What is Parenting Time?

What is Parenting Time?

When parents separate or get divorced, care for their children needs to continue. When the parents can’t agree on a plan for bringing up their children, the court is going to order a plan or determine matters regarding their health and welfare. Usually this comprises of making decisions concerning how much time the child is going to spend with each of their parents and which parent is going to be the primary caretaker. In some cases, unmarried parents, family members or other individuals may also petition the court for custody or parenting time. In each case, the court’s determination is based on the best interest of their child.

This post was created to offer general information concerning custody and/or parenting time. It is not an entire nor definitive review of these subjects and considers the laws of the state of Arizona just as the date of its posting. This post is not intended to be a guide to acquiring or modifying legal custody and/or parenting time. Questions about particular situations need to be discussed with a lawyer.

What is parenting time?

Parenting time (also sometimes referred to as “visitation”) is legal terminology referring to the chance for the child to spend time with their parent that doesn’t have sole legal custody. This parent is sometimes referred to as the “non-custodial parent.”

Custody and parenting time issues come up more frequently when parents request the court for a termination of the marriage (divorce) or legal separation. Nevertheless, custody issues may also come up between parents that have never been married or that no longer live with one another. Custody and parenting time issues do not go away following the divorce being finalized. In these cases, parents sometimes are in disagreement about who is going to make decisions impacting the child’s health, well-being and education, where the child resides and the amount of parenting time the non-custodial parent is going to get.

Who decides custody and parenting time?

Parents might agree among themselves about custody and/or parenting time; nevertheless, when the parents cannot come to an agreement and when the Arizona legal system gets involved (for instance, when a parent requests the court for a divorce), only the Superior Court may determine these matters.

When parents have joint legal custody, is the child going to live with each of them for identical periods of time?

Not exactly. Having joint legal custody doesn’t mean the parents are also going to have joint physical custody or matching parenting time.

Why is it important for parenting time?

A child deserves to have a well-rounded relationship with both of their parents. When parents don’t live together, their child should have the chance to spend time with each parent.

What parenting time rights is a parent going to have?

State law entitles a parent with reasonable rights of parenting time to guarantee that a child has regular and continual contact with the parent. Nevertheless, parenting time can be restricted, or even refused, when the child’s physical, mental, ethical, or emotional health would be severely threatened by parenting time with the parent.

What amount of parenting time is appropriate?

That is subject on the child’s age and phase of development. For instance, it may not be appropriate to have lengthy amounts of parenting time with a newborn baby, although more regular shorter visits may be suitable. Many Arizona counties (Maricopa, Coconino, Pima, Mohave, Pinal and Yavapai) have established regulations to assist parents and the courts in determining how much parenting time is essential to the child. The Arizona Supreme Court has also circulated Model Parenting Time Plans to assist parents in establishing age-appropriate parenting time schedules; nevertheless, it is vital to remember the guidelines are not applicable to all family circumstances or to all children. When the parents cannot come to agreement on a schedule, the court determines parenting time on a case-by-case basis.

What is reasonable parenting time?

The terminology “reasonable parenting time” is time spent with a child that is average in a lot of cases. Even though the term has occasionally been used in parenting plans and possibly in court orders, parenting time determinations is subject to the circumstances of each family, taking into account the child’s age and development. When the parenting time is defined only as “reasonable,” it is challenging to anticipate when or for how long the parenting time periods should happen.

When creating an agreement or parenting plan, it is suggested that parents exactly choose when and for how long parenting time periods are going to be, including how to manage and split special occasions such as vacations, breaks from school, birthdays and holidays so both parents are taken into account. Regulations available in many counties and the Model Parenting Time Plans could be useful to parents in coming to these decisions. Parenting time orders should be written precisely enough to allow the court to enforce the order when the order is not adhered to and one parent files a petition for enforcement.

Are parenting time and custody related?

Absolutely. Arizona law stipulates that in a lot of situations a parent not awarded custody of the child is permitted to reasonable parenting time rights to guarantee the child has regular and continual contact with that parent. As an element of the custody order, the court is also going determine what amount of parenting time is suitable. Even when parents are sharing joint legal custody, the child may reside primarily with one of their parents or share residential time with each of the parents, making it important to determine what parenting time schedule needs to be ordered.

Am I required to start a court case to have parenting time?

Parents are open to agree on the appropriate parenting time plan concerning their child. If parents are unable to agree, or if their agreement is failing, court involvement might be necessary. Don’t forget, only the Superior Court can determine parenting time matters and release an order that is able to be enforced if disagreements come up or when one of the parents does not adhere to the parenting time schedule.

How do I get a legal order for parenting time?

As with custody, the court may grant a parenting time order only in certain kinds of cases. More frequently, parenting time is determined when the parents are seeking a legal separation or divorce, or when parents are asking the court to change a parenting time decision that was made in a prior separation or divorce case. Parenting time may also be ordered if one parent begins a court case to determine paternity (or maternity) of a child or after a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.

When a parent starts a court case for legal separation or divorce, child custody and parenting time automatically become issues for the court to decide if the parents cannot agree. Following a decree of legal separation or divorce being granted, the court still has authority to change (modify) a previous parenting time order. Either parent may request in writing that the court decide what parenting time needs to be. The request is filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court and a filing fee is charged.

How does the court make its decision about parenting time?

When there is a conflict concerning parenting time, the court occasionally refers the parents to a court mediation service. This method provides the parents with a chance to come to an agreement in regard to parenting time and associated issues. Nevertheless, if the parties are unsuccessful on agreeing to parenting time, the court needs to decide for them. Often times the court seeks professional guidance to assess the family situation or provide an opinion concerning parenting time. When determining its decision, the court is going to consider many factors, for instance, the child’s age and health, the time each parent is available from work or other commitments, the distance between the parents’ residences, the school schedule of the child and the adequacy of living surroundings in each parent’s home.

What if a parent is in violation of a court order for parenting time?

If one parent is in violation of a parenting time order, the other parent is unable to deny parenting time, cease to pay support or take other self-established action to chastise the violating parent (doing so also going to violate the court order). Alternatively, the court needs to be asked for assistance. For this to happen, a parent needs to file a written petition for enforcement with the Clerk of the Superior Court and pay the filing fee. A hearing in front of the court might be necessary when the issue cannot be resolved.

What is the court able to do when a parenting time order is disobeyed?

When a parent files a petition for assistance for enforcing a parenting time order, state law stipulates that the court to take swift action. There are numerous remedies in which the court can use to handle the violating parent. Some of these remedies might include ordering parenting time for making up for missed meetings, ordering the parent in violation to attend education courses or therapy, and finding the violating parent in contempt of court and ordering regulatory fines.

Can an individual that is not a parent have parenting time?

Yes. In specific circumstances, Arizona law allows grandparents and great-grandparents to have parenting time rights when it is in the child’s best interest. In order to petition for parenting time rights by a non-parent, the child’s parents are required have been divorced for at a minimum of 3 months, one parent must have passed away or unaccounted for 3 months or the child has to have been born outside of marriage. The law also stipulates that an individual that stands in place of parents to a child might petition the court for parenting time. To be in place of parents an individual must have been treated like a parent by the child and have formed a substantial parental relationship with the child for a considerable amount of time. There are other requirements that are required to be fulfilled prior to this petition being made to the court.

What is supervised parenting time?

Occasionally, to impede harm to a child’s health or emotional growth, it is necessary for the court to order a social service agency, or a mental health professional get involved with a family to guarantee parenting time (and possibly custody) orders are adhered to. In this case, the court might order the agency or another party to supervise or monitor the parenting times. In some circumstances, the child exchange is supervised by a 3rd party to minimize the conflict between the parents in which the child would encounter devoid of supervised exchanges.

When the parents can’t agree in association with any or all of these matters at the start of their case, one or both parents can file a petition within the court for temporary orders. Temporary orders are brief rulings made by the judge in which stay in action until a final court order is entered into the case. A Preliminary Injunction is the initial temporary ruling released in a suit for divorce. Additionally, either party is able to file a petition for a temporary order in child related matters like child support and/or custody, and parenting time. When no agreement is reached after an appropriate request is made, a hearing needs to be requested and presented before the court, including witness statements and demonstration of evidence.

Custody and/or parenting time when parents aren’t married

Parents are open to make decisions concerning custody or parenting time by themselves. When parents are not married and no order was entered for determining parental rights, the natural father is devoid of a legal right to either custody and/or parenting time before paternity is proven. The father also has no legal liability to pay child support to the child’s mother before an order of paternity gets entered. In Arizona, paternity can be legally determined through the Superior Court, the AZDHS or the DEC.

Following legal paternity being established, how are custody and parenting time determined?

Along with other cases, custody and parenting time is only able to be legally determined by the Superior Court. The court is required to decide custody and parenting time on the basis of the child’s best interests. When a court case for establishing paternity has been initiated in the Superior Court, the court inherently determines custody and parenting time issues. When paternity has been established by willing process through the court, the AZDHS or the DEC hospital paternity programs, one of the parents is required to file a particular petition with the court to have custody and/or parenting time legally determined.

When the parents aren’t married, should the mother get custody?

Before legal paternity is established, the law assumes that custody of a child needs to be with the mother. Nevertheless, when a court establishes paternity legally, the law specifies that unless the court orders otherwise, custody of the child needs to be with the parent with who the child has lived for a lot of the 6-month period prior to paternity being determine. By all means, when the court determines custody and/or parenting time, the determination is always based on the child’s best interests. Therefore, the court might order that either or both parents have custody when it is in the best interests of the child.


  1. Family and children > child custody > things you should know about custody and parenting time. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2021, from https://www.azlawhelp.org/articles_info.cfm?mc=1&sc=1&articleid=68.

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