How is Child Custody Determined in Arizona?

Filing for a divorce is a painful decision to make especially when there are children involved. Child custody decisions often make the divorce process more difficult. In cases involving child custody, the general rule in Arizona never changes – the child’s best interest is paramount.

The best outcome is for both parents to amicably come up with a joint custody agreement. If they cannot do this and instead take the matter to court, the Arizona legal system will decide these issues.

Types of custody in Arizona

There are two types of child custody recognized in Arizona law – physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the parent or guardian that the child lives with. Legal custody refers to the right given to the parent or guardian to make important decisions on behalf of the child’s well-being. These include health care, education, and religion.

Family courts in Arizona ensure that custody laws are always enforced based on the best interest of the children. Judges will consider numerous factors when they review and decide child custody. These factors include:

  • The wishes of each parent
  • The child’s wishes
  • How the child will adjust to their new environment if forced to move
  • The emotional bond between the child and each parent
  • Employment and how each parent can allot their time to provide care for the child
  • The physical and mental condition of both parents and child
  • The amount and quality of relationship each parent had invested on the child prior to divorce

Factors that determine the best child custody arrangement

In keeping with its standards on child custody, Arizona family courts look at several factors to determine the arrangement that’s best for the child’s wellbeing.

Joint custody (whether joint legal, joint physical, or a little of both) will always be an arrangement to aim for to keep both parents equally engaged with their children. Judges also look at numerous factors involving both parents to determine what kind of arrangement is ideal. They will also help decide which parent can provide the best quality of life for the child.

Of the many considerations, here are a few factors a judge can look into when determining child custody in Arizona:

  • The parent’s capability to provide an appropriate, caring, and safe home for the child
  • The ability to make vital decisions regarding the child’s moral upbringing, discipline, education, and relationship with other children and family members
  • The parent’s financial capacity to provide food, health care, schooling, and other essential needs of the child
  • The parent’s willingness and capability to carry on a meaningful communication with the child
  • The agreement of both parents to encourage and nurture a positive relationship between themselves and their children
  • The parents’ plan to live close enough to each other to make a joint physical custody doable

Factors that can negatively affect child custody in Arizona

An Arizona court will deny custody or parenting time (visitation) to a parent who might expose their child to potential risks or danger. The factors below will negatively affect a parent’s prospects of obtaining child custody:

  • Any history of child abuse or neglect
  • A history of drug abuse or offenses
  • If the parent is a convicted sexual offender
  • A murder conviction

Factors that are not considered in determining child custody in Arizona

  • Wealth or economic standing of the parents. If one parent is in a better financial position than the other, the court does not automatically award custody to the wealthier parent. What is considered is the parent’s ability to provide a clean, safe, and comfortable living environment and to give the child adequate healthcare and education.
  • Religion. Religious beliefs are not a basis for disqualifying a parent of their responsibilities unless the parent’s religion can cause harm to the child.
  • Parent’s gender. Many people mistakenly think the mother will be granted sole physical custody. Arizona law states that the court cannot favor one parent over the other based on their gender. What’s more important is the parent’s relationship with the child and how attentive they are about their well-being.

Contacting a lawyer

Over 95% of divorcing couples agree to settle their custody issues amicably out of court. The court will grant joint custody if both parents are open to communication and if they agree to submit a parenting plan that is written with their child’s best interest in mind. However, if both parents find it hard to reach an agreeable arrangement, they can contact a family law attorney to know their rights and legal options.

Issues concerning child custody and parenting time is often contentious, emotionally draining and hard to resolve. For that reason, you need to engage the services of an experienced family law firm to protect your parental rights and know what’s best for your children.

Contact our qualified Phoenix family law attorneys at Goldman Law, LLC by calling (602) 698-5520 today to schedule a consultation.