Arizona Child Custody Attorneys
Child Custody Attorneys – Arizona Revised Statutes Sections 25-401 to 25-417
The term “child custody” in Arizona refers to both the right of a parent to make major decisions for their child and their responsibility to provide for the daily care of their child. These are not issues intact families have to think about. Child custody issues arise when parents of a child separate from each other.
If parents are able to agree about all the child custody issues, both parents can create their parenting plan that contains a schedule for the child to spend with each parent during the school year, during the summer months, and during all of the holidays the parents intend to spend with their children. The parenting plan will also include agreements regarding the school the children will attend, the doctors the children will see, and how disagreements regarding educational and medical decisions will be resolved in the future.
If you and the other parent do not agree on a parenting plan, the court will have to schedule a child custody trial after which the court will determine what parenting plan is in the best interests of your child. This means a judge gets to decide how much time you spend with your children and what major medical and educational decisions you may or may not have control over for your child.
This part of Arizona family law can be emotional and very difficult. It is very important for you to meet with an Arizona child custody attorney who has the knowledge and experience building the strongest child custody case for you. The child custody attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC have been helping clients prevail in child custody cases for decades. We have over 70 years of combined experience handling child custody cases.
Our child custody attorneys have the knowledge and experience to help you win your child custody case. You can check out all of the awards and recognitions we have received including US News Best Attorneys, Best of the Valley as voted by Arizona Foothills Magazine viewers, and SuperLawyers which is reserved for only the top 5% of family law firms. Call our child custody attorneys today at (480)305-8300 to schedule your personalized consultation.
Legal Custody in Arizona
One aspect of child custody in Arizona pertains to the form of legal custody. The form of legal custody has nothing to do with how much time the parents spend with their children. Instead, legal custody means whether both parents will have equal rights to make major educational and medical decisions for their child or whether one child will have the exclusive right to make those decisions. The two types of legal custody in Arizona, therefore, are:
Joint Legal Custody: Parents who have joint legal custody share the right to make education, and medical decisions for their children.
Sole Legal Custody: A parent awarded sole legal custody has the exclusive right to make all medical and educational decisions for a child. A court typically will only award sole custody to a parent if the other parent is unfit due to drug or alcohol addiction or there is evidence proving there has been significant domestic violence or child abuse.
Physical Custody in Arizona
The other aspect of child custody in Arizona pertains to the parenting schedule the parents will share with their children. A court may, but is not required, to appoint one of the parents as the child’s “primary residential parent”. Some people mistakingly believe being awarded the title as their child’s “primary residential parent” means the have sole physical custody of their child.
The truth is the court is not required by law to appoint either parent as the child’s primary residential parent. The only reason for the court to appoint a “primary residential parent” is to permit a parent to apply for welfare benefits. In many cases, neither parent is anticipated to apply for welfare benefits, which eliminates the need for most judges to award either party the “primary residential parent” designation.
Physical custody arrangements can vary significantly based on several factors. At a minimum, a fit parent will see his or her children every other weekend. In many other cases, the parents may share an equal time-sharing schedule. Under an equal time-sharing schedule, the parents may have a “week on / week off” schedule or may equally divide the weekdays with the children while alternating weekends with the kids.
Child’s Best Interests
Both legal custody and physical custody decisions must be made according to what a judge believes to be in the best interests of your child. That law in Arizona requires the court to consider the following factors when deciding what legal and physical orders are in your child’s best interests:
- 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;
How to Win a Child Custody in Arizona
To win sole custody, your child custody attorney must be able to prove that it would not be in your child’s best interests for the court to grant the other parent joint legal custody. You will need to establish that sharing joint legal custody will lead to continual infighting between the parents over major decisions for the child that will, in the end, negatively affect your child’s well-being.
You and your attorney may also need to establish that the other parent has a significant addiction to drugs or alcohol that impacts their ability to participate in making important educational and/or medical decisions for your child. A court may also award you sole legal custody if the other parent has committed significant acts of domestic violence or child abuse.
You will have to present evidence to establish how your child will thrive in your household while proving your child will suffer negative consequences by living primarily with the other parent. The evidence you provide can be in the form of testimony from you and other witnesses. The evidence you provide can also be in the form of documents, such as police reports, medical records, school attendance and performance records and the like.
The key to winning custody of your child is to paint a picture of the life of your child and the life of your child while residing with the other parent. You and your attorney then want to walk the judge through a “compare and contrast” the two scenarios to prove that the child’s life in your household is far better than the child’s life in the other parent’s home.
You do not necessarily have to prove the other parent is a danger to your child. Simply pointing out parenting flaws of the other parent may be enough to tilt the judge’s opinion in your favor. However, other factors also play a roll. The other parent’s work schedule or work travel schedule may interfere with the other parent’s ability to be present for your child for anything other than an “every other weekend” schedule.
In the end, judges prefer parents to reach an agreement regarding child custody issues. Parents who agree on child custody arrangements tend to be more cooperative co-parents, which is always in the best interest of a child. Your attorney may suggest you attend mediation to help you reach a child custody agreement. This does not mean your attorney is weak or not willing to fight for you. It may be to de-escalate hostility in your child custody case, which will save you money and frustration long into the future.
Enforcing Child Custody Orders
Most people think that getting through a child custody trial and getting your child custody orders end parental conflict over your children and in most cases it does. However, some parents continue the fight even after child custody orders are entered by the court. They do so by denying visitation, not returning children after their parenting time has ended, changing the child’s school or doctor without the permission of the other parent.
At other times, some parents don’t follow the parenting plan or cancel their scheduled parenting time at the last minute. This can be very damaging to children as it sends a message that they are not important to the other parent. These actions may provide a basis to go back to court to modify the parenting plan to provide a schedule the other parent can actually exercise.
The Arizona child custody attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC are here to help you and your child if the other parent is violating your parenting plan by either not returning your children to you or consistently not showing up for his or her parenting time. We will try to negotiate a modified parenting plan with the child’s parent of his or her attorney. If a settlement is not successful, we will go to court to protect you and your children.
Hiring a strong child custody attorney who builds a strong case for your sends a message to the other parent and his or her attorney you are serious about protecting your child and your child custody rights. If the other parent is intentionally violating the terms of your parenting plan, there are serious civil and criminal ramifications to consider. In Arizona, a parent can be charged and arrested with the crime of custodial interference.
At Hildebrand Law, PC, we have had child custody cases that were serious enough to warrant the involvement of the United State’s Marshall’s service to conduct surveillance, conduct an interdiction to secure the return of a child wrongfully abducted by a parent, and secure the arrest of the parent who wrongfully kidnapped a child. We have the experience to secure emergency child custody orders and enforce those orders through local and federal law enforcement agencies.
In less serious situations, our child custody attorneys can file to modify the amount of time the other parent spends with the children to minimize his or her opportunities to violate the court’s parenting time orders. It may be necessary to obtain orders preventing the other parent from picking the children up from their school outside of their scheduled parenting time. That order can then be provided to the children’s school for enforcement by the children’s school.
Your other option is to file a petition to hold the other parent in contempt for violating the parenting plan. If the other parent is found to be in contempt of the parenting plan by knowingly and intentionally violating the parenting plan, he or she can be ordered to pay your attorney fees and can be ordered to post a bond with the clerk of the court that will be forfeited if he or she violates the parenting plan again.
If you are the parent being denied visitation, you need an attorney who will fight to enforce your parenting time rights. A parent withholding your child may put you in a position to seek a modification of your parenting plan to award you custody of your child. Many judges will find that a parent violating a court ordered parenting plan is not acting in your child’s best interests.
If you are dealing with contested child custody issues, it is important for you to have the assistance of an experienced Arizona child custody attorney who is willing to fight hard to protect you and your child. Our child custody attorneys are committed to protecting children and their parents in child custody cases in Arizona.
We have offices in Phoenix Arizona, and Scottsdale Arizona and have over 70 years combined experience representing parents in child custody cases throughout Arizona.
Call us at (480)305-8300 to schedule your personalized consultation with one of our divorce attorneys with experience in child custody cases in Arizona.
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Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about Arizona child custody attorneys to ensure everyone has access to information about child custody laws in Arizona. Chris is a child custody 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 divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through in a child custody dispute.
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