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Are Arizona divorce courts recognizing fathers' custody rights?

Parents beginning the divorce process in Arizona may have ideas of how child custody is going to be decided. Many may have heard that courts favor mothers and that fathers are just there to pay child support. Some parents may fear the judge will take one parent's side before hearing from both sides. And some aren't sure what to expect given their unique situation. While laws in states differ when it comes to child custody, it appears that fathers' receiving full and equal rights is becoming more a reality now than in years past.

While some have long thought it's better for children to be with both parents after a divorce, research now confirms the belief. According to the National Parents Organization, formerly Fathers and Families, research demonstrates that children do better emotionally and academically when they see each parent often. Younger children in particular rely on the stability provided by seeing each parent regularly. States seem to be noticing; legislatures in four states - including here in Arizona -- have passed bills that favor more equally shared custody, and courts in a fifth state appear to be granting equal custody more often, even without a legislative mandate.

In most states, including Arizona, the best interests of the children is the standard. If the court is asked to decide, it will either award custody to the parent it feels meets this standard or grant joint custody. An important consideration for divorcing parents thinking about agreeing to joint custody is how well they get along with each other, as an equitable custody arraignment means parents will see a lot of each other and interact frequently. Other considerations include how far from each other parents live, children's after school activities and the needs of other family members.

The evolution of courts in equalizing child custody arraignments may be a reaction to the shifting of stereotypical gender roles. It could also stem from an increased awareness of the impact fathers have in the lives of their children. Or, it may be because we are learning more about the affect of equal timeshare as it relates to children. Whatever the cause, fathers' rights are an important consideration in determining child custody - a fact that seems to be receiving more and more attention now in Arizona.

Source: NPR.org, "Push to Change Custody Laws: What's Best for Kids?" Jennifer Ludden, Feb. 26, 2014

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