The divorce process in Mesa or elsewhere is always distressing, but for divorcing spouses with children, no part of the divorce process is as emotionally fraught as deciding child custody. Arizona courts prioritize the best interests of children in all decisions, but no parent enjoys the idea of a judge deciding the amount of time they’re allowed to spend with their children. Divorcing parents often have conflicting ideas about what is in their child’s best interest conflicts. If they’re unable to come to a fair agreement for sharing child custody, a judge must decide for them.
In some cases, Arizona family courts make decisions for child custody for non-married parents, including proving paternity and choosing a parenting time schedule and child support obligation for parents who were never married but share a child.
For any Arizona parent facing a court decision on custody, a child custody attorney in Mesa can help. Call or contact Stewart Law Group in Mesa today so we can hear about your custody case and begin working on a strategy for your desired outcome.
How Can a Mesa Child Custody Attorney Help?
Nothing is as important in your Mesa divorce case as the custody of your children. The Mesa child custody lawyers at Stewart Law Group are ready to assist you in obtaining your goals for child custody with a resolution-based approach to representation. We will put our over 100 years of combined legal experience behind your child custody case in the following ways:
Understanding the Legal Framework
At the Mesa law firm of Stewart Law Group, we understand that the courts operate under the presumption that children should have continued close contact with each parent rather than favoring one parent over the other. However, this presumption is rebuttable. If you have reason to believe that your children spending an equal amount of time with your spouse is not in their best interests, we can demonstrate this to the court.
Establishing a Suitable Custody Arrangement
Ideally, both parents in a child custody case in Arizona reach an agreement on a suitable custody arrangement with shared parenting time in a schedule that’s in their children’s best interests and that works for their daily routines. With the help of your Mesa child custody lawyer from Stewart Law Group, we’ll use a resolution-based strategy to settle this critical matter out of court whenever possible.
Presenting Your Case in Court
If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement on shared custody, your attorney from Stewart Law Group will put their years of experience in Arizona Family Court behind you in strong litigation in court to present your case in the best possible light in front of the judge.
Modifying and Enforcing Child Custody Orders
The Mesa divorce and child custody lawyers at Stewart Law are ready to represent clients with existing custody orders. We understand that circumstances can unavoidably change, requiring a request for modification of existing child custody orders. We’ll diligently represent your case for modification to the judge to maximize your chances of achieving the best possible outcome. Modifying child custody orders requires showing the court how it is in the child’s best interest to make the change. Parents may not submit a request for modification within a year of a previous order unless the child is at immediate physical or emotional risk.
Our child custody attorneys can also help enforce existing child support orders if your ex-spouse isn’t following the judge’s orders or your agreed-upon parenting schedule.
Handling Matters Related to Child Support
Arizona courts believe that all parents have an obligation to support their children. In the vast majority of divorce judgments in Arizona, custody decisions also come with child support orders. At Stewart Law Group, we are the Arizona divorce attorneys to handle child support orders and all decisions for determining the appropriate amount of child support in your case, enforcing existing orders, or requesting a modification due to a change in circumstances.
Motions for Temporary Child Custody in Mesa
Many divorcing spouses request a temporary child custody order at the time of separation during the divorce process. Arizona requires a 60-day waiting period after a spouse files a petition for divorce. Even when spouses agree on all divorce terms such as the equitable division of their marital assets, the court still requires them to wait until the 61st day after filing for divorce to finalize their dissolution of marriage.
For many divorcing spouses, the decision for child custody cannot wait until the divorce is final. If you need immediate court-ordered guidelines for child custody while you await your divorce hearing, the Mesa child custody lawyers at Stewart Law Group can file a motion for temporary custody. If a judge grants the motion, the order for child custody remains in place until the final judgment at the divorce hearing.
You may require further temporary motions such as child support and spousal support (alimony). An Arizona child support attorney can help you put these temporary guidelines in place during your divorce to protect your children’s best interests.
Mesa’s Best Interests of the Child Standard
Family courts in Arizona make all decisions in the best interests of the child, but many parents engaged in child custody disputes wonder exactly what this means for their case, especially when they have conflicting ideas about what’s in the best interests of their child. According to Arizona’s statutes, the “best interests of the child” standard considers every factor relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being including the following:
- The past, present, and ongoing future relationship between the child and each parent
- The accustomed daily interactions between the child and each parent as well as siblings and other family members
- The child’s connections to their community, home, and school
- The child’s wishes if they are of an age and maturity to express an “intelligent preference” (not childish whims)
- Each parent and child’s mental and physical health
- Each parent’s willingness to facilitate continued close frequent contact between their children and the other parent
- Whether or not a parent intentionally misrepresented facts during the custody dispute to sway the decision or cause intentional delay
- Any history of domestic violence
- Any history of child neglect or abuse
- Any history of falsely reporting child abuse or neglect by the other parent
- Either parent’s use of duress or coercion upon the other parent to prompt a child custody agreement
All of the above factors weigh into any court decision for child custody should divorcing parents be unable to reach a mutually acceptable child custody agreement outside of court. In some instances, if it’s in the child’s best interests, a judge may order supervised parenting time only, or no parenting time at all for one parent in cases of abuse, neglect, untreated addiction, or domestic violence.
How is Child Custody Determined in Mesa, Arizona?
Arizona family courts always encourage divorcing parents to communicate and compromise during the divorce process. It’s best for each spouse to put their children’s needs ahead of all personal rancor or animosity toward the other spouse when determining child custody and parenting time. Spouses may meet with their attorneys or a professional mediator to decide on a parenting time schedule that works for their family’s unique needs. Professional mediators take a resolution-based approach to help parents form a workable schedule for shared parenting time, often making suggestions that parents may not have considered on their own. If both spouses agree on a shared custody schedule that works well for them and their children, a judge is likely to simply sign off on the agreed-upon schedule. The only exceptions are in cases that appear egregiously unfair to one spouse, aren’t in the child’s best interests, or if a judge suspects one parent was under duress while signing the agreement.
When parents are unable to reach an agreement for their children’s custody outside of court, a judge must decide for them. Arizona courts hear testimony and review evidence from both parents to determine what’s in the child’s best interests and then make a determination based on the particulars of each individual case. Arizona courts show no preference for mothers or fathers in determining child custody.
In some child custody cases in Mesa, the court seeks counsel from outside resources and specialists who may assess the family’s situation and make recommendations for child custody under the circumstances of the case.
If you’re facing a child custody dispute in Mesa, your attorney from Stewart Law Group will represent your rights throughout the process and help you demonstrate to the judge why your desired parenting time schedule is in the best interests of your children.
The Importance of Legal Decision Making, Parenting Time, and a Parenting Plan
In Arizona, the courts divide child custody into two categories, legal and physical custody. Divorcing spouses and their attorneys may negotiate an agreement on both legal and physical child custody outside of court in a mutually agreed-upon divorce settlement, or they may present their case to the court for a judge to decide. Before beginning any child custody or parenting time schedule, it’s important to understand the two categories of child custody in Arizona, including both legal decision-making custody and physical custody.
Legal Decision-Making Custody in Arizona Child Custody
When deciding child custody, the courts consider more than just where the child spends time physically. Child custody also involves parental decision-making authority for children. The courts consider evidence and testimony before deciding which parent has the authority and responsibility to make important, non-emergency decisions for the child. This includes decisions on a child’s medical care, education, religion, and extra-curricular activities.
The courts may choose one parent for legal decision-making custody, or parents may reach an agreement to share joint decision-making custody of their children if they demonstrate that they are able to openly communicate and compromise.
Physical Custody/Parenting Time
Besides the authority to make important decisions for children, divorce courts in Mesa must also determine the amount of time the children reside with each parent if both spouses are unable to reach a mutually agreeable decision on their children’s custody in a divorce settlement agreement outside of court.
Arizona has many examples of child custody schedules that split parenting time between both parents. Parents may choose from any of these schedules that work well for the ages of the children, their work schedules, and their individual daily routines as well as those of their children.
The courts begin with a presumption that equal—or close to equal—parenting time for both parents is ideal, but this does not always work well for each family’s unique situation.
The child custody attorneys in Mesa from Stewart Law Group can help parents determine a parenting time schedule that works best for their family or will present evidence to a judge to show why your desired custody arrangement is in the best interests of your children.
Do Parents Have to Follow the Court-Ordered Parenting Plan?
If both parents agree to deviate from the parenting plan due to a temporary schedule change, a planned trip or vacation, or to accommodate a child’s extra-curricular activities and they are able to openly and honestly communicate and compromise, they aren’t required to follow the parenting schedule. However, it’s best to discuss this with your child custody attorney, especially before making a permanent deviation from the court order since this may impact the child support obligation in your case. If a permanent change becomes necessary, it’s best to seek a modification of your existing child custody and child support orders in court.
Contact the Mesa Child Custody Attorneys at Stewart Law Group Today
If you’re seeking help in creating a parenting time schedule in your Arizona divorce with child custody, or you’re facing a custody dispute in your divorce process, it’s time to reach out to the most experienced child custody attorneys in Mesa today. At Stewart Law Group, our results-oriented team represents clients inside and outside of courtrooms in making critical decisions on their child’s custody. We provide individualized strategies to achieve your objectives.
Contact our Mesa family law attorneys today to schedule a consultation on your child custody case in Arizona.