The resolution of Phoenix 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 child custody lawyer can assist you in your pursuit of a fair custody arrangement. The attorneys at Stewart Law Group represent mothers and fathers, divorcing parents, relocating parents, and unmarried parents on the full range of legal issues relating to child custody and visitation as well as divorce in Phoenix, Arizona.
Custody is split into two parts, 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 childcare.
Legal custody: The right to make decisions about the child’s education, healthcare and religion.
Read our Child Custody Basics article to learn more about determining custody arrangements.
Physical and legal child custody can be apportioned in several 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 joint custody, parents share responsibility for major decision-making and/or physical control and custody of the children. 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.
When the 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 — the parents’ 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. Your Phoenix child custody attorney will be able to explain this process fully.
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. 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 as well as the child centric basis. To help you along, here are a few answers to frequently asked questions about custody matters as well as some of the governmental guidelines.
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.
Remember that it is never too late to become a good parent and a better parent. But if your actions have been less than model, 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. Parents.com has a number of guides to help you become more involved.
In Arizona, a minor child is not allowed to choose which parent he or she wants to live with. 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 a factor to be considered, but are not determinative.
For more information regarding custody guidelines in Arizona, contact your nearest law office today! Stewart Law Group has experienced and caring child custody attorneys in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Chandler, Glendale, Mesa & Peoria. Our legal team is committed to providing all of our clients with the highest quality of representation. To speak with one of our family lawyers or schedule a confidential consultation with an attorney, call 602-548-3400, fill out our online contact form or email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will respond quickly and discretely.