Does Arizona Have an Equal Parenting Time Presumption?

by Annette Burns on June 17, 2019

The never ending question of whether Arizona has a presumption of equal parenting time rages on.[1]     I’ve seen various articles that list Arizona as one of several U.S. jurisdictions that have an equal parenting time presumption.  A statement that Arizona has a legal presumption of parenting time, without further explanation, is wrong; Arizona doesn’t have a legal or statutory presumption of equal parenting time.   Whether that presumption exists informally is another question, and at this point I’m unaware of any statistics or research studies ongoing to test whether individual judges believe, or are applying, a presumption that equal parenting time will be ordered. But the Arizona case law mentioned below would seem to inform individual judges in their decisions.

As an aside, the only U.S. jurisdiction I’m aware of at the time of this writing that does have a statutory presumption of equal parenting time is Kentucky.

By statute, Arizona has a policy statement that each parent will have “substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing parenting time” and that both parents will “participate in decision-making about the child”.    (ARS 25-103B)

By statute, Arizona courts are to maximize the respective parenting time of each parent “consistent with the child’s best interests in section 25-403 and sections 25-403.03, 25-403.04 and 25-403.05 with the child’s best interests in section 25-403 and sections 25-403.03, 25-403.04 and 25-403.05”.   (ARS 25-403.02B)  Emphasis added.  Arizona is still a “best interests” state, and the maximization of parenting time must fit within the eleven (11) best interests factors itemized in ARS 25-403.

So, the simple answers to the complex question of whether Arizona has a “presumption” of equal parenting are threefold:

  1. Does Arizona have a statutory/ legislative presumption?  No.
  2. Does Arizona have a case law presumption?  No, but the trial court commits error by applying a presumption against equal parenting time. Barron v. Barron (2018). Barron was re-affirmed on that issue in late 2019 in Woyton v. Ward.
  3. Is there a general policy in the Arizona courts favoring equal parenting time?  Maybe.   Someone should do a study.

[1] Please note that the issue of whether equal parenting time is best for children is an entirely different question that requires extensive research and studies, and obviously those studies will be of assistance to future legislatures considering statutory presumptions.

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