If you’re a father going through a custody battle, you may have a lot of things on your mind right now. Will you lose rights to your kids? Will you be able to fight for them, especially if you believe their mom to be unfit? Can a dad even get primary custody in Arizona?
Fortunately, Arizona no longer prioritizes moms in custody battles, so as a dad, you’ll have equal footing with their mother in family court. Here is everything you need to know about getting primary custody in Arizona.
The Best Interests of the Child
Arizona family courts view both parents as having equal rights to their child. Even more importantly, the courts prioritize the best interests of the child above all else. This means that they won’t make decisions based on what is most convenient for the parents. Custody rulings are always made with the child’s benefit and wellbeing in mind.
As a concerned father, though, what does Arizona’s focus on the best interests of the child mean for you? First and foremost, it means that there’s no presumption that mothers make better primary caregivers than fathers, which is good news for all the dads out there. Arizona family courts believe that it is important for a child’s development and growth to maintain relationships with both parents whenever possible. Judges will try to maintain those relationships unless doing so would endanger the child.
Types of Custody
These days, Arizona courts have gotten away from the term “custody” in favor of more precise terminology. Courts award decision-making rights, which means who has the ultimate say-so in big decisions such as health care and education, as well as parenting time, which is of course the amount of time the child spends in your physical custody. Primary custody means that you have the majority of parenting time, and possibly more decision-making rights as well. Sole custody implies that you have both decision making rights and physical custody, although the other parent may or may not have visitation with your child.
How To Seek Primary Custody
Since Arizona family courts prioritize the best interests of the child, in order to get primary custody you’ll need to prove it’s in the best interests of your child if you are the primary custodial parent. If the mother has a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, or other concerns to the child’s safety and wellbeing, you should have a fairly watertight case for primary custody. Even being able to provide a more stable and consistent home could be a strong argument in your favor. An attorney can help you build a compelling case in your favor.
Extra Steps for Unmarried Fathers
If you and the mother weren’t married at the time of the child’s birth and you’re not on the birth certificate, you may have some extra steps before you can seek primary custody of your child. The court requires you to file for establishment of paternity first. Once paternity is established, you’ll share all the same rights (and responsibilities) as the mother.
Arizona’s policy of putting children first looks great on paper, but in reality, it’s still important to have good representation and present a solid case when you go to court. Contact Simon Law Group, PLLC, today for a consultation of your case to determine the best way we can help in your quest for primary custody.