Developing a parenting plan can be a tricky aspect for those going through Arizona custody proceedings. However, it is a vital piece of legal paperwork that absolutely must be completed, regardless of how frustrating you find the process.

There is a lot that goes into a parenting plan and we will first discuss this briefly in order to ensure we are all on the same page. With this settled, we’ll turn our attention over to the issue of updating your parenting plan. There are certain limitations on when you can make changes and the way through which you go about doing so that are important to grasp. However, Arizona’s law does allow for exceptions to be made in the case of an emergency and so we will explore how those exceptions work as well.

What Goes Into a Parenting Plan?

While custody (now called Legal Decision Making in Arizona) is the most often discussed part of a parenting plan, it is far from the only issue that these plans cover. The purpose of a parenting plan is not for one parent to lord their custody of the child over the other and it isn’t a popularity contest to determine the better parent. A parenting plan, at its core, is designed to support the health and wellbeing of the child in question.

This is the only goal of the parenting plan. In order to facilitate it, it requires that things like custody be discussed. For this reason, many people see it simply as a way they can gain control over the child. Approaching a parenting plan from this angle will only result in a weak plan that doesn’t properly present how much you care for the child at all.

When putting together a parenting plan here in Arizona, it is always recommended that you cover issues and points such as:

  • Whether or not the legal decision-making will be joint or sole
  • What the responsibilities and rights of each parent are in regards to the child’s education, religious upbringing, and medical decisions
  • A parenting time schedule that takes into account the child’s best interests, including how holidays and school vacation events will be divided between the parents
  • The procedure for how each parent will exchange the child, including the times and locations at which the exchange will occur; it should also consider any other important details that may be required such as when one parent will be unavailable due to prior commitments and the like
  • What child support payments will be; this is done through following the Arizona Child Support Guidelines but it must be approved by a judge and so it is often the component that is altered first
  • What the procedure for resolving conflicts relating to the parenting plan will be; this includes things such as what happens when one parent wants to relocate or how to handle proposed changes such as changing schools or doctors to the parenting plan
  • A means through which the parents will communicate with each other about the child, this typically includes how often communication is to be held
  • A timetable for when the parenting plan will be reviewed to see if alterations are needed
  • A clear signature stating that both parents have read, understood and agreed to the terms of the parenting plan

If both parents work on a parenting plan together then the process moves faster. Disagreements may result in both parties writing parenting plans and leaving the decision on which to select, or how to combine them, to the judge.

When Is It Time to Update Your Parenting Plan?

Life is constantly changing and it only makes sense that your parenting plan will need to be updated eventually. For many things, the parenting plan itself will set guidelines on when to ask for a modification and how to go about it.

Including a timetable for when to review the parenting plan is great for this. These reviews often identify components that need to be changed. This would be the ideal time to consider modifications to the parenting plan.

However, there are other times when you will realize that the parenting plan needs to be changed. For example, you may not be able to move more than a certain distance away from the other parent but have a job opportunity further away. This job would allow you to give the child a better comfort of living, so there are benefits to the child and not just to yourself. Without an alteration to the parenting plan, you would have to turn down the job.

Not every update will be approved and some may even result in legal battles between the two parents. If you are unsure of how to proceed, it is recommended that you speak to a family law attorney.

Can a Parenting Plan Be Changed In the Case of an Emergency?

There may be times when a parenting plan needs to be changed in a hurry. An example would be when you seek an Emergency Petition to Modify Legal Decision Making or Parenting Time. This is exactly what it sounds like.

However, it is important to note the use of the word emergency. A parenting plan can be changed awfully quickly when it becomes clear that there is an imminent risk of serious harm to the child unless something is done. For example, one parent may realize that the other parent has slipped into heavy drug abuse and they worry for the safety of the child in such an environment.

When Should I Get a Family Law Attorney?

A family law attorney is useful at multiple stages of the parenting plan process. It is highly recommended that you speak with an attorney prior to beginning any paperwork on a parenting plan, as they can alert you to important requirements or potential problems.

But if you already have a parenting plan in place, an attorney can still be helpful. An attorney can help you decide if it is time to update the parenting plan and can support you through the process. Should the proposed changes lead into the courtroom, your attorney will be able to represent your interests here as well. Ultimately, working with an attorney makes the whole process easier and ensures that you have somebody watching out for you and your child.