Do Courts Favor Mothers in Custody Cases in Arizona?
Do Courts Favor Mothers in Child Custody Battles in Arizona | What You Need to Know
Parenting children is the most important and rewarding endeavor you can undertake in your lifetime, regardless of your marital status. However, Mothers and Fathers have also argued and fought for decades over their right to obtain legal decision making (formerly “legal custody”) and parenting time (formerly “visitation”) rights to their children whenever their marriage or relationship unfortunately ends. There is no single issue more emotionally charged or hotly contested than legal decision-making and parenting time matters. That said, it is very important to protect your parental rights and the best interests of your children by engaging the services of a professional, compassionate and court experienced family law attorney to advise and assist you through this often difficult process.
Most jurisdictions across the United States, including Arizona, now follow the best interest of the child standard, whereby the court takes multiple factors into account to determine legal decision-making, parenting time and the children’s primary residence. It is always a wonderful thing when Mom and Dad are able to work out their own agreements regarding decision-making, parenting time and division of school breaks and holidays. However, when these discussions come to an impasse, which they often do, it requires preparation by you and your attorney. You will need to be prepared to present the most appropriate parenting plan to the court, including factually based information, witnesses, and documentation on both parents and the children’s relationships with each parent.
The process to establish what is in the best interests of the children can be lengthy. It may include testimony and documentary evidence from both parents, as well as other family members with first-hand knowledge of the family. A case can also potentially involve court-approved family, custodial or parenting experts to provide a formal written report and testimony to the court. These experts can interview the parents, children and multiple additional collateral sources. The expert may also review any relevant documents regarding drug abuse or alcohol abuse, medical records, mental health issues, domestic violence, criminal charges and school records for the parents and the children.
After hearing all of the relevant testimony, and receiving all of the admissible evidence presented in the case, Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) § 25-403 (A) and (B) provides that the court must consider eleven listed factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being and why the court’s decision for legal decision-making and parenting time is in the best interest of the children.
The most compelling factors the court must consider when deciding legal decision-making and parenting time in Arizona include the children’s relationships with each parent and any siblings, the children’s adjustment to each parent’s home, schools and the community each parent resides in, and the wishes of the children, but only if the child is of a suitable age and maturity to make such decisions.
Another major consideration for the court is the mental and physical health of all individuals involved and which parent is more likely to allow the children frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. It is very concerning to the court when one parent appears to be denying the children regular contact with the other parent, absent considerable cause. The court also weighs domestic violence, child abuse and neglect heavily, as well as any false reporting of these criminal acts. Therefore, in determining legal decision-making and parenting time matters for the best interests of your minor children, the judge shall make a ruling considering all of the relevant factors pursuant to A.R.S. 25-403, not based on any preconceived bias toward the Father or the Mother.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about whether courts favor mothers in child custody cases to ensure everyone has access to information about child custody laws in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and 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 child custody case should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce.