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Custody versus “Legal Decision-Making” for Arizona children

Following your divorce, you will no doubt give high priority to caring for your children, helping them adjust to the new circumstances and guiding them into the future. Child custody laws in Arizona have undergone a change in that the term “custody” is no longer used. There are now two parts: 1) Parenting time and 2) Legal Decision-Making Authority.

Understanding the statute

Among the many Arizona statutes, 25-403 concerns “Legal decision-making; best interests of child.” Legal Decision-Making Authority breaks down into either sole or joint authority. The court favors the idea of parents making decisions jointly and for the child to spend as much time as possible with each parent. However, every case is unique, and a judge will consider all relevant factors in making a determination that benefits the child.

What the court considers

How the child and the parents currently get along is important, but the court will also weigh the past relationship among the parties, as well as the potential future relationship. In making decisions about parenting time and legal decision-making, the court will consider many other matters:

  •         The child’s interactions with siblings and any other important people in his or her life
  •         The child’s ability to adjust to home, community and school
  •         The physical and mental health of the parents and child
  •         Which parent appears more likely to ensure the child has continuing contact with the other parent
  •         Whether either parent caused any duress to the other in obtaining a parenting time or legal decision-making agreement
  •         Whether there has been any record of child abuse or domestic violence

Legal Decision-Making goals

The court will determine parenting time based on the answers to pertinent questions. Legal decision-making authority involves making sole or joint decisions, as the court decides, about major matters, such as the religion in which the child will be raised, the schools he or she will attend or the need for certain types of medical or dental care. Once you and the other parent become familiar with the new parenting time and legal decision-making rules in Arizona and how the courts interpret them, you can help your child adjust to post-divorce life effectively.

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