Frequently Asked Questions about Legal Decision Making (formerly known as Custody)

Frequently Asked Questions about Legal Decision Making (formerly known as Custody)

How does the court decide who gets custody of the children?

Determining where the children live and who will make decisions regarding their upbringing is one of the most important decisions made by the Court in a divorce.  The decisions can impact you and your children forever.

When an Arizona Family Court determines legal decision making and parenting time arrangements, their objective is to order a plan that is best for the children’s interests. The court decides custody issues based on, among other things,  the following factors:

  • Parent preferences
  • Child preferences (age and maturity permitting)
  • The emotional and physical health of the parents and the children
  • Known drug or alcohol addictions
  • Abuse history
  • Child’s school and environment
  • Relationships with parents, friends, and relatives
  • Parents willingness to cooperate on parenting issues
  • Whether the parents agree
  • The geographic proximity of the parents

And other pertinent factors.

What is “custody”?

Custody in a family court case was the term used before of January 1, 2013.  The new term is “legal decision making” and it applies to the decisions relating to raising children, not parenting time.  Legal decision making covers educational decisions, medical decisions, religious decisions and now personal care decisions

Is it possible to decide these issues without a court appearance?

Yes, Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time issues can be mediated if the parents will agree to arrangements made with the help of a neutral party. In more amicable cases, this can be an alternative. Nevertheless, each party should hire an attorney who can advise them before finalizing any agreement to help them understand the ramifications of the agreement.

If my spouse has sole legal decision making, can I visit my children?

If your spouse has sole legal decision making, he or she makes all major decisions regarding your child’s upbringing.  Absent an order from the Court, you can still visit your child.  Even abusive parents may still be permitted visitation rights, but the courts may require conditions to ensure the children remain safe. Courts make their decision on a case-by- case basis and consider witness testimony and records from police, shelters, schools, medical personnel, and other appropriate agencies.

Even couples trying to cooperatively resolve Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time issues are emotionally charged and anxious about the outcome.  In many instances, hostility between the former spouses makes it difficult for them to agree on custody decisions, so the Court  will make the final decision. An attorney who is skilled at handling child Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time issues is essential to preserving your rights to raise your child.

Contact Enholm  Law at (602) 889-6273 and schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can help.