If you’re at the beginning or about to launch a child custody case, you probably are feeling overwhelmed with questions and unknowns. An important question on many parents’ minds at this stage is who will have medical decision-making power over the children. While ultimately only the court can answer this question, we can provide some background information about Arizona law and the different types of custody to help you understand how the court decides.
The Best Interests of the Child
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that for all child custody decisions, the court prioritizes what’s in the best interests of the child over the desires and conveniences of the parents. Arizona family law holds that in most cases, it’s important for the child’s development to maintain relationships with both parents. This changes of course if one or both parents have histories of child abuse, substance abuse, abandonment, or another issue that will hamper the parent’s ability to care for and make decisions for their child. The court decides on two separate types of custody: decision-making rights and parenting time.
Since Arizona approaches each custody case with an assumption that it’s in the child’s best interests to be raised by both of their parents, most often custody arrangements will divide both decision-making rights and parenting time equally between the parents. This might mean that one parent has medical decision-making rights while the other has the power to decide on other decisions such as educational, or it might mean that all decision-making is divided equally between the two parents. If medical decision-making is shared between both parents, the parenting agreement put in place by the court may also outline how decisions are to be made if the parents cannot come to an agreement.
In the event that the court determines one parent cannot or should not have decision-making rights, sole decision-making may be awarded to just one parent. This is a possibility if the parent has a history of domestic or child abuse, if they have abandoned their child in the past, or if they have a history of substance abuse that will make responsible shared decision-making difficult. The parenting agreement will dictate the terms of any decision-making and indicate whether the deciding parent still needs to consult with the other parent before making a decision, but ultimately the decision will fall to just the one parent.
Making Your Case for Medical Decision-Making
If you have reason to believe that you should hold sole medical decision-making for your child, it’s imperative that you make a strong case to justify why. As previously noted, Arizona holds that it’s in the best interests of the child to have both parents equally involved in their upbringing, so to be awarded sole decision-making rights you will need to be able to prove that it is not in the best interests of your child to have their other parent involved in the decision-making. Proving this can be difficult, so it’s important to be prepared with strong evidence as to why you are moving to limit the other parent’s involvement.
Finding an Attorney
Before you make your case for child custody, it’s important to find professional guidance. An experienced family law attorney knows how to build a strong case and can help you to avoid common pitfalls. For more information about decision-making and other child custody issues, or to schedule a consultation, contact the Simon Law Group today.