The needs and best interests of minor children lie at the
heart of every child custody and child visitation dispute. We understand that you want to do what is best for your
child. Our job as lawyers is to guide you through the legal process to
help you achieve that goal.
Child custody (in Arizona, technically known as "legal decision-making"),
visitation and parenting time
are determined by examining the "best interests"
of the minor child(ren). The Court is required to consider all relevant factors
as set forth in
A.R.S. § 25-403, including:
Mental and physical health of all persons involved
The child(ren)'s adjustment and interrelationship to the parents, siblings and
other family members
Whether one parent is more likely to facilitate contact with the other parent
The wishes of the child are also a factor that the Court must
consider. There is no particular age at which a child gets to “choose” which
parent to live with - this factor is a continuum where the child's wishes
carry more weight as they approach age 18.
Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody
The Court orders either joint custody (legal decision-making) or sole
A.R.S. § 25-403.01. Legal decision-making is the authority to make decisions on behalf of the
children. A parent can decide which school they will attend, what doctor they
will see, what medications they receive and other important issues. The Court
prefers to award joint custody unless the case involves issues such as
drug or alcohol abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse or other factors that could
harm the child.
The Court specifically considers domestic violence (A.R.S.
§ 25-403.03) and drug
or alcohol convictions (A.R.S.
§ 25-403.04) in entering a child custody order.
Access to a Child's Records
Unless the Court determines that there should be restrictions on a parent's
access to the minor child's records, each parent is entitled to obtain
records directly from medical providers, schools and other agencies, as allowed
A.R.S. § 25-403.06.
Primary Caretaker and Child Relocation Issues
The designation of one parent as the "primary caretaker" does not diminish the
other parent's rights, nor does it create any presumptions in the event that
further decision-making issues are litigated in Court. (A.R.S.
§ 25-403.07) However,
such a designation could affect the parent's request to temporarily relocate out
Cases involving relocation of a child to another jurisdiction and modification
and enforcement of orders from other Courts are complicated. They require an
experienced attorney to address unique legal issues. Our attorneys have
extensive experience handling relocation and jurisdiction issues. We can help
you secure permission to relocate or prevent the relocation according to your
We are also available to address Hague Convention child custody disputes. These
are complex cases that involve international child custody laws. Our family law
attorneys have the knowledge and experience to handle these difficult cases.
Resolving Child Custody Matters Amicably
Reaching a mutually acceptable agreement on custody,
parenting time and visitation is almost always preferable to a trial. To reach a
custody agreement, the parties must submit a Joint Parenting Plan
§ 25-403.02. Typically, these negotiated agreements are much more detailed
than the orders made by a Court after a trial, and are custom-tailored to your
individual case. Therefore, negotiated Joint Parenting Plans provide much more
stability and guidance to the parties with the aim of minimizing future
decision-making and parenting time disputes.
You may pursue settlement of your matter through Alternative Dispute Resolution
("ADR") utilizing the court's free settlement conference procedures or through
private mediation or arbitration.
If ADR does not resolve your case, we will assist you in obtaining a resolution
from the Court through the traditional litigation process. Our experienced
attorneys assist with preparing for and conducting Resolution Management
Conferences, Temporary Orders hearings, Emergency Petitions and all types of
trials and evidentiary hearings. We have the experience to help you establish,
modify and enforce all types of legal decision-making and parenting time orders.