rules and not be schlepping around all the time," said Arizona State University psychology professor Bill Fabricius.

Arizona is among the states leading the changes. About 12 years ago, Fabricius realized that most of the research on children of divorce focused on moms. "No one was really systematically getting the child's perspective."

Fabricus interviewed more than 1,000 college students, seeking their perspective in a questionnaire about their relationship with both parents. "We immediately found things that were contrary to what the literature was saying," he said. "Essentially all of the students, women and men, felt that the best arrangement for kids after divorces was to spend equal time with both parents. It was an incredible finding."

Fabricus began to research whether spending equal time with Dad could benefit children in the long term, and he found that it did. "A child's relationship with Mom and Dad equally predict physical health, mental health, behavioral health and early mortality," he said. "Kids were right. Equal time was best."

Other studies have reached similar conclusions. Psychologist Arnold Shienvold, president of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), confirmed that research shows children adjust better if they have quality relationships with both parents, as long as both parents possess adequate parenting skills and don't have substance abuse, domestic violence or mental-health issues.

Today, we are seeing Maricopa County judges giving a lot more 50/50 time.  Fabricius said Arizona public-opinion polls and interviews he's conducted with Arizona judges show there is increasing agreement that shared parenting is best.

While many experts agree children need access to both parents in most situations, the trend is not without controversy. Activists for mothers' rights say the research is a ploy to help fathers. Shienvold, the psychologist, said states also risk going too far. He believes laws should continue to require courts to focus on the best interest of the child, and not make shared parenting the default ruling. "There are situations in which shared custody is not best," he said.

If you have a custody or parenting time issue,please contact Phoenix-area attorneys, Lasiter & Jackson, PLLC.

Source: AzCentral.com, June 17, 2012