Custody No More: Major Changes to Family Laws Effective January 2013

Last month I wrote about the legal differences between custody and parenting time, so that I could offer a point of reference for this month’s article. Effective January 1, 2013, the law as it pertains to custody and parenting time will change dramatically. These changes are numerous (I can’t list all of them here without writing a book) and are being instituted in an effort to recognize common issues that arise in family law cases.
First and foremost, the Courts will no longer be utilizing the term “custody” at all out of deference to the fact that this usually means possession (and the fact that the term causes a ton of confusion for people who question legal vs. physical custody). The new term will be “decision-making.” As a parent, you will either have sole decision-making rights or joint decision-making rights.
The provisions regarding the wishes of the parents as to decision-making and which parent has provided primary care have also been removed. In the seminars I have taken on these changes, the explanation was that these two often come up as irrelevant details (ie. one parent stayed home and cared for the children and this doesn’t mean that the other parent who was not the primary caregiver is not just as meaningful and important as a parent.)
Most important from my review is the new decision-making determination section which is “whether one parent intentionally misled the Court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the Court to give legal decision-making or parenting time preference to that parent.” I believe that this provision will address many of the concerns that we as family law attorneys have which stem from multiple unsubstantiated calls to Child Protective Services, false statements about a parent made in open court, allegations of physical domestic violence that are unsubstantiated and refusal to allow a parent to have access to a child during divorce proceedings.
There are many other significant changes and I will address others in the January article. However, in the meantime, we are working to implement these changes into our cases and see how this transition effects the litigation of these matters.
Before I write again, I offer this to all of the readers out there: the holiday season can be a truly special time for your families and especially your children. Whether you are a single parent, a married parent of six or a grandparent raising a grandchild, I hope that you have a truly peaceful and blessed holiday season. Remember that your job is to share the joy of this season with the children in your life and remind/teach them the reason that we celebrate. From my family to your, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Andrea E. Mouser is the owning partner of Mouser & Schmillen, PLLC, and has practiced family law in Arizona for the last seven years. Andrea is a Judge Pro Tem for Maricopa County, a Court certified Parenting Coordinator, a certified mediator, a volunteer military pro bono attorney and is currently a candidate for her Masters in Social Work at Arizona State University. Andrea is a step-mom her amazing fourteen year old step-son and mom to a seven month-old girl. She is dedicated to assisting clients at every phase with their legal needs, knowing what it is like to be a married person and a parent, but believes that settlement and negotiation are best for all families. Please contact her at 480-422-3043 to schedule a consultation or visit our website at for additional information.