Child Custody In Arizona
The issue of child custody in Arizona is one of the most important aspects of family law. Children are, by far, the most important thing in a parent’s life. Children can also be significantly affected when it comes to discussions about custody arrangments that will impact their lives.
Children can either be positively affected or negatively affected by a court’s child custody order, so it is important to make sure your actions and decisions, as well as the actions and decisions of your child custody attorney, do no harm and are in the best interests of your children. Let’s take a look at the factors the court considers when issuing child custody orders in Arizona.
What Gets Decided About Child Custody
Let’s first start by defining what we mean when we refer to “child custody” in Arizona. You should know there are two main parts of a child custody order. The first refers to who gets to make legal decisions affecting the children.
This is referred to as “legal decision making” and can either be sole custody (i.e., sole legal decision making) or joint custody (i.e., joint legal decision making). A parent granted sole custody has the right to make all major decisions for the parties’ child such as medical decisions and educational decisions.
Parents who share joint legal custody have equal input into those decisions and, absent an agreement, cannot change the child’s doctors or school. If the parents sharing joint legal custody have a dispute as to those decisions, one of the parents will need to go to court to either be awarded sole legal custody or have the right to final decision making authority over one or more major decisions affecting the parties’ child.
The Children’s Relationship with the Parents
A court will want to hear evidence regarding the parents’ relationship with the children, both past, present, and future. Oftentimes, we will submit evidence about the parents’ respective work schedules, including work-related travel, as well as evidence as to how involved each parent has been with the children, including their education, extracurricular activities, medical care, and general daily care.
The strength of each parent’s bond with the children will also be a subject most experienced child custody attorneys will want to address. Certainly, the existence of domestic violence and/or child abuse are important to the issues of child custody in Arizona.
The Children’s Relationship With Other People
A court will also consider evidence of the children’s relationship with each other, as well as any other person who may have contact with the children in the parents’ respective homes. These other people can include relatives, new spouses, or the children of new spouses. It is important in a child custody case to establish the breadth and depth of these other relationships when building a child custody case in Arizona. You should establish which relationships are beneficial for the children and which relationships are potentially harmful to the children.
The Children’s Adjustment to the Parents’ Homes and Community
Children can become adjusted to a particular living arrangement and may or may not adjust well to major changes in their living arrangements. It is important to make sure you present evidence regarding your children’s adjustment to your home, friends the children have in each parent’s neighborhood, and proximity to the children’s school and extracurricular activities.
The Children’s Wishes Regarding Custody
The court has to consider the children’s wishes regarding what kind of custodial arrangement they believe is in their best interests. The question becomes how does a court determine the children’s wishes in a child custody case in Arizona. Although a child may be deemed competent to testify at trial, nobody should put their child on the stand during a child custody trial.
Although the court cannot stop a parent from calling a child as a witness, most judges will provide a stern warning that putting a child on the stand in a child custody trial will weigh heavily against their case.
Instead, most people enlist the testimony of the children’s counselor or a court-appointed mental health professional to interview the children to determine their wishes.
The Parents Mental and Physical Health
Almost everyone has some mental health and physical health issues. Just because a parent has an issue with his or her health does not mean that parent cannot appropriately care for the children. However, significant mental or physical health issues may impact a parents ability to care for his or her children. The court will consider these limitations when deciding what types of child custody arrangements are best for the children.
Which Parent Will Foster the Children Spending Time With the Other Parent
A judge expects both parents to comply with whatever parenting time arrangement is ordered. The court does not want the parents to come back to court to enforce parenting time because one parent does not support the children spending time with the other parent. The court, therefore, will consider the actions of both parents in fostering a relationship with the other parent when considering what time of custodial arrangement the court will order.
Are the Parents Being Honest With the Court
Family law judges hear many accusations lodged by one parent at the other for the sole purpose of gaining an advantage in an Arizona child custody case. Many times those allegations are either not proven or are disproven by the other parent.
A judge is allowed to consider a parent’s false allegations against the other parent when entering custody orders in Arizona. No judge wants the children exposed to a parent who is false slandering the other parent. Doing so could lead to parental alienation, which is damaging to children.
Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, and Child Custody
If there is one factor that has the greatest impact on child custody in Arizona, it is the existence of significant domestic violence or child abuse. The Arizona Court of Appeals has indicated that a court can ignore all other child support factors if it finds a parent has committed a significant act of domestic violence against the other parents.
The Arizona Court of Appeals has also indicated the court should give paramount significance to child abuse in entering a child custody order when the court finds child abuse has occurred.
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 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.