Many Arizona couples contemplating divorce delay filing because they are concerned about child custody issues. Custody is a legal arrangement specifying which parent will make decisions affecting the child’s wellbeing. Although that suggests exclusive physical custody, in most cases the non-custodial parent is still allowed time with the child.
Major changes to Arizona child custody laws
Custody is frequently determined when parents seek a divorce or legal separation, when parents request the court to alter a custody decision made in an earlier divorce case, or when parents were never married and look to have a court-established custody arrangement.
The start of 2013 saw major changes to Arizona child custody laws. The terms child custody, joint custody or sole custody were changed to sole legal decision making or joint legal decision making. The term child visitation was replaced by parenting time. Parenting time, sometimes called access or visitation, refers to the non-custodial parent’s opportunity to spend time with their child.
AZ Child custody legal proceedings
A divorcing couple, or parents who were never married, can make their own custody agreement without Arizona court intervention and are urged to do so. Amicably arranging access and custody concerns is the best solution as long as the agreement is in the child’s best interest.
Unfortunately, not all private custody arrangements end well. When a divorce case is taken to court and child custody becomes a matter of contention for both parents, it automatically becomes an issue for the court to resolve. Custody is decided by the court in what are called temporary orders hearings and, ultimately, at a final trial if parents cannot agree. Even after a divorce order has been granted, the court may still modify an earlier custody order.
An Arizona child custody case can take three months to a year to conclude because of the many variables involved. It can even take longer if both parents cannot work together to reach a full agreement.
The parenting plan
Arizona law requires submitting a written parenting plan to the court by parents seeking joint custody. The parenting plan defines access terms and conditions both parties must comply with and which the child will depend upon. The parenting plan then becomes a part of the custody orders made by the court, making it an enforceable contract for both parents to abide by.
Even with both parties agreeing on custody and parenting time arrangements, the court will still review their plan to decide if it is in the child’s best interest.
Will Arizona family court consider full custody?
Arizona courts start with the assumption that parents should have joint child custody. This means the courts have no legal assumptions that favor one parent over the other. With joint custody, both you and your ex-spouse share in physical custody and major decision-making responsibility regarding your child.
If you believe that joint custody will not work well in your situation, you can file for sole custody. And yes, sole custody will be considered by the court when appropriate.
Sole custody, sometimes referred to as full custody in Arizona, means that one parent has sole legal custody of a child. The court charges one parent alone to make major decisions regarding all educational, health, and religious matters affecting the child. While both parents may discuss these matters, the court-designated parent has the final say-so if they should disagree on certain issues.
It is probably appropriate to file for full custody if you have concerns with the other parent regarding:
- unstable mental condition
- drug or alcohol abuse
- domestic violence
- child abuse
- criminal history
If your spouse has any of the above issues, the court will consider your request and come to a custody decision based on what is in the best interest of the child.
You can increase your chances of gaining full custody by enhancing your reliability and skills as a parent. Start making promised changes and keep working to improve them. Frequent and deeper involvement with your child can help even out a history of absence and lack of emotional contact. It is not too late to become the parent your child deserves.
Discuss your case with us
If you must take your child custody case to court, make sure to hire a skilled Arizona child custody attorney to legally represent and assist you in this process.
Call Goldman Law, LLC today to get answers to your questions about sole custody in Arizona. Our experienced child custody attorneys can help you decide the best approach to resolving your case. Call us at (602) 698-5520 or email us through our contact form to schedule your personalized consultation.