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Child Custody Laws in Arizona

Child Custody Laws in Arizona

Child Custody Laws in Arizona: An Overview

Child custody battles are one of the most emotionally draining legal battles, especially for parents. The Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) govern the child custody laws in Arizona. It is essential to have a fair idea about the child custody laws in Arizona before one starts the legal proceedings. Here’s a comprehensive guide to child custody laws in Arizona.

Types of Custody in Arizona

There are two types of custody in Arizona: legal custody and physical custody.

1. Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about the child’s health, religion, and education. The court can award joint legal custody or sole legal custody to one parent.

Joint legal custody: Both parents have an equal say in making decisions about the child’s health, religion, and education.

Sole legal custody: One parent has the exclusive right to make all decisions about the child’s health, religion, and education.

2. Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where the child resides. The court can award joint physical custody or sole physical custody to one parent.

Joint physical custody: Both parents share the physical custody of the child.

Sole physical custody: One parent has the exclusive right to have physical custody of the child.

Factors Considered by the Court

The court considers several factors before deciding the child custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child. Some of the factors are:

1. Child’s Wishes

If the child is older and mature enough, the court may consider the child’s wishes while deciding the custody arrangement.

2. Child’s Relationship with each Parent

The court considers the child’s relationship with each parent to decide the custody arrangement.

3. Parent’s Relationship with each other

The court considers the parent’s relationship with each other. If the parents have a history of conflict or abuse, it may impact the custody arrangement.

4. Parent’s willingness to co-parent

The court considers whether both parents are willing to co-parent and work together in the best interest of the child.

5. Parent’s Ability to Care for the Child

The court considers the ability of each parent to care for the child, including their financial stability, work schedule, and living arrangements.


Time-sharing refers to the amount of time that the child spends with each parent. The court may award a parenting plan that specifies a detailed schedule of when the child will stay with each parent.

Modification of Custody Order

The court allows the parents to modify the child custody order if there is a substantial and ongoing change in circumstances. The parent must file a petition to request a modification of the custody order.


Child custody is a complex legal battle. The court considers several factors before making a custody decision. One must have a clear understanding of the child custody laws in Arizona to protect the child’s best interests.



In the past ten years, Arizona’s child custody laws and regulations have experienced significant updates, reflecting the state’s dedication to ensuring the best interests of children involved in custody disputes. This article outlines key changes in Arizona’s child custody laws and regulations from 2013 to 2023.

2013: Child’s Best Interests Standard

   – Adoption of the child’s best interests standard as the central consideration in custody decisions.

2014: Joint Custody Encouragement

   – Encouragement of joint custody arrangements to promote active parental involvement.

2015: Parenting Plans Mandate

   – Introduction of mandatory parenting plans outlining custody, visitation, and support arrangements.

2016: Child’s Wishes Consideration

   – Consideration of the child’s preferences in custody determinations, based on age and maturity.

2017: Grandparent Visitation Recognition

   – Recognition of grandparent visitation rights in custody proceedings.

2018: Domestic Violence Protection

   – Strengthened provisions to protect children from exposure to domestic violence.

2019: Mediation Promotion

   – Promotion of mediation to resolve custody disputes amicably.

2020: Virtual Visitation Acknowledgment

   – Acknowledgment of virtual visitation as a valid means for non-custodial parents to interact with their child.

2021: Military Deployment Consideration

   – Consideration of military deployment’s impact on custody arrangements.

2022: Child Support Alignment

   – Alignment of child custody and child support procedures for consistency.

2023: Relocation Guidelines

   – Introduction of guidelines for parents seeking to relocate with their child, ensuring stability.

Arizona’s ongoing efforts to enhance child custody laws demonstrate the state’s commitment to the well-being of children and families. Staying informed about these changes is essential for parents and legal practitioners navigating custody matters.

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.

Joint Custody

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

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.

Visitation Rights

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.