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Divorce and Family Law

What Do Arizona Courts Consider in Determining Child Custody?

In making its order, the Court is required to consider all information that is relevant to the children’s best interests.

In Arizona, “child custody” is now called legal decision-making. The law establishes a preference for joint legal decision-making, and a parent seeking sole legal decision-making has the burden to prove to the Court why such an order is in the best interest of the minor children. Some acceptable reasons might include drug or alcohol abuse by the other parent, or sexual abuse, physical abuse or mental illness.

In making its order, the Court is required to consider all information that is relevant to the children’s best interests. In particular, A.R.S. § 25-403 lists 11 factors for the Court’s consideration:

  1. The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.

  2. 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.

  3. The child's adjustment to home, school and community.

  4. If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.

  5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.

  6. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. This paragraph does not apply if the court determines that a parent is acting in good faith to protect the child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.

  7. Whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation, or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent.

  8. Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-403.03.

  9. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time.

  10. Whether a parent has complied with Chapter 3, Article 5 of this title.

  11. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section A.R.S. § 13-2907.02.

There is no specific age at which a child gets to “choose” where to live. As the child get closer to age 18, his or her wishes will carry more weight with the Court. Typically, Courts start giving significant weight to the child’s wishes around age 12.

 
          

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