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What Is Reasonable Parenting Time for a Non-Custodial Parent?

A Shot of a non-custodial father hugging his son and daughter.

In Arizona, non-custodial parents have the right to reasonable parenting time, formerly known as visitation. The law defines “reasonable” as sufficient to ensure that a child has frequent and continuing contact with the parent, but parenting time can be significantly limited or even denied for the sake of the child’s best interests. So what does “reasonable” mean in actual practice?

While courts base the amount of parenting time on what is average among divorced couples, the truth is that children’s needs vary depending on their age, development and other factors unique to them. A day or two away from the custodial home may be too much for an infant, while an elementary-school aged child may not want to be away from either parent for more than a few days. On the other hand, such frequent transitions may be disruptive for older kids and teenagers. Children with developmental challenges or disabilities may require longer periods of time with the primary custodial parent.

The best path to reasonable parenting time is to act reasonably. During the Arizona divorce process, the spouses are required to propose a parenting plan and the court will generally defer their wishes. You and your child’s other parent should look at the family’s new circumstances objectively to decide how sharing of parenting time can best be accommodated. If your work requires very late nights at the office or travel away from home, parenting time on weekends probably makes more sense than weekdays. If your home and your child’s school are far apart, that may also make parenting time on school nights impractical. Another issue to be resolved is where the children spend birthdays, holidays and vacations.

Cooperatively drafted parenting plans are strongly favored in Arizona. The state Supreme Court in fact has created Model Parenting Time Plans designed for the most common situations. Consult an experienced family law attorney for help drafting and negotiating a plan that you and your co-parent can live with. However, disputes over what is reasonable parenting time can and do occur. If you believe that you and your co-parent will not be able to come to an agreement, your lawyer can seek help from a mediator. Court-sponsored and private mediation services are available. If all else fails, it will be up to the court to impose a reasonable parenting schedule. Even in disputed cases, your cooperativeness will count favorably in your behalf.

If you are divorced or getting a divorce and have questions about sharing of parenting time, contact Clark & Schloss Family Law, P.C. for a free consultation at our Scottsdale office. You can reach us by phone at 602-789-3497 or contact us online.

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