In Arizona, parents are equally responsible for transportation unless the parenting plan says otherwise. The easiest way to share the responsibility equally is to require each parent to pick up the child from the other parent’s home at the conclusion of each parenting time period. This is an optimal solution because it avoids the problems and arguments that inevitably come with a parent who drops off the child late, which cuts into the other parent’s time with the child.
There may be an exception to this rule when shorter visits are involved. If the visiting parent only has a few hours with the child, it would be unfair to expect the visiting parent to spend a significant amount of his or her parenting time in the car. Issues like this should be addressed in the parenting plan, as they are unenforceable without a written agreement.
Another exception might be when the parents live far away from each other. For example, if the parents live two hours apart, it may be a fair solution to meet at a halfway point for the pickup and drop off. However, as the actual miles driven is the same with this solution as it would be if each parent simply handled their pickup, most attorneys would still recommend sticking with the standard curbside pickup plan to avoid any issues.
If you are in the process of negotiating a parenting plan as part of your divorce or legal separation, you should clearly address transportation in the parenting plan. Leaving this part out of the plan may feel like you’re avoiding a fight today, but it will undoubtedly lead to arguments and conflict with your ex-spouse down the road if you don’t reach an agreement now.
If you have a parenting plan and your ex-spouse refuses to honor their end of the transportation agreement, or if you neglected to include transportation in the agreement, you should consult with a family law attorney. You may need to amend the parenting plan to address the transportation issue.
In Arizona, the term “child custody” has been replaced by parenting time and legal decision-making. One of the goals of this terminology change was to shift the focus towards joint-parenting solutions, and the initiative has been largely successful. There will still be one parent who primarily houses and cares for the child (formerly the custodial parent), but the visiting parent (formerly the non-custodial parent) no longer has “visitation” with the child. Instead, each parent’s time with the child is referred to as parenting time.
Barring any special circumstances, it’s typically in the child’s best interests to have a healthy and ongoing relationship with both parents after a divorce or legal separation. Studies have repeatedly confirmed that positive involvement with both parents improves a child’s emotional well-being, academic achievement, and social development. To this end, having a written parenting plan is essential to provide both parents and children with predictability and consistency (it certainly helps to avoid future conflicts, too).
As you are deliberating and negotiating a parenting plan that preserves your child’s best interests, be sure to address transportation issues such as:
- Timing – as any divorced or separated parent can attest, punctuality is key to ensuring a pleasant exchange. Nobody likes to sit around waiting for the other parent, especially the child. Your parenting plan should indicate exactly what time the child should be dropped off and picked up, and each parent should be expected to adhere to it. It’s helpful to include a maximum waiting period (e.g. the parenting time is forfeited after 30 minutes of waiting), as this prescribes punishment measures that can be enforced.
- Pickup and drop off location – most parenting plans provide for curbside exchanges at the other parent’s home, but it’s not unusual to see a plan that calls for neutral locations like a park or the child’s school. Unless you don’t want your ex-spouse to know where you live (i.e. in domestic violence situations), you should strongly consider the traditional method of assigning each parent the responsibility of picking up the child at the other parent’s house at the start of their parenting time period. This keeps tensions to a minimum, as tardiness is easier to bear when you’re in the comfort of your own home (versus waiting at the gas station for an hour). It also keeps the transportation arrangement fair for both parties, as each parent has to drive the same distance for their parenting time.
- Out-of-town visits – to prepare for the contingency of one (or both) parents moving away, it’s a good idea to consider how you will deal with out-of-town visits should they arise. Traditionally the parent who is exercising their parenting time rights will pay for the transportation costs (e.g. airfare or bus ticket), but parents can agree to split the costs, too. If you have any concerns about the child traveling alone or by any particular means, be sure to stipulate in the agreement that the child must be accompanied when they travel, and which (if any) methods of transportation are allowed.
When you’re negotiating a parenting plan, an experienced family law attorney is the best resource. Your attorney should be able to make expert recommendations based on his or her experience and your unique situation. For general information about parenting plans, you can refer to our article on parenting time guidelines.
What to Do if the Other Parent Does Not Comply With the Parenting Plan
Anytime the other parent fails to comply with a court order—whether it’s the parenting plan, custody agreement, or child support order—your first action should be to consult with your attorney. In the ideal scenario, your attorney can help you resolve the matter without going back to court. These agreements are legally binding, so they are enforceable. If the other parent refuses to comply with the parenting plan, or if something changes with the other parent’s living situation that renders the parenting plan useless (i.e. if they move out of state and you didn’t prepare for out-of-state parenting time), you’ll need to file a motion to modify the custody order.
Receive Help With Parenting Plans in Arizona
When you’re negotiating a parenting plan, an experienced family law attorney is the best resource. A family law attorney should be able to make expert recommendations based on their experience and your unique situation. Whether you currently have a parenting plan that you want to modify to be filled with guidelines for every scenario, or you are trying to figure out the best plan for your situation, our family law team at JacksonWhite can help.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.
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