Guide to Child Custody Laws in Arizona
If you are an Arizona parent going through child custody proceedings, you may want to know more about child custody laws in Arizona.
These laws can seem very complicated, and judges have a good deal of leeway in determining what kind of custody to award.
In general, Arizona does not have a preference regarding whether joint or sole custody will be awarded—instead, all custody decisions are made based on the best interests of the child.
This guide will explain child custody laws in Arizona, including what factors judges use to determine what is in the best interests of a child, as well as the kinds of custody that are available to Arizona parents.
Factors Used to Determine Child Custody
Deciding what is in a child’s best interests is not easy, and judges cannot just use one or two factors.
In some states, children are allowed to decide who their custodial parent will be, but child custody laws in Arizona do not allow any minors to make custody decisions on their own.
Judges will take a child’s wishes into account, along with other factors such as these:
- Parental wishes
- The mental and physical health of both parents
- The relationship of each parent with their child
- Willingness of each parent to comply with court orders
- Whether either parent has been convicted of criminal charges
- Whether either parent has a history of domestic violence or child abuse
No one factor will be used to make a determination. Child custody laws in Arizona require a judge to weigh all the factors and then make a choice.
While many states automatically prefer joint custody in most cases, child custody laws in Arizona do not prefer either sole or joint custody.
Joint custody refers not to an equal split in parenting time, but to both parents sharing decision-making authority.
In a joint custody situation, neither parent should make vital decisions about their child’s religion, schooling, or health without consulting the other parent.
Joint custody is usually awarded when couples show they have thought seriously about the responsibilities of joint parenting, including having a plan for any disputes that may come up at a later date.
Sole custody is when only one parent has the authority to make decisions for the child.
A parent with sole custody has no obligation under the child custody laws in Arizona to consult a non-custodial parent about medical or religious decisions.
Sole custody may be awarded for many reasons, including one parent having a history of abuse or one parent showing no interest in the child custody proceedings.
In almost all cases, whichever parent does not have primary physical custody will be awarded visitation rights, which are also often called “parenting time” to make sure that the parent with visitation does not feel like a lesser parent.
Visitation is usually unsupervised, and can take the form of overnight visits and longer visits during school breaks or holidays.
Supervised visitation can be granted under child custody laws in Arizona if the judge feels the child’s safety is at risk during an unsupervised visit.