Child custody laws in Arizona stipulate the legal rights that either parent has on a child. If you want to file a child custody order, it is important to understand what the law says, your obligations, as well as those of the other parent.
By understanding Arizona child custody laws, you can play an active role in the decisions being made regarding your case. Moreover, you will be better prepared and can even win the child custody case.
Read on to learn about child custody law update in Arizona and how the laws may apply to your case.
How to Establish Child Custody in Arizona
Child custody orders are typically established during a paternity case, legal separation, or divorce. When these cases are filed, both parents end up with joint custody of their children.
After a divorce, legal separation, or paternity case has been concluded, the parents can define their parenting schedules. If they are in agreement, there would be no need to file a custody case. However, if one parent feels that they are not being allocated enough time with their child, the next course of action would be to file a child custody case.
If the other parent is denying you equal time with your child, there is little you can do to make things right. Your best option would be to go to court to secure a child custody order.
But what does a child custody order entail?
Arizona Child Custody Order
In Arizona, a child custody order can only be obtained after a married person has filed a “Petition to Establish Child Custody”, a “Petition for Legal Separation”, or a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage”. When a petition is filed, both parents have equal custody rights until a judge issues a temporary child custody order.
If the child was born when the parents were not married, a custody order can only be filed after one parent files a Paternity Complaint to determine the paternity of the child. In paternity cases, a father can request the child’s last name to be changed. The court will allow the request if it feels that changing the name would be in the best interest of the child.
There are various legal ways of establishing paternity of a child outside of court. However, to be granted child custody and support orders by the court, a parent must still file a petition. Moreover, both parents will be required to attend the Parental Information Program class.
Arizona Court Jurisdiction in Determining Child Custody Cases
Initial child custody orders will only be issued if the court has a mandate to do so. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act provides the basis on which Arizona courts can exercise jurisdiction.
During a divorce, child custody, or legal separation case, you have to file an affidavit to confirm where the child has lived for the past five years. The affidavit will enable a judge to know whether the court has jurisdiction over the custody issues.
According to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, a court can determine a custody case if the child has lived in Arizona for the last six months before the filing of the legal separation or divorce.
Child Custody Agreements in Arizona
After filing a petition, what next?
Rule 69 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure allow both parents to have a written custody agreement. If both parents agree, they can write a parenting plan, which should be guided by Arizona Revised Statute 25-403.02, sign a form order, and submit it to the court.
The court will go through the parenting plan to check whether it caters to the safety and welfare of the child. If it does, the child custody case would have been determined amicably.
However, if both parents cannot agree on parental custody, then the case may have to go to trial.
Arizona Child Custody Cases Determined through Trial
If a custody case is taken to trial, the court will have to decide when the parents should be with the child and how major decisions affecting the child will be made.
Generally, the court can award sole custody to one parent or joint legal custody to both parents. Recent Arizona custody law updates refer to the custody granted as joint legal decision making. Therefore, a case can end with one parent being awarded sole legal decision making or both parents being awarded joint legal decision making.
With joint legal decision making, both parents have to agree on the child’s education, extracurricular activities, and medical care. On the other hand, sole legal decision making gives one parent authority to make these decisions on their own.
However, even if one parent is granted sole legal decision making, the other parent is still entitled to access the child’s school and medical records.
There are a number of factors that a judge must consider when determining child custody cases in Arizona. These factors are laid out in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-403, and include:
- The relationship that the child has with both parents, siblings, family, friends, and other contacts
- How difficult or easy it will be for the child to adjust in each of the parent’s homes, schools, and surrounding communities
- Whether either parent has been convicted of domestic or child abuse in the past
- The wishes of the child, as long as he/she is of legal age and maturity
- Whether one parent was applying coercion tactics to prevent the parent from getting custody of the child
- Whether any of the parents lied in court to favor their agenda in the child custody case
- Which parent is more likely to encourage ongoing contact of the child with the other parent
Child custody cases are determined based on the best interests of the child. According to Arizona law, gender is not considered when determining the parent to be awarded custody. Therefore, it is not automatic that mothers will be granted custody in Arizona child custody cases.
Sometimes, child custody cases may be complicated. In such cases, the court can appoint a qualified professional to carry out an evaluation. The professional will usually be a mental health expert and will be tasked with conducting psychological testing of both parents. The expert will also talk to the parents, relatives, friends, and anyone who knows any information about the child and present their evaluation report to the court.
The courts pretty heavily make their decisions based on what the psychological experts recommend. Therefore, as a parent, it is important to prepare yourself well for a child custody evaluation.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
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