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Phoenix Child Custody Attorney

Child Custody During & After Divorce in Phoenix

The resolution of child custody and visitation disputes requires parents to act rationally in their child's best interests at a time when they are often facing overwhelming stress. Knowledgeable advice and skilled representation from an experienced Phoenix divorce attorney can assist you in your pursuit of a fair custody arrangement. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Scott David Stewart represent mothers and fathers, divorcing parents, relocating parents, and unmarried parents on the full range of legal issues relating to child custody and visitation in Arizona.

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Basic Child Custody Terms

Custody is split into two aspects, physical and legal. The court determines or approves physical and legal custody arrangements for each child:

  • Physical Custody
    The actual living arrangements of the child and the rights and responsibilities associated with daily child care.
  • Legal Custody
    The right to make decisions about the child's education, healthcare, and religion.

Physical and legal child custody can be apportioned in one of two ways:

  • Sole Custody
    When sole physical custody of the child is awarded or agreed upon, one parent has the right to have the child live primarily with him or her. That parent is then known as the custodial parent and the other parent becomes the non-custodial parent. Sole physical and legal custody generally only occurs when there are concerns about the other parent relating to drug or alcohol abuse, child abuse or neglect, criminal history, domestic violence, or mental health problems. In such instances, the non-custodial parent may be limited to restricted or supervised visitation.
  • Joint Custody
    Joint custody is the most common form of custody in Arizona. In cases of joint custody, parents share responsibility for major decision making and / or physical control and custody of the child. Parents with joint physical custody usually share legal custody, but joint legal custody does not necessarily imply joint physical custody. Parents need to be able to work together in the rearing of their children when they have joint legal custody.

What happens when we cannot agree on child custody?

When parents cannot come to an agreement, then the court will decide the custody matters for them. The judge considers a range of factors including the child's age, the time each parent spends with the child, the stability of the parents, any child abuse and neglect, any drug or alcohol problems, and more. In other words, a significant part of your life will become evidence in determining your future parenting opportunities - your past history may be used to predict future behavior. The court will make its custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. The judge has broad discretion in deciding custody matters and will weigh many factors.

Making Custody Determinations in the Best Interest of the Child

Child custody in Arizona is best settled by voluntary agreement between the parents, and the relatively low number of child custody disputes decided in the courtroom reflects that fact. The parents know it, the attorneys know it, the judge knows it, and the family court process encourages it. There is a lot to consider, of course, when it comes to making custody decisions. There are practical matters, financial considerations, and emotional realities. To help you along, here are a few answers to frequently asked questions about custody matters:

Can I modify the terms of child custody?
Once custody has been established through agreement or court order, parents may seek court involvement to modify the established arrangement. To support a modification request, the parent seeking the modification must show a substantial change in circumstances. A modification request made within less than one year of the original custody determination will only be considered by the court if the child is endangered by the custody arrangement. Additionally, states that follow the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act will only consider requests for modification if they occur in the state in which a child has an established residence in order to prevent forum shopping and custody-motivated child removals.

How can you improve your chances of gaining custody?
Remember that it is never too late to become a good parent and a better parent. If your actions have been less than model, however, then modify your less-desirable behavior with respect to the child. Do additional things to improve your parenting skills and your reliability. Start making those positive changes immediately and keep improving yourself. Recent, more-extensive involvement with your child, for instance, may help balance out a history of infrequent closeness or absenteeism in the child's life.

Can the child decide who to live with?
In Arizona, a minor child is not allowed to choose which parent he or she wants to live with upon his or her parents' divorce. Children do not always know what is best for them and they frequently change their minds. Furthermore, making such an important decision puts too much pressure on the child. That is not to say, however, that the child's desires are ignored. The child's wishes for the residential parent are considered but are not determinative.

Call (602) 548-3400 to learn more!

If you have questions about child custody, your rights, and how our legal team may be of assistance with your personal case, bring your case the attention of our firm. We serve residents throughout Phoenix and the surrounding communities of Arizona. We also have offices located in Scottsdale, Peoria, and Chandler.

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Law Offices of Scott David Stewart - Phoenix Law Firm

777 East Thomas Road
Suite 210

Phoenix, AZ 85014 View Map
Phone: (602) 548-3400
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