Child Custody

questions & answers

Question: My son is 5 years old. I have sole custody. I read the self service paperwork and it says I have to notify the other parent or show "order terminating parental rights of the other parent." Is my divorce decree showing sole custody good enough? I know sole custody gives me the right to make decisions for my children even if my ex does not agree.

Answer:

Well, your question does not reveal what you are trying to do that would require notice in the first place, so it is very difficult to answer. However, termination of parental rights has *nothing* to do with sole custody.

 A parent whose rights are terminated loses the ability to act as a parent in any capacity. Such petitions are filed under Chapter 8 of the Arizona code - in juvenile court, not family court - and they generally require proof that a parent is entirely unfit. (So you know, "unfit" really does mean "unfit" - not just "annoying," "irresponsible" or "obnoxious!") Severance petitions usually arise from proven accusations of serious child abuse or neglect, or complete abandonment by a missing parent.

Sole legal custody is awarded under Chapter 25 of the Arizona code, in family court - not juvenile court - and simply gives you the power to make major life decisions for the child. You should read your original decree very, *very* carefully, because even sole custodians are often required to at least consult with the non-custodial parent before making a unilateral decision. In fact, the decree might even contain requirements that the custodial parent give notice in writing. Every case is different, so you must go back to the decree and read every, single paragraph carefully!

However, in the absence of any guidance from the decree, then you would have the sole right to make major life decisions for your kids, such as schooling, church, therapy/counseling, medical treatment and other "big ticket" items. Just make sure you are respectful of the non-custodial parent's status as the biological father/mother, and treat him/her exactly how you would want to be treated if your positions were reversed.

QUESTIONS

  • My son is 5 years old. I have sole custody. I read the self service paperwork and it says I have to notify the other parent or show "order terminating parental rights of the other parent." Is my divorce decree showing sole custody good enough? I know sole custody gives me the right to make decisions for my children even if my ex does not agree.

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