Determining Custody and Parenting Time in Arizona

Raising a child can be difficult for parents who are not together. Often, parents disagree about what is best for the child and who should care for the child. When parents in Arizona cannot agree about who should have custody of a child, the court steps in and makes a determination for them. One of the ways that courts ensure that parents meet the child’ best interests is by requiring parents who share legal custody to have parenting plans.

Best Interests of the Child

When parents are both asking for custody of the child, the court will determine who gets custody based on the best interests of the child. The factors that Arizona law directs the court to consider when determining the best interests of the child are:

  • The wishes of the child’s parents
  • The wishes of the child
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school and community
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent
  • Whether one parent, both parents or neither parent has provided primary care of the child
  • The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding custody
  • Whether a parent has completed a domestic relations education program
  • Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect
  • Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse

Parenting Plans

If parents have joint legal custody, Arizona law requires both parents to sign a parenting plan that details how the parents will raise the child together. The parenting plan must include the following:

  • A statement stating that the parents acknowledge that joint legal custody does not necessarily mean that both parents will have equal parenting time with the child
  • A schedule of when each parent has physical custody of the child
  • A plan for how the parents will make major decisions regarding the child, such as those involving the child’s education, health care or religion
  • A dispute resolution method
  • A timeline and method for reviewing the plan

Having an agreement in writing about parenting time and decision-making issues that also includes a way that parents can solve disagreements when they arise often can help people parent more effectively. If you are involved in a custody dispute, contact and experienced parenting time mediator who can help you with your situation.