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Establishing a harmonious co-parenting relationship can be easier said than done. As tensions rise and tempers flare, a parent may even go so far as to prevent the non-custodial parent from spending time with children.
While fathers in particular often assume that they have no choice but to accept this punitive treatment from mothers, the truth is that there are steps you can take to ensure the court-ordered visitation is enforced.
In fact, today’s laws ensure that Arizona courts don’t consider gender when assigning or enforcing custody. Keep reading to find out what recourse you have in situations when a mother keeps a child from the father.
Child Custody Rights for Fathers in Arizona
Arizona law allows parents to make their own arrangements regarding custody. However, if parents are unable to come to an agreement, the court will determine who has legal decision making rights with regard to children.
In the past, judges often awarded custody to the mother out of a belief that children needed to be raised by a stay-at-home parent. With a majority of Arizona mothers and fathers now working outside the home, courts have abandoned these practices and are increasingly awarding custody to fathers.
As a father filing for custody, you may be awarded primary physical custody (the right to make legal decisions), joint custody, or parenting time, formerly known as visitation rights. The decision is made based on the “best interests of the child.”
In the event that a father is not awarded primary physical custody, he will likely be given parenting time to spend with his children. Recognizing that fathers play a crucial role in their children’s upbringing, most states allow “liberal visitation rights” for non-custodial parents.
As a father seeking custody or visitation, you should take care to show you have a clean home with proper sleeping space for your children. Additionally, fathers need to demonstrate that they have sufficient free time to spend with their kids before seeking custody.
Seeking custody is especially complicated in cases when parents are unmarried. If parents are married at the time of a child’s birth, the husband is automatically assumed to be the father.
For situations in which parents are unmarried, you should know that the court will not recognize your rights until paternity has been established. Fathers may be ordered to pay retroactive child support, retroactive up to 3 years before the commencement of proceedings or even longer if good cause exists.
However, it’s worth noting that neglecting to pay child support could negatively affect your ability to secure custody down the line. Establishing paternity is a crucial step in ensuring your child gets the emotional and financial help they need to thrive.
Dealing With Custody Violations
A mother keeping a child from the father is all too common in custody disputes. In some cases, there’s a good reason for not following the court-ordered visitation schedule, such as an illness or emergency.
However, if these missed visitations are not made up in a timely fashion, non-custodial parents should take care to keep a record of the dates and times when they were not permitted to see their children.
Additionally, fathers who are kept from their children shouldn’t hesitate to seek legal assistance. In most cases, your lawyer will file a petition requesting that the court enforce visitation rights.
While non-custodial parents can file a petition on their own, it’s best to have any legal documents reviewed by a knowledgeable family law attorney.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a missed visitation, it’s important that non-custodial parents avoid “self-help” options, such as taking the child without permission. This act may be viewed as kidnapping, and the parent in question may be arrested and prosecuted.
Moreover, fathers should continue paying child support regardless of any custody violations that occur.
Out-of-State Moves With a Child
In some cases, a mother may go so far as to take a child out of state to keep them from the father. Fortunately, the state of Arizona has laws in place to prevent custodial parents from moving away without giving notice.
If both parents reside in Arizona, the parent with primary custody is required to give the other parent 45 days’ written notice before moving the child 100 miles away or taking them out of state. As a non-custodial parent, you can request a hearing to stop the move before it happens.
Legal Repercussions for Keeping a Child Away From One Parent
The good news is that there are legal remedies in place to stop mothers from keeping children from the fathers. If the court-ordered custody rules have been ignored, the judge may order the violating parent to make up for missed visitations.
Additionally, the state may mandate that the parent in question attend classes or counseling sessions or arrange mediation for both parents.
Finally, courts can levy monetary fines or even hold the violating parent in contempt of court. In most cases, the violating parent is responsible for the court costs and legal fees incurred by the nonviolating parent.
Understanding Your Child Support Responsibility
As a father, you need to know that your child support responsibilities are not related to your visitation rights.
If the court ordered you to pay child support, you must continue to do so even if the mother is keeping your child from you. Failing to do so constitutes violating a court order and may result in you facing fines or jail time.
Additionally, non-paying parents can be held in contempt of court. For best results, continue paying child support as ordered and contact a family law attorney to find out how best to protect your parenting rights.
Get Help With Father’s Rights in Arizona
Whether you’re currently involved in a child custody case or anticipate needing legal assistance in the coming months, JacksonWhite Law can help. We’re passionate about helping you so please contact us ASAP by filling out the form or calling the phone number below.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.
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