A child custody modification in Arizona will involve a discussion of equal parenting time and legal decision-making. Child custody modifications are now called modifications of parenting time or legal decision-making. The statute, A.R.S. 25-411, says:
A. A person shall not make a motion to modify a legal decision-making or parenting time decree earlier than one year after its date, unless the court permits it to be made on the basis of affidavits that there is reason to believe the child’s present environment may seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health. At any time after a joint legal decision-making order is entered, a parent may petition the court for modification of the order on the basis of evidence that domestic violence involving a violation of section 13-1201 or 13-1204, spousal abuse or child abuse occurred since the entry of the joint legal decision-making order. Six months after a joint legal decision-making order is entered, a parent may petition the court for modification of the order based on the failure of the other parent to comply with the provisions of the order. A motion or petition to modify an order shall meet the requirements of this section. Except as otherwise provided in this section, if a parent is a member of the United States armed forces, the court shall consider the terms of that parent’s military family care plan to determine what is in the child’s best interest during that parent’s military deployment.
B. If the parent with whom the parent’s child resides a majority of the time receives temporary duty, deployment, activation or mobilization orders from the United States military that involve moving a substantial distance away from the parent’s residence a court shall not enter a final order modifying parental rights and responsibilities and parent-child contact in an existing order until ninety days after the deployment ends, unless a modification is agreed to by the deploying parent.
C. The court shall not consider a parent’s absence caused by deployment or mobilization or the potential for future deployment or mobilization as the sole factor supporting a real, substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances pursuant to this section.
D. On motion of a deploying or nondeploying, mobilizing or absent military parent, the court, after a hearing, shall enter a temporary order modifying parental rights and responsibilities or parent-child contact during the period of deployment or mobilization if:
1. A military parent who has legal decision-making or parenting time pursuant to an existing court order has received notice from military leadership that the military parent will deploy or mobilize in the near future.
2. The deployment or mobilization would have a material effect on the military parent’s ability to exercise parental rights and responsibilities or parent-child contact.
E. On motion of a deploying parent, if reasonable advance notice is given and good cause is shown, the court shall allow that parent to present testimony and evidence by electronic means with respect to parenting time or parent-child contact matters instituted pursuant to this section if the deployment of that parent has a material effect on that parent’s ability to appear in person at a regularly scheduled hearing. For the purposes of this subsection, “electronic means” includes communication by telephone or video teleconference.
F. The court shall hear motions for modification because of deployment as expeditiously as possible.
G. If a military parent receives military temporary duty, deployment, activation or mobilization orders that involve moving a substantial distance away from the military parent’s residence or that otherwise have a material effect on the military parent’s ability to exercise parenting time, at the request of the military parent, for the duration of the military parent’s absence the court may delegate the military parent’s parenting time, or a portion of that time, to a child’s family member, including a stepparent, or to another person who is not the child’s parent but who has a close and substantial relationship to the minor child, if the court determines that is in the child’s best interest. The court shall not allow the delegation of parenting time to a person who would be subject to limitations on parenting time. The parties shall attempt to resolve disputes regarding delegation of parenting time through the dispute resolution process specified in their parenting plan, unless excused by the court for good cause shown. A court order pursuant to this subsection does not establish separate rights to parenting time for a person other than a parent.
H. All temporary modification orders pursuant to this section shall include a specific transition schedule to facilitate a return to the predeployment order within ten days after the deployment ends, taking into consideration the child’s best interests.
I. A decree or order that a court enters in contemplation of or during the military deployment of a parent outside of the continental United States shall specifically reference the deployment and include provisions governing the legal decision-making or parenting time arrangements, or both, of the minor child after the deployment ends. Either parent may file a petition with the court after the deployment ends to modify the decree or order, in compliance with subsection L of this section. The court shall hold a hearing or conference on the petition within thirty days after the petition is filed.
J. The court may modify an order granting or denying parenting time rights whenever modification would serve the best interest of the child, but the court shall not restrict a parent’s parenting time rights unless it finds that the parenting time would endanger seriously the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.
K. If after a legal decision-making or parenting time order is in effect one of the parents is charged with a dangerous crime against children as defined in section 13-705, child molestation as defined in section 13-1410 or an act of domestic violence as prescribed in section 13-3601 in which the victim is a minor, the other parent may petition the court for an expedited hearing. Pending the expedited hearing, the court may suspend parenting time or change legal decision-making ex parte.
L. To modify any type of legal decision-making or parenting time order a person shall submit an affidavit or verified petition setting forth detailed facts supporting the requested modification and shall give notice, together with a copy of the affidavit or verified petition, to other parties to the proceeding, who may file opposing affidavits. The court shall deny the motion unless it finds that adequate cause for hearing the motion is established by the pleadings, in which case it shall set a date for hearing on why the requested modification should not be granted.
M. The court shall assess attorney fees and costs against a party seeking modification if the court finds that the modification action is vexatious and constitutes harassment.
N. Subsection L of this section does not apply if the requested relief is for the modification or clarification of parenting time and not for a change of legal decision-making.