Arizona Best Interests of the Child

In Arizona family court, the court will base it’s decisions on child custody in accordance with what is in the best interests of the child. ARS 25-403 lays out what this means in family court. Section A  fo ARS 25-403 starts off with

A. The court shall determine legal decision-making and parenting time, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child. The court shall consider all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being, including:

1. The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.

This means that the court will examine the historic relationship the parent has had, has now, and will have with the child. If you have a history of putting the child’s needs above your own, obviously you’ve acted in the bests interests of the child. If your relationship is stable and consistent with the child that will be also taken into account.

2. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.

How do you maintain a relationship with your former spouse? Do you keep disagreements from each other private, and out of sight of the child? Do you strive to not use the child as an emotional weapon against your former spouse?

3. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.

Did you try and make the transition to a different home and school life as painless as possible to the child? Is the change smooth and organized, or chaotic?

4. If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.

The court may take the child’s wishes on parenting time into consideration, if the court decides that the child has the age and maturity to properly act in their own best interests.

5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.

Your health, mental and physical, your formal spouse’s health, and your child’s health are all factors in consideration of how the child will be cared for.

6. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. This paragraph does not apply if the court determines that a parent is acting in good faith to protect the child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.

Acting in the child’s best interest means that if the non-custodial parent is stable and has a good relationship with the child, the custodial parent needs to show that they will not restrict contact from that parent.

7. Whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent.

Unfortunately, some parents try to mislead the court so they can delay the decision, or cause financial pain to the other parent. Doing so does not act in the best interests of the child.

8. Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to section 25-403.03.

If a parent has a documented history of domestic violence or child abuse, the court will act to restrict contact from that parent to protect the child.

9. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time.

Using force or threats, pressure or intimidation to get a spouse to agree on legal decision-making or parenting time is a no-no in Arizona, and a bad idea in any legal setting.

10. Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.

Chapter 3, article 5 refers to ARS 25-351 to 25-355 on formal education plans that each county in Arizona must implement to educate spouses on domestic violence, divorce, mediation, and available resources. Parents must show compliance with these education plans to show that they’ve acted in the best interests of the child.

11. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02.

One only has to log in to their favorite news site to see cases where a spouse has made false allegations of child abuse to gain favor with a court. Short answer: don’t do it. Wasting the court and the legal system’s time with false allegations in order to curry favor is a quick ticket to not getting legal decision-making authority.

B. In a contested legal decision-making or parenting time case, the court shall make specific findings on the record about all relevant factors and the reasons for which the decision is in the best interests of the child.

All of the findings made by the court will be on the record, and the reasons for why the court made those findings. On the record means that there will be court documentation available for future reference on the relevant factors of why a parent was granted legal decision-making and why a specific parenting time plan was approved.