Arizona law recognizes both physical and legal custody. It is essential to understand what these mean and how they will affect you and your children. As you prepare for the divorce proceedings, it’s advisable to learn as much as you can about these definitions. The more you know, the better it will be for you and your children.
Physical Custody in Arizona
Arizona courts can decide to grant sole physical custody to one parent. They can also award joint physical custody to both parents. Physical custody means that the custodial parent is responsible for the day-to-day care of the child. The court will adopt a parenting plan which allows the child to have frequent, meaningful, continuing contact with both parents. The child lives with this parent and is responsible for providing their daily needs. However, unless the parent with physical custody has sole legal custody, it does not mean that this parent can make significant decisions related to the welfare of the child without consulting the non-custodial parent.
Legal Custody in Arizona
There are several types of legal custody in Arizona. The first is sole legal custody. Parents with sole legal custody are authorized to make significant decisions without consulting the other parent. For instance, they can approve medical treatments, enroll the child in a different school, allow participation in school activities, choose their religion, etc.
Joint legal custody is slightly different. This modified form of custody grants both parents the right to participate in important decisions. Joint custody is usually in the best interests of the child because it keeps both parents actively engaged in making the decisions that affect the child’s life. It is also one of the trickiest arrangements because it requires both parents to “meet in the middle” when it comes to decisions regarding dental procedures, medical treatment, educational opportunities, etc. For this reason, most joint custody agreements include provisions for arbitration/mediation when disputes arise.
Negotiating Custody in Divorce
Negotiating custody of the children is the most emotional aspect of divorce, and it is at this stage where most conflicts arise. Even in an amicable divorce, custody issues can cause both parties to voice frustration, concerns, and complaints that can grind the process to a halt.
It is always best to find the middle ground when it comes to custody. This point is different for each couple, and there is no set formula or pattern parents must abide. Some couples agree to make joint decisions about the most significant aspects of the child’s upbringing, including educational and healthcare needs. In contrast, others don’t want to be consulted on other elements, such as religious affiliation, participation in school activities, etc. Arizona law does not require parents to share equal decision-making authority on all aspects of the child’s life, which means both parents have significant latitude when negotiating an agreement.
Before negotiating custody arrangements, you should sit down with your attorney. You will want to define your goals and identify your priorities. You should anticipate your spouse’s reactions to your requests and determine what you are willing to trade to secure your goals. Negotiation of child custody is a balance between give and take. “I’ll give you this if I can take this.” The bottom line is that you will want to develop a strategy that will help you best protect the best interests of your child while ensuring that both you and your ex-spouse remain actively engaged in the child’s life.
Contact Simon Law Group, PLLC at (480) 462-6049, for more information about physical and legal custody in Arizona. We will answer your questions and help you determine the best custody arrangements for your family.