Arizona Hybrid Child Custody Orders
Mesa’s Preferred Family Law Attorneys Discuss Particular Custody Orders
If you’re involved with a custody dispute with your child’s other parent, you are probably starting to learn many terms regarding child custody. You’ve probably heard of the two main divisions of custody, joint custody and sole custody. These refer to when parents split custody, and when only one parent has custody, respectively.
However, child custody often isn’t a black and white situation. In certain “grayer” situations, a hybrid custody order may be more appropriate. Whenever you are negotiating a custody order, our AZ Family Law Team recommends that you consult one of our Arizona Family Lawyers for guidance. Our experts have seen many situations and a myriad of custody orders. Often, “Hybrid” or particular custody orders are the best fit for a complicated custody situation.
The 2 Types Of Child Custody: Legal Custody & Physical Custody
Before determining which type of child custody is right for your situation, it’s important that you understand the difference between the two types of custody. The term “custody” in general refers to both legal decision-making and parenting time. For both types of custody, family law judges typically prefer to award the parents joint custody. While there are many exceptions, the general belief is that a child is best off with as close to equal time with each parent as possible.
Legal decision-making, sometimes referred to as legal custody, is a parent’s right to make decisions about a child’s education, medical treatment, religious upbringing, etc. The child might also see a therapist or other mental health professional, authority over which would be outlined in the custody order. When appropriate, the order may actually separate the types of decisions that each parent gets to make. For example, the parents may have joint legal decision-making, with one parent having final say on educational decisions, and the other parent having final say on medical and mental health treatments. The child custody order may also require that the parents attend mediation on certain issues, if they can’t reach an agreement, before bringing it to court.
Parenting time is also sometimes known as physical custody. The parents will usually follow a parenting plan that clearly lays out when the child will be with each parent. It is possible for one parent to have legal decision-making authority while the child is under the other parent’s roof. In some situations, one parent may be ordered to have supervised visitation as their parenting time.
Custody Order Modifications
Once custody orders are in place, they are highly difficult to overturn. It’s important that you take every possible step to obtain your ideal custody order the first time. Petitioning the court for a modification will take time, effort, and a significant amount of money- and there’s no guarantee that the modification will be granted. In fact, family law judges are generally reluctant to reverse their own orders. Judges only grant modifications in limited circumstances, in part to discourage parents from incessantly re-litigating issues.
So when will a family law judge actually grant a custody modification? Generally, custody can only be modified at most once per year. However, there are no mandatory waiting periods if the child is in danger. Even if a year has passed, the judge will only grant a modification if there has been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. It can be simpler to define what is “substantial and continuing” when it comes to child support- generally a change in income of 10% or more that is likely to be persistent will warrant a modification. Custody issues aren’t as easy to quantify.
To modify custody orders, a parent generally must prove that there has been a material change in circumstances affecting the child’s welfare since the last orders were issued. The judge will then decide if modifying the current orders will be in the child’s best interests. There are several factors the judge will consider when making this decision. The judge will also have broad discretion in the matter, and prior knowledge of your case could impact the decision. You should discuss your specific situation with a Mesa family law attorney to determine which will be relevant.
Custody Order Enforcement
In a perfect world, both parents would follow custody orders to the letter. However, emergencies and mistakes happen. While it can be irritating if one parent is consistently late for pick-ups and drop-offs, a family law judge will be irritated if you constantly try to bring this matter into court. You should document minor deviations from your custody orders, but wait until there are a significant number of complaints before raising the issue. A Peoria family law attorney will help you compose communications with the other parent or opposing counsel, as well as any necessary motions for the court in a clear and concise manner.
You should generally try to handle any custody disputes with the other parent out of court first. If out of court negotiations are insufficient to solve the issue, you may need to file a motion for enforcement or contempt with the court. The custody orders may be modified, and the parent in violation could face fines and other penalties.
In an emergency situation, you should not wait to go before a family law judge before addressing a custody order violation. Parental kidnapping is a serious crime that can occur when one parent disregards the custody orders in place. One parent may simply refuse to return the child at the end of their parenting time. Taking the child out of the state or country in violation of custody orders, without permission from the other parent or judge, could also be a dangerous situation. If a parental kidnapping has occurred, law enforcement should be notified prior to appearing before the judge at a hearing to discuss the situation.
Examples Of Hybrid Custody Situations
There are several situations where a hybrid custody order may be best for everyone involved. Some examples include:
- Both parents have a good relationship with the child, but one parent moves out of state for work. The parents share joint legal decision-making, but one parent has primary physical custody. The other parent may have the child for summer vacation and split other school breaks with the other parent.
- One parent is a doctor or other medical professional, and that parent wishes to have final say on medical decisions for the child.
- One parent is deployed for military service. Whereas, the other parent has primary physical custody, and the parents share joint decision-making. However, in emergency situations, the home parent has authority to make decisions when the deployed parent can’t be reached.
- One parent experiences an illness or injury. Depending on the symptoms, the parent may temporarily cede parenting time or legal decision-making. Temporary orders will lay out exactly how long this will last.
Our Arizona Custody Attorneys Can Help You Find a Resolution
Custody orders that order parents equal parenting time and legal decision-making don’t work for everyone. Finding a parenting plan that works for you and your child out of court will give you more control in the matter.
Our dedicated Arizona family lawyers are prepared to help you reach such an agreement with your child’s other parent, or represent you in mediation or court, if necessary. Our high quality service also comes at affordable rates with payment plans to work with your budget. To learn more, call or use our online form to schedule your free consultation. Our AZ Family Law Team is waiting to assist. (480) 263-1699.