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Arizona bill would expand fathers' custody rights

In Arizona and in many other states, mothers are typically somewhat favored in custody disputes. This is true both in divorce cases and in the cases of children born to unmarried couples. A bill in the Arizona Legislature, which has passed in the Senate, would grant full custody rights to fathers in out-of-wedlock cases. The father would need to be listed on the child's birth certificate, or both parents would need to have acknowledged paternity, for the case to fall under this potential law.

Currently, when a child is born out of wedlock in Arizona, mothers have full custody until paternity is determined and a court grants custody rights to the father. While the bill has vocal supports among father's rights advocates, there is opposition to the bill as well.

Opponents say that the bill would complicate existing precedence, among other things. Under existing precedence, custody is often granted to the parent who has lived with the child the longest. Those in support of the bill have countered that the bill will be revised to avoid any unintended legal effects.

Whether this bill is passed into law or not, child custody disputes will remain an issue for some Arizona parents. When parents have a disagreement about child custody or visitation, the court will often direct parents to meet with trained mediators or a parenting conference officer. This department is known as Conciliation Services.

Attorneys are not allowed to be present for these discussions, but many parents are wise to have an attorney by their side throughout the process in order to prepare and advise them for these meetings. If this mediation does not produce results, the case will then go to court.

Source: Timesunion.com, "Joel Bernheim Praises New Arizona Bill, Expanding Father's Custody Rights," March 19, 2012

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