Arizona Child Custody 

In January of 2013, significant modifications were made to the Arizona Child Custody laws.  The new model included two distinct entities now called Parenting Time and Legal Decision Making.  Arizona Child Custody disputes usually arise from a divorce but unmarried parents can also be involved in Child Custody cases.  Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 25-403 is entitled, The Best Interests of the Child and is designed to prevent undue hardships to a child once their mother and father no longer choose to live together.  Working with a skilled, trial tested and experienced Arizona Child Custody Attorney is your best opportunity to protect your rights and the rights of your children.  

Parenting Time 

Parenting Time is the amount of visitation time each parent will have with their children.  Arizona does make every effort to insure that a child will receive frequent, meaningful and equal contact with each parent.  The court allows every opportunity for parents to come to a mutual decision concerning the Parenting Time that their child will receive.  If the parents cannot come to a mutual agreement, each parent must submit a parenting plan in accordance with ARS 25-403.02.  There are three main areas that the court looks at when determining Parenting Time orders.

Work Schedule and Availability 

Each parent will have to examine their availability to the child including their work schedules.  While work is a common factor in time away from the family, it is not the only thing that takes away from time at home.  Each parent will have to review their social activities, educational commitments and any other possible time taken away from the child.  The court will make decisions based on the general availability of each parent when making rulings on Parenting Time.

Geographical Location 

An important point to consider is the distance that will exist between the homes of each of the parents.  This becomes especially crucial if the child is of school age.  If the distance between the homes of the parents is too great then the court will usually decide that one home is the custodial home and the other home is the non-custodial home.  As will all decisions involving children, the court will take into account what is in the best interests of the child.

Support of the Parent by Others 

This area involves the support structure of each parent by other individuals.  If the parent has work commitments, for example, it would be expected that a reliable person would be available for child care during work hours.  Building a well-thought-out plan for care in advance will show the court that a plan is in place for the child to receive appropriate supervision.

Legal Decision Making 

Legal Decision Making is simply defined as the parent that will make all major decisions such as education, medical, religious, or other philosophical decisions for the minor child.  The court makes every effort to see that parents receive equal Legal Decision-Making rights.  Often, parents are required to undergo counseling or high conflict resolution management classes to ensure that both parents are able to work together to make the best decisions possible for their child.  There are three possible rulings that the court can make concerning the Legal Decision Making for each child.

Joint Legal Decision Making 

This is the preferred ruling by the court to ensure that the child will have the input of both parents in the major decisions of their life.  This type of order gives equal rights to both parents for decision-making.  There are times when the court orders this type of decision-making but reserves certain decisions for one parent.

Sole Legal Decision Making 

This type of decision-making awards the rights of legal decisions to be made by one parent.  Even in this scenario, the court makes every effort to encourage discussion between the parents.  It is important to remember that the main concern of the court will always be placed in the best interests of the child.  This scenario is usually brought about by the clear inability of one parent to make good decisions for themselves and their child.

Joint Legal Decision Making With Final Say 

In this scenario, both parents are given the right to legal decision-making for their child.  The difference here is that one parent will have the final say in all matters.  Even in this scenario, the court will make every effort to encourage meaningful dialog between the parents to ensure that the best interests of the child are met.

Key Factors 

There are many key factors that the court will examine when making rulings on both Parenting Time and Legal Decision Making.  Below are the key areas that the court will look at.

·         The child’s preferences.

·         The parent’s preferences.

·         The age of the child.

·         The progress of the child in school.

·         Mental and physical health of the child.

·         The amount of time the parent can spare from work.

·         Criminal record of the parents.

·         Mental and physical health of the parents.

·         History of domestic violence.

·         Any parental history of alcohol or drug abuse.