Child Custody Laws In Arizona
Arizona Child Custody Laws for 2018
Anyone attempting to establish, modify or enforce child custody orders in Arizona should familiarize yourself with all of the child custody laws in Arizona. You should understand the child custody laws that apply to your case even if you have hired an attorney to represent you. We are going to tell you everything you need to know about Arizona child custody laws in 2018.
Knowing the Arizona child custody laws will enable you to more actively participate in the decisions being made in your case and may even help you prevail in your child custody case. We are going to cover everything you need to know about the child custody and the laws that will be applied to your case.
The Laws of Establishing Custody
The first step in dealing with child custody issues is the first time child custody orders are established in a divorce, legal separation or paternity case. When these cases are filed, the only thing the law provides is that each parent has an equal right to the care, custody, and control of their children. Well, that’s not much help. You would not have a custody dispute if the parents agreed upon what that means in terms of a specific parenting time schedule in 2018. It does not mean that the parents are automatically by law entitled to an equal parenting time schedule. Without a court order, you may be helpless to secure time with your children because all law enforcement will say to you if the other parent is withholding the children from you is “go to court and get a child custody order”. So, let’s talk about the 2018 laws regarding establishing child custody orders in Arizona.
The law in Arizona requires a married person to either file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, a Petition for Legal Separation, or a Petition to Establish Child Custody orders. For children born to parents who were not married when the child was born, one of the parents must file a Paternity Complaint to establish paternity of the child, as well as child custody and child support orders. The law in Arizona provides several alternatives to establish paternity outside of court, but a parent must still comply with the law requiring the filing of a Petition to get the issue of child custody and support before a Superior Court judge. Both parents are required to complete the legal requirement of attending the Parent Information Program class.
The Laws in Arizona Regarding Child Custody Agreements
Ok, you filed your petition, now what? The laws in Arizona, specifically Rule 69 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, permit both parents to enter into a written child custody agreement. This presumes you are able to reach an agreement – we will get back to that in a moment. All you have to do is write out a parenting plan, consistent with the requirements of Arizona Revised Statute 25-403.02, with a form of order that both parents sign and submit to the court. Arizona law requires the judge to make the decision that the agreement is in the best interests of your children and, viola, you are done. Congratulations, you just saved yourself a ton of time, money, and frustrations. But, what if you can’t reach an agreement regarding custody of your children? Well, it is off to court we go!
The Laws in Arizona if You Take Your Child Custody Case to Trial
If you cannot reach an agreement regarding custody of your children, you are going to be facing two separate but related issues. Arizona child custody laws address both a parenting time schedule and an order regarding how major decisions affecting the child are made. Generally, a parent gets sole custody or the parents share joint legal custody of their children. The 2018 laws on child custody changed the term from custody to joint legal decision making. Therefore, the court will award either sole legal decision making or joint legal decision making in a child custody case. The child custody law in Arizona is in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-403. That law sets out the factors an Arizona judge must consider before issuing child custody orders. That statute requires the court to consider the following factors a court must consider as follows:
- The relationship the child has had with each parent;
- The relationship the children have with their siblings and other people in each individual’s home with whom the children will have contacts, such as friends, family, and others;
- The children’s adjustment in each of their parents’ homes, schools, and the surrounding communities;
- The wishes of the children, as long as they are of suitable age to voice an intelligent preference;
- The court will consider evidence of the mental health and physical health of the children, as well as the physical and psychological health of the parents and anyone else in either parent’s home with whom the children will have contact.
- The existence of child abuse or domestic violence;
So, you gather all of your evidence, prepare to testify before a judge, and argue why your wishes regarding child custody are better aligned with the child custody laws in Arizona than the other parent who is making their own “pitch” to the court. The more you are able to prove your proposal is in the best interests of the child the better your chances of you prevailing. We don’t want you to miss our reference to the “best interests” of the child. The law in Arizona requires the court enter child custody orders that are in the best interests of the child. Every single child custody law is designed to require a judge to look deeply into what is in the best interests of the child.
Having said that, you should add the words “best interests” to each of the statutory factors listed above. For example, as yourself “is it in the best interests of my child to spend more or less time with someone who has committed a significant act of domestic violence?” Or, ask yourself “is it in the best interests to spend more or less time with a parent who speaks badly about the other parents?” In fact, you should ask yourself these same questions, both positive and negative, to understand how the child custody laws work in Arizona.
Laws Regarding Modification of Child Custody in Arizona
Ok, so you got over the first hurdle of establishing the original child custody orders in your case. But wait, something has changed and those orders just don’t work for some reason or another. Well, you have the same two options you had when you were establishing the initial child custody orders. You can enter into another agreed upon Parenting Plan, pursuant to Rule 69 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, or you go back to Court. The Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure and Arizona Revised Statute 25-411 are the law on modification of child custody orders. Here is what those child custody laws say about modifying a child custody order.
Child Custody Law Rule #1: You have to outline all the changes that have occurred since the last child custody order was entered.
Child Custody Law Rule #2: You have to allege and the court has to find that those allegations if proven to be true at trial, would constitute and substantial change in circumstances.
Child Custody Law Rule #3: You have to allege and the court has to find that those allegations will continue into the foreseeable future.
The law in Arizona (A.R.S. 25-411) allows a judge dismiss your request to modify child custody orders if the court reads your petition and determines that you have not complied with the legal requirements set forth in the statute cited above. You do not get a hearing – case over! You can appeal that dismissal, but that will take a long time to resolve and certainly not what you want to happen.
Child Custody Laws on Relocation of a Child
Now that we have covered the laws on modifying a child custody order in Arizona, let’s talk about one common change in circumstances that will almost always be considered a substantial and continuing change in circumstances to modify a child custody order – a parent is moving to another state. This situation is one of the most disruptive situations to exist, but there are both good and bad reasons a parent may want to move to another state with the children.
So, we covered the best interest factors in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-403 the court must consider determining which child custody orders will be in the best interests of the children. When a parent seeks to relocate with the children, those statutory factors still apply. However, there is an additional child custody law that applies to relocating children more than 100 miles from their residence. Specifically, Arizona Revised Statute 25-408, known as the child custody relocation statute, adds a bunch of additional factors for a court to consider, which including the following:
- Whether the relocation is being made or opposed in good faith and not to interfere with or to frustrate the relationship between the child and the other parent or the other parent’s right of access to the child;
- The prospective advantage of the move for improving the general quality of life for the custodial parent or for the child;
- The likelihood that the parent with whom the child will reside after the relocation will comply with parenting time orders;
- Whether the relocation will allow a realistic opportunity for parenting time with each parent;
- The extent to which moving or not moving will affect the emotional, physical or developmental needs of the child;
- The motives of the parents and the validity of the reasons given for moving or opposing the move including the extent to which either parent may intend to gain a financial advantage regarding continuing child support obligations;
- The potential effect of relocation on the child’s stability;
So, that is a lot more factors to cover in a child relocation case. Child relocation cases are substantially more complicated than a regular child custody case. But, one thing remains the same. The applicable laws require that the court weighs all of these factors to determine if it will be in the children’s best interests to relocate to another state and, if so, the best long-distance parenting time schedule for the children and the other parent.
Child Custody Laws on Enforcing a Child Custody Order
So, you have gone through all the hard work of securing a child custody order, you have followed all the child custody laws, and . . . the other parent is violating the orders you worked so hard to secure. The good news is that child custody laws found in the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure allow you to file to enforce those child custody orders. You may also elect to argue the other parent’s refusal to comply with the orders is a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. So, Arizona laws allow you to either enforce a child custody order or modify a child custody order if the other parent is violating your court orders.
Call the experienced Scottsdale and Phoenix Arizona child custody attorneys at (480)305-8300 at Hildebrand Law, PC to learn more about adopting a child in Arizona.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about child custody in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about child custody law 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.
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