School is in session or will be soon along with heated controversy over whether it should be in virtual or in person or some combination. To complicate the issue, some divorcing or separated parents disagree with each other. Which parent gets to decide? Is that something the family court can decide? That depends entirely on whether you share joint legal decision making with your parenting partner or have some other arrangement?
Yes, but only if the parents share joint legal decision making. In 2018, the Arizona Supreme Court set that issue to rest. It ruled that “If the court awards joint legal decision-making authority, the court is authorized to resolve any conflict”. It is not limited to merely vesting one parent with making the decision-making.
If there is no court order designating either of you as a decision-maker, then by default, you both share joint legal decision making. If you are at an impasse, you will need to file a petition in family court asking the court to either order that one parent make the decision or the court can make the decision for you.
No. If your parenting partner disagrees with your decision, then the court can make the decision based on your child’s best interests, even if you have the final say. The court must give deference to your wishes as they are superior to the other parent’s wishes. However, deference is different than letting you just decide. If the court disagrees with your reasoning, it can overrule you.
You do. If you have sole legal decision making, you are in charge. Neither the court nor your parenting partner can interfere with your decision, unless— you are doing something dangerous to the child. Even then, the court restrictions have to be narrow and specifically tailored to prevent the danger.
One parent has to ask for a hearing. The court will then hear from both parents and possibly other witnesses and consider the evidence you have offered. The court must then rule based on the best interests of your child. The court is not allowed to let its own biases get in the way.
Yes, court is a last resort. Pima County Family Court is doing its level best to resolve disputes during this pandemic. But it has been forced to triage. Emergency hearings go to the front of the line, but not much time is available for each hearing. You will be required to attend mediation as a requirement to having your dispute heard. The court will provide a free mediator to help you virtually through the conciliation court. While this may be intimidating or difficult, it is far superior to inviting a stranger into the family to make highly personal decisions about your child.
Remember these five words: “best interests of the child”. Be your child’s model for consensus, consideration, and compromise.