What Are the Child Custody Factors in Arizona?
The judge assigned to your case will decide each parent’s role in making major decisions affecting your child(ren) and each parent’s respective rights to parental access to the child(ren). The judge’s decision is based entirely on what orders he or she believes is in the children’s best interests.
The court is required to consider several factors before issuing orders regarding legal custody (now referred to as “legal decision-making”) and the division of parenting time each parent will share with the child(ren). Specifically, the court will consider the following factors:
- The wishes of the parents;
- The child’s wishes;
- How the child interacts with each parent and any other kids or other adults in their respective households;
- The mental, emotional, and physical health of each caregiver to the child;
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and surrounding community;
- Which parent has been primarily responsible for providing care for the child in the past, as well as each parent’s current and future potential relationship with the child;
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child to maintain frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent;
- Whether either party has attempted to use duress or coercion to force the other parent into reaching an agreement regarding legal decision making or parenting time of the child;
- Whether either party has raised a false allegation of child abuse against the other parent;
- Whether either parent has been convicted of a domestic violence offense or has a substance abuse problem;
- Whether either parent has unnecessarily protracted litigation concerning the issues of legal decision making or parenting time;
If the parents are unable to reach an agreement regarding legal decision making or parenting time of their children, the court may order the parents to participate in mediation to assist them in reaching an agreement regarding these issues. If the parents are unable to resolve their differences through mediation, the court may appoint a third person, such as a psychologist experienced in working with divided families, to evaluate the case and provide an expert opinion regarding the most appropriate custody and parental access orders.
The Arizona Supreme Court in the case of In Re Marriage of Gove addressed whether a parent can be required to sign a release of his or her medical and psychological records in a child custody case. The appeals court in the Gove case held that a parent places their physical, mental, and psychological condition before the court when they participate in a child custody case as a result of the legislature specifically including the parties’ mental and physical health as an issue the court is required to consider.
It is important to understand that if the court finds the existence of significant domestic violence or a significant history of domestic violence, the court is precluded from granting custody to the perpetrator of that domestic violence and the court is no longer required to consider any of the child custody factors set forth above. You should read our analysis of the Arizona Court of Appeals decision in the Hurd v. Hurd case for more information on the effect of domestic violence on child custody decisions in Arizona.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about child custody factors in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about child custody laws in Arizona. Chris is a family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a child custody case should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.