When it comes to parenting arrangements following a breakup, Arizona recognizes that parental rights are complex. To address these complexities, Arizona now divides parental rights into two categories: legal decision-making rights, which is often called legal custody, and physical custody or parenting time. Here’s everything you need to know about custody in Arizona, and how the state makes decisions on how to award custody.
The first kind of custody, legal custody, is what gives parents legal decision-making rights. This means the right to make decisions regarding things such as medical care and education. Arizona approaches legal custody with the assumption that both parents should have legal decision-making rights unless proven otherwise, so legal custody is typically shared between both parents, with one parent having the deciding vote if they can’t come to a decision together. In a perfect split, one parent might have the deciding vote in health care, while the other might have the deciding vote in education. In each case, the deciding parent must listen to the other parent’s input before making the final decision.
Physical custody is known as parenting time, and refers to the time the child spends with each parent. Once again, Arizona assumes that it’s in the best interests of the child to maintain equally strong relationships with both parents, so the default is to share parenting time as equally as possible, after taking into consideration school and other scheduling requirements. For instance, if both parents are in the same area, the child may spend fairly equal amounts of time with each of them. If the parents live far away from one another though, it may make more sense to spend the school year with one parent and vacations with the other. Note that even if parenting time is unequal for some reason, usually because it’s in the best interests of the child, legal custody may still be awarded jointly.
In the Child’s Best Interests
You’ve probably noticed that we refer a lot to the best interests of the child. Arizona courts try to make all decisions with regards to what’s best for the child, rather than what is more convenient or easier for the parents. In general, it’s best for kids to maintain strong relationships with both parents following a divorce, and Arizona child custody law tries to honor this by protecting both parents’ rights to their children, unless there is a good reason not to.
Making a Strong Case for the Child
Arizona’s focus on the best interests of the child means that if you believe the other parent puts your child at risk, you will have to build a case against them in court in order to be awarded more decision-making rights, more parenting time, or both. Factors that the courts will consider a threat to the child include violence, sexual assault, substance abuse, and abandonment. A strong case will be needed to prove the child’s well-being is at risk.
The Need for Legal Guidance
If you want to be able to make a case against the other parent having legal custody or parenting time, or if you think they might try to make a case against you, you can see how important it is to have an experienced aggressive divorce attorney in your corner. Contact Simon Law Group, PLLC, today and let us fight for both you and your child.