How to Modify Parenting Time in Arizona

Parenting time, also known as visitation, is a privilege granted to divorced or separated parents who do not have sole custody of their children. A parenting plan is approved by the court based on the family’s situation at the time of the divorce. However, as children grow and as parents’ circumstances change, the parenting plan may need to be adjusted. While parents have some flexibility in scheduling parenting time, any major change in the plan requires court approval.

After the parenting time order is in effect for one year, either parent can seek a modification based on changed circumstances. Family dynamics rarely remain static over the long term. Either parent may experience significant changes in health, employment, family responsibilities or personal relationships. Also, as children age, their preferences, interests and activities develop and change. In such circumstances, a modification to the existing order may be warranted.

Ex-spouses should not just make informal agreements as to parenting time. Although spouses may freely negotiate and reach an accord, any such changes should be approved by the court. An informal “side deal” is not enforceable, so there is no remedy for one parent if the other breaches it. As long as the parenting time accord is found to be in the best interests of the child, the court will issue an order that adopts the negotiated agreement. A qualified family lawyer can provide guidance in any specific situation.

If there is a parenting time dispute, the court may refer the parties to mediation. This is a court-provided process in which a neutral third party tries to get the parents to reach an accord. Mediation can help the parents craft a solution that works for everybody. If the parents can’t agree, the court will decide on the modification request by considering such factors as the children’s age and health, the parents’ work schedules and other obligations, the distance between the parents' homes, the living conditions in the parents’ homes and the children's school and activities schedules.

In general, a parenting time order cannot be modified during its first year in effect unless adhering to the order could seriously endanger a child's physical, mental, moral or emotional health.

Sometimes, a parent may try to modify parenting time for unfounded reasons, such as false allegations of abuse or neglect by the other parent. The requesting parent may try to influence the child’s perceptions of the other parent in order to support such arguments. A parent who raises groundless claims in court may be forced to pay the other parent’s legal fees and costs.

Scottsdale-based Clark & Schloss is one of Arizona’s most respected family law firms. Our legal team works diligently to help each client achieve the best parenting time arrangement possible under the circumstances. If you have a parenting time issue that needs resolution, feel free to call us at 602-789-3497 or contact us online for a consultation.