Legal Decision Making, Personal Care and Tattoos vs. Toothpaste

by | Mar 25, 2013 | Child Custody, Modification of Custody, Parenting

Legal Decision Making, Personal Care and Tattoos vs. Toothpaste

Written by: Stefano Ceroni

Legal Decision Making not only includes the right to make major decisions regarding medicine, education and religion, but also the right to make major personal care decisions (as of 1/1/13).  AZ legal decision making (formerly known as “custody”), has nothing to do with physical access to one’s child, visitation or even parenting time.  It only applies to decision making.

On top of that, the right of AZ  legal-decision making is not limited to just one parent.  This means a court can choose to either award sole custody to one parent or joint custody to both parents.

Simple, right? Not so fast.

How does toothpaste play into legal decision-making?
How does toothpaste play into legal decision-making?

You may already be asking yourself, “What decisions or issues is the law referring to when describing ‘major’?”  Up until January 1st, custody only encompassed the right to make decisions about a child’s education, medical care and religious training–or, as I like to call it, the “holy trinity” of AZ legal decision making. Easy enough, right? Wrong again.

Lawmakers have decided to change the previous definition of “custody” and now define AZ “legal decision making” as the legal right to make all non-emergency legal decisions for a child, including those regarding personal care decisions. That’s right, I had the same reaction: What the heck is a personal care decision? Are we talking about hygiene products and haircuts or weightlifting and Slim Fast bars? And, if that isn’t bad enough, the law also now states that the parent who does not have legal decision making authority is still responsible for making routine decisions concerning the child’s care. Seriously? Who, in all their wisdom, could possibly explain the difference between a personal care decision and a routine decision concerning the child’s care without confusing themselves?


Trust me, as an attorney dedicated to the practice of family law, I know just how frustrating this ambiguity can be.  It seems that every day I am asked questions about what parenting choices and decisions each party is allowed to make, both during and after a divorce. And, with this new added “sphere” of AZ legal decision making being tacked on to the “holy trinity”, my job will only become more difficult, and parents will invariably become only more confused.

My advice? Well, you’re probably not going to like it, but here it is anyway:  Pick up the phone, dial 411, and ask to speak to Mr. Thomas Paine. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  But seriously, just use your Common Sense. If you do not have any AZ legal decision making authority over your children, I wouldn’t encourage you to take them down to the tattoo parlor to get “Dad rules, Mom sucks” plastered across their foreheads.  However, if it’s your weekend to exercise parenting time and you’re all out of toothpaste, it’s probably not necessary to call over to the other parent and get his or her consent before purchasing a tube of Colgate.

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