The most difficult part of navigating a divorce with dependent children is working out the custody arrangement. Care for the your child or children must continue after the divorce, and you and your ex must work together to develop a parenting plan. A parenting plan determines where the child will live and how much time they will spend with each parent. Other details include the child’s physical residence, a schedule of the child’s activities, vacation and holiday time, and an overview of each parent’s roles and responsibilities.
As you try to negotiate the best possible situation for your child and both parental parties, it is important to know about different custody terms you may hear throughout this process.
Joint legal custody: Both parents have legal authority to make major decisions about the child. There are issues regarding the child’s upbringing that both parents will be involved in, such as education, medical care, and religion. Joint does not necessarily mean equal, so it is possible to have joint legal custody without having physical custody.
Physical custody: Refers to where the child primarily lives and spends most of their time. Joint physical means that the child has two residences, living with and spending equal time with each parent. Sole physical means that the child primarily lives with just one parent most of the time but can visit or stay with the other parent as per the parenting plan.
Custody arrangements can look different from family to family. Ideally the details of the parenting plan or terms of custody will be worked out in mediation. If it goes to court, the judge will generally lean in favor of what is in the child’s best interests.
The state of Arizona has encouraged shared custody parenting by enacting “statutes that require the courts to adopt parenting plans that make it possible for both parents to maximize their parenting time with the child while preserving both parent’s rights to share in legal decision making authority.” A child is entitled to frequent, meaningful, and continuing contact with both parents.
If you and your spouse are not able to split amicably, the custody agreement will probably cause more contention. Find out how to be prepared for potentially high conflict here.
Simon Law has a wealth of experience in navigating divorce and shared custody parenting arrangements. For more information about joint physical custody in Arizona, contact the Simon Law Group, PLLC, at (480) 771-7634. It is our pleasure to answer your questions and help you plan a path forward for your family.