Child Custody

When parents in Arizona separate or divorce, a plan must be made for providing care for and allocating parenting time with the children of the parties. The parties may reach an agreement on their own, or with the assistance of the Court of Conciliation or attorneys. These agreements should be submitted to the court for approval. If the parties are unable to reach agreement, the court will hear testimony at a hearing or trial and enter orders relating to who will make major decisions for the children, how much time the children will spend with each parent, and other issues related to the well-being and care of the children. In rare instances, the court can award parenting time or custody to a person other than a parent.

Legal decision-making is defined as the authority to make major, non-emergency decisions for the children for educational issues, medical issues, religious upbringing, and major personal care decisions. Legal decision-making may be shared between both parents, known as joint legal decision-making, or held by one parent alone, known as sole legal decision-making. If parents have joint legal decision-making, they must make major legal decision-making decisions together. If a parent has sole legal decision-making, that parent alone has the authority to determine legal-decision making issues for the children. An order of joint legal decision-making does not necessarily mean that the parties have equal parenting time.

Parenting time is defined as the amount of time the children spend with each parent on a day-to-day basis. Frequently, there will also be a schedule to address the division of important holidays, vacation time, school breaks, and a summer schedule. Sample parenting plans that can be very helpful and informative for parents can be found at: http://www.supreme.state.az.us/dr/parenttime/PPWguidelines.pdf In certain circumstances, the court may order supervised parenting time between a parent or a child, and may place certain restrictions on the parenting time. If appropriate, the court can order drug or alcohol testing as a condition of continued parental contact with the children.

If the parents are unable to agree on legal decision-making, parenting time, or both, the court will make the final decision with respect to these issues. The court will make a decision in accordance with the children's best interests. The legal factors the court must consider are set forth in A.R.S. 25-403. The court may not make legal decision-making or parenting time decisions based on a parent or child’s gender.

In Arizona, a parenting time order or legal decision-making order may be modified following its entry if certain factors are met. You should meet with an attorney to review your case if you believe a modification of legal decision-making or parenting time is appropriate.

Court actions can be filed if a parent is failing to comply with a parenting time or legal decision-making order and a parent needs the court's assistance to have a parent adhere to the terms of the order.

If, by written agreement or court order, both parents are entitled to joint legal decision-making or unsupervised parenting time and both parents reside in the state, A.R.S. 25-408 (B) establishes certain factors that must be met before a parent may relocate outside of the of the state with a child or relocate the child more than one hundred miles within the state. In the event you are planning to relocate, or your child's other parent is planning to relocate, you should immediately review your situation with an attorney, as Arizona law has several important time requirements that must be followed.

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