If you are a father in Arizona or a man who expects to be a father in Arizona, you need to immediately contact your local legislator to let him or her know that you support HB-2296. This is A House Bill that will introduce something father’s rights advocates in Arizona have been wanting for many years – a presumption that joint legal decision-making authority (known generally as “custody”) and equal parenting time are in a child’s best interest in each case. An increasing number of states are passing similar legislation. Currently, there is no such presumption in Arizona. The only standard is that the judge must rule in a way that is in the child’s best interest. (And guess who gets to decide what is in the child’s best interest? You guessed it – your family court judge.) Many judges in Arizona family courts still tend to favor mothers in Arizona. I don’t believe they do this intentionally. They probably don’t even realize what they are doing. Regardless, this legislation will make it much harder for them to do that because the judge will now have to explain in writing (with specific legal findings that may be appealed) how he or she believes that there is enough evidence in that case to overcome the presumption that joint legal decision-making authority and equal parenting time are in the child’s best interest. This will be generally difficult for judges to do. They may try to see what the can get away with at first, but when Arizona fathers appeal those rulings and those rulings are overturned, the trial court judges will start to change their behavior.
Most men, whether they live in Arizona or anywhere else in the United States, are good fathers and love their children. They should not be treated like second-class citizens, which is how many have said they feel when facing a family court judge in Arizona. Via legislation, we can remove some of the power that judges currently have over men’s lives in Arizona. Most Arizona family law attorneys are probably against this bill, because they represent an equal number of men and women. But those of us who mostly represent fathers are keenly aware of how this will help our clients. Heck, it may even reduce our own income, as there will be less fighting over custody and parenting time as more women begin to realize that the party is over and they are unlikely to walk away from family court with most of the control and money. But what comes first is children having a strong and healthy relationship with their fathers, not the incomes of family law attorneys.
Bills like this have failed in the past. Let’s not let it happen again. The key is for men to take action. Don’t be passive. Women tend to get organized; men tend to be loners. It has been said that trying to get men organized is like trying to herd cats. Don’t ignore this chance to change things for the better. Contact your legislator and urge him or her to vote in favor of HB 2296. The bill was introduced by Representative Anthony Kern. You should contact him and let him know that you appreciate having a friend who supports father’s rights. Do what you can to help him achieve passage of the bill. This will be a long, hard process, but we should not sit back and assume someone else will do the dirty work for us. Get involved. Do what you can to change this biased system where fathers tend to do worse in family court than mothers, all other things being equal. Here is a link you can use to contact your local legislator and voice your support for HB 2296!