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Is a rose still a rose if you call it joint decision making authority?

Is a rose still a rose if you call it “joint decision making authority?”

The Arizona State Legislature recently enacted a law that changes the basic parameters of child custody cases in Arizona. Or does it? ARS 25-403 now informs us that we no longer have “joint” or “sole” custody arrangements. That was apparently viewed as barbaric. Instead, we now have “joint decision making authority” or “sole decision making authority.” These decisions, of course, include the decision, if one is the sole decision maker, to decide not to let the other parent see the kids– which seems to still amount to sole legal custody, despite calling it by another name. When there is no clear reason to do otherwise, judges are now encouraged to order a 50/50 access schedule between parents—again, in theory, and on its face, not a bad idea. But might this new “legal presumption” act to coerce a parent going through a very traumatic experience (divorce) to agree to share in child rearing 50/50 when they otherwise would seek less time (for potentially appropriate reasons) without as much social stigma?

I fear it boils down to this—despite our government’s failure to understand otherwise, we can’t force people to be good–good parents, good friends, good neighbors or good citizens. They either are, or they are not. Good parents understand that the needs and desires of the children don’t just come first—they come first and last. Fighting over access to one’s children shows there’s a real problem—either the other parent is so deplorable that they shouldn’t have ever <been a parent (in which case, why did you choose to start a family with them in the first place?) or you are simply being mean-spirited and retributive as a part of the divorce process. In either such case, fighting over who gets the children when bodes badly for those children’s future.

Mature and appropriate parents know that as they and their life change, their relationship with their children may need to change as well. Being flexible and empathetic goes a long way towards keeping your children as grounded, secure and stress-free as possible.

Like many other legislative efforts in my lifetime, I fear this latest change by those who govern Arizona sounds good but won’t do much to change human nature. Being a good parent, sadly, doesn’t happen just because the government says it should. 

1 Comment
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