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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions September 15, 2014

12/28/2012 10:00:00 PM
Editorial: Co-parenting law aims for balance
The Daily Courier

States continue to pass mysterious laws. For instance, beginning Tuesday, it will no longer be illegal in Florida for motorists to flash their headlights at oncoming traffic to warn fellow drivers that police are lurking ahead.

Arizona has its share of goofy laws on the books, including one in Maricopa County ruling that no more than six girls can live in a house.

There isn't a long list of odd new laws that will take effect as 2012 fades into memory. Many states have taken the high road in recent sessions, enacting legislation concerning important topics such as child safety and bullying.

Here in Arizona, perhaps the most notable law that will take effect just after the Whiskey Row boot drops is one that we haven't heard a lot about, but that can potentially impact a societal shortcoming.

It's a law about parenting - divorced parenting. In addition to adopting a bit of political correctness - substituting "legal decision-making and parenting time" for "custody" - SB 1127, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in May, takes aim at some inequities in family law.

Under this new measure, courts will be required to ignore the gender of the child, and of the parent, when awarding physical custody. The old habit of nearly always awarding more custody to the mother will be abandoned, and courts will now have to make a plan in each case that awards custody as evenly as possible between the parents. Each parent also will have to submit a parenting plan that includes a procedure for how the erstwhile couple will communicate about the child.

The aim is to encourage more joint parenting - and thereby more communication - between the divorced parents. Soon, a father, instead of having his child every other weekend and tending to use that time more for playing than parenting, may be able to have a more responsible relationship, and more incentive to share positive experiences.

Many of the real or perceived problems with younger generations stem from the difficulties of fractured families. We know that, locally, Family Court Judge Joe Goldstein always has the best interest of the children at heart while dealing with custody, er, legal decision-making and parenting time issues. For his court, this is another tool to aid those ends.

And while it is still illegal to allow your donkey to sleep in a bathtub in Arizona, or to ride your horse up the Yavapai County Courthouse steps, this new law appears to be a step in the right direction toward bringing kids up right.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012
Article comment by: Coyote Geezer

A step in the right direction, I been there as a divorced husband 30 years ago and help fight for these changes. Balance towards the man is finally changing for the better. thank you for signing SB 1127, Gov. Jan Brewer. laughing grandfather now, justice wheels turn for the betterment.

Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012
Article comment by: mike espinoza

Actually fathers can be nightmares too...
ARS 25-403(A) 4 covers this. If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to parental decision making and parenting time. If this law would've been in effect when she was going through this there could've been an emergency order to stop any harassment. Again, this law is for qualified parents. These allegations could have been brought to the attention of the judge.

Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012
Article comment by: Fathers Can Be Nightmares Too

The first four years of the separation/divorce went smoothly. The Mother had 70% custody and provided a stable home and income. The Father changed jobs frequently. Everyone worked together. The daughter was close to her Father. The Father remarried and the new wife caused a rift first with the ex-wife, then the daughter, and then the adult son. The stepmother was emotionally abusive. The Father found stable employment but did not want to pay more child support so he sued and was granted more parenting time. Unfortunately, he was gone often and the daughter was left frequently with the stepmother whom she feared. The daughter became an emotional wreck. Visitations with her Father consisted of the daughter being trapped as a prisoner in his house. The stepmother controlled everything including whether the daughter (thin) could open the refrigerator or watch anything on TV. There were no more fun outings between the Father and daughter. The Father and his wife chain-smoked. One night, the stepmother completely lost it and screamed profanity for hours at the daughter who was forced to retreat to the corner floor of her bedroom in a fetal position. The Father did nothing. When the child was returned to the Mother, the Mother put her in counseling. The counselor tried to bring the child and Father back together but the child could not forget that her Father had failed to protect her. Visitations ceased as the daughter (now a teenager) refused to go. Three years later, the daughter is a confident, engaging, happy young woman who will soon be leaving for college. Equal parenting only works when both parents can cooperate in the best interests of the child. And when the stepparents allow the parents work together without interference. The judge in the case only knew what the parents told him and did not listen to the child who hoped to tell him what was really happening to her. The court does need to consider the wishes of the children because it is their lives that are most at stake.

Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012
Article comment by: mike espinoza

@ Jay Mack. It is a shame that we cannot make laws that make parents act like adults. Its a shame that we have to try. This law is created for qualified parents and if your ex disqualifies herself that is on her. I hope this law will lessen the bias in the courtroom. The culture of the court is changing towards fathers. We shall see over the next few years how far that pendulum swings.
@ Gerry. This enforcement will come through the courts. With equity in the court system I believe that there will be much less animosity. We shall see. And as for child support there are new laws pertaining to that. It is a shame that so many parents break down parenting skills to money. Let's hope that with this new law parents will not be able to hold child support over one another.!

Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012
Article comment by: Gerry Schnaible

Our local/state governments cannot even manage to collect money from dead beat parents. Tell me how they are going to regulate this? Whose job is enforcement to fall on? Once again we see politicians wasting time on issues they cannot mandate because they cannot enforce them. How about tackling a few things you can enforce.

Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012
Article comment by: War on Men

Too late for me and my daughter. The ex and I went to mediation over a few months time and agreed on everything but on the day to sign the papers she wouldn't sign. Seemed her new husband felt threatened that I was still going to be in the picture....and he had money. So they strung everything out to sap my resources.....delays, delays, delays....request for change of judge ect ect ect. The worst thing about it all was seeing how it was harming my daughter. This bill is a step in the right direction but their is much to be done to balance the rights of mothers and fathers as evenly as possible. For instance....if a spouse remarries then the income of that person should be figured into the child support equation as well.

Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012
Article comment by: Jay Mack

Wow Stealth I think you may have some bitterness issues. I made a decision to end a bad marriage with a self destructive spouse whom years of therapy in and out of hospital's couldnt change. By your thinking our 2 daughters needs were best served by a suicidal manic-depressive who thinks cigs and tattoo's on her neck were more important than food on the table? During the divorce I did ask them what they wanted, in tears I heard "if we go home with you mom says we'll never see her again" so unfourtunatly parental influence and manipulation plays into that decision for a young child.
@ Espinoza, I hope this new law will lesson the Bias, under advisement of some court ordered therapist the court ordered my having full time custody however my ex recieved all vacations and every weekend so I got to play the enforcer during the week for school and chores while mom was Disneyland. (ex stopped picking them up 3 months after, been sporadic since) At this point the only disruption is when the ex will pop back in demanding her visits before she disappears again.

Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012
Article comment by: Choosing A Parent

I come from a divorced home,and was a kid that was made to choose when i didnt want to.

You love both of your parents. As a kid you are alredy involved in the divorce, no matter how much your parents think you arent. Then you get dragged before a judge who just keeps reminding you to pick a name.

This is not the best option. I give this a major kudos. Maybe if this was in place during my parents divorce in another state, My dad would talk to me still since i picked mom.

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012
Article comment by: mike espinoza

@ stealth bummer. When a child is given the opportunity to live where they choose it puts that child in a place where they have to choose between one parent or the other. Some of what you suggest was discussed and proposed but was quickly quashed as being outdated and contrary to research. Research actually suggests that children want equal time with both parents. If anyone wants this information and research please feel free to contact my email address at familysrights@yahoo.com and dive in. The recent laws were very biased and abused. It is nice that this language is now in place and effect. There is more to this law than just equal parenting time. Now there are real sanctions for people who lie in court to gain parenting time and legal decision making. Now false allegations will get you nowhere so my suggestion is just tell the truth. We will see in the next few years how this law plays out. It might need some tweaking here and there but it wouldn't surprise me if the rest of this country followed in our footsteps.

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012
Article comment by: Good News

My son's father and I share parenting time with our son equally. This arrangement was made with his input.
Our child does have two homes two sets of clothes, two lists of chores, two rooms to clean. However, what is most important to us is that he has ONE family who is committed to making sure that his relationships with both his parents are strengthened and nurtured by spending equal time with us. His father and I do not agree on everything, but we communicate about things like schoolwork, doctor appointments, and discipline and we do everything we can to provide consistency between our two homes.
While I will admit it is difficult for me to be with him only half the time, it is not about me. How incredibly short-sighted to consider anything but the child's best interest in cases such as this. Good for Arizona for dictating that fathers are equally important in the life of a child. May we as parents put aside our bitterness and suport the court in making decisions for the good of our children.

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012
Article comment by: Been There Done That

@ Stealth bummer: It won't work. Mama always cries. Ergo, the kids don't want to leave her.

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012
Article comment by: Janice Thompson


I agree with you 100%. When asked where they live, is the child supposed to say "depends on which week it is". These kids have no "real" home. No continuity. It is sad that the courts are more concerned with being PC than they are with the well-being of the kids.

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012
Article comment by: Prescott Dad says: This is a GREAT change in the law!!!

I am the very blessed father of a beautiful 4 year old girl. This little girl resulted from a brief 6 month relationship. The mother, who continues to demonstrate insatiability in her life, stopped birth control and purposefully became pregnant hoping to entrap me into "doing the right thing". This deception resulted in our bitter break-up. Denied parenting from birth, I was forced battle (in court) to access my daughter for nearly three years at a cost of nearly $70,000. I was eventually awarded "guideline access" or about 20 percent parenting time with my daughter. The Mom is still single, emotionally unstable and although educated, has never maintained a steady Job. I am married to an amazing wife and mother. She and I together are raising two more beautiful kids. Thanks to Judge Goldstien, my daughter now visits us and is part of our family every other weekend and two weeks per year. I am extremely thankful for every moment we spend with her however, I do wish we had more time with her. MY POINT: Culturally the mother is granted the primary parenting roll. Dad gets to visit his kids and that concept is truly unfair to both the father and the child!!!. This new law will give father's and their children an opportunity to be a family. I am so greatful for this change in the law. Dad's should have equal rights to be parents to THEIR children.

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012
Article comment by: Stealth Bummer

Not fear mongering. With the number of divorces today, I have seen kids torn away from peers because of a ruling to split custody.

Another loss.. Devastating for them...

This doesn't seem to be about the child, imo.

How about a little more PC?

Why not ask the child where he or she wants to live? I'd say a law should be in effect that if the child is school age, they are competent to be able to say where they would prefer to live most of the time or if they want to split the time.

And, if it isn't working out, they should be able to request a change.

It should be all about the kids and what they feel would be the best situation for them.

Sounds like a good proposal to me!!!

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012
Article comment by: mike espinoza

My name is mike espinoza. SB1127 is my law. It followed Sb1314 from 2010. Now, anyone can agree or disagree with this law if they want to. That being said I want everyone to know that this bill has the most current research backing it. This research was done in Arizona. As for the last poster who is playing the fear mongering game just remember this. This law is created for children with qualified parents.

Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2012
Article comment by: Stealth Bummer

I don't agree with this law. And I expect my opinion to cause and uproar.

Currently, a judge is not to look at who initiated the divorce. Imo, the person who initiates the divorce is the one responsible for uprooting the child's stability and should take the back seat in the custody decisions. They chose to leave the family, to break up the family.

The sex of the child means nothing to me. The breakup of the home is what is harming the child. The child should be with the parent who has shown the desire to keep the family intact which would be an effort to protect the child.

I have seen many men/women instigate a divorce and then be very sorry that it is "expensive". Paying child support is considered by many of these people to be unfair. They have other relationships to attend to and cannot be as free with money if they pay child support, so they tend at that point to initiate grounds for joint custody. 50/50 is what they want so they have no child support to pay.

A kid that is forced to live in two homes is very disjointed. I've seen it many times. There is never a home, but two places that they live. They need double of everything, so that they don't have to pack up and "move" every week. A child shouldn't have to be this uprooted because of an adult who decides he/she has not only given up on a vow of marriage, but has also been so selfish as to put the lives of his/her children in turmoil.

There should be individual studies of each case and the causes of the divorce are important. The children deserve this. There are many causes of divorce. Some marriages are better ended for the safety and well being of children. They jointly agree.

However, in other cases, judges shouldn't punish the spouse that was a good spouse and the children of a marriage because one spouse decided they wanted to be "free" and destroy a family. Judges should also be aware that many so called interested parents are merely more interested in their monetary bottom line vs. parenting. Especially if they are the cause of the divorce in the first place.

There should be consequences for actions. Especially actions that break up a family for purely selfish and egocentric reasons. We supposedly care for our children. They should not be tossed around like a commodity. If someone is cruel enough to uproot their lives for purely selfish reasons, there should be consequences for that type of selfish decision.

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