As technology continues to revolutionize communication, more divorce cases across the country are taking into account "virtual visitation," or the use of Internet technology such as instant messaging and video chat, to facilitate contact between children and noncustodial parents beyond the scope of regular physical visitation. Arizona does not have a formal virtual visitation law, but Arizona courts are examining the issue of virtual visitation as it affects parenting time and how it may change the child custody landscape.
In Arizona and across the country, parenting plans are an important part of the overall process when two parents separate. A parenting plan lays out dates and structure to help both parents adhere to a consistent schedule. Consistency is important for the children involved and helps them feel secure.
Arizona parents may be interested in some information about one type of child custody that is vitally important in raising a child. Legal custody governs much of the decision-making surrounding a child's upbringing after the parents divorce. While physical custody deals with parenting time, legal custody has to do with the legal right to make the important decisions in a child's life. The types of decisions that legal custody governs include the child's religious upbringing, medical procedures and other healthcare issues, and choices about the child's education.
Arizona law allows divorcing parents to decide among themselves how parenting time will be divided. Indeed, the courts prefer that parents work together to develop parenting plans because those who have reached an agreement are more likely to cooperate with one another as their children age. The primary purposes of parenting plans are to allow consistency and predictability in future interactions and minimize future conflict. The plan should set forth the parents' understanding regarding legal custody, the parenting time schedule and the ways in which rights and privileges will be shared. The plan must contain a statement about custody, setting forth whether sole legal custody is given to one parent or the parents will have joint legal custody.
Arizona parents who are divorcing will also need to come to an agreement regarding child custody and visitation. This is ideally decided by themselves in furtherance of the child's best interests, but when that is not possible, the court will step in and make a decision.