As a parent, your child is your top priority during divorce. One of the best ways to show this is to make sure that his or her well-being is the primary focus of all child custody proceedings. To do this, you need to be familiar with Arizona’s child custody laws.
It is important that you learn to distinguish between physical and legal custody. These are two separate concepts that you can combine in a number of ways. It is possible to share both types of custody, maintain only one or the other or have neither.
What is physical custody?
Physical custody is probably what you first think of when you hear “child custody.” It refers to who the child physically lives with. If you have sole physical custody, it means that your child primarily lives with you. Your child may still see his or her other parent, such as during visitation on the weekends or during specified visits.
If you have joint physical custody, your child will spend roughly equal amounts of time living with both you and his or her other parent. In general, joint physical custody is only an option when you and your ex live relatively close together. Sharing physical custody when you live too far apart would potentially put strain on your child.
What is joint legal custody?
Legal custody refers to the ability to make important life decisions on behalf of your child. If you have legal custody, you can make decisions about:
- Where your child will go to school
- Your child’s religious upbringing
- The type of medical care you feel comfortable with your child receiving
Like physical custody, you can have either joint or sole custody. With joint legal custody, you and your child’s other parent will work together to make important decisions on behalf of your child. Most parents who have joint physical custody also share joint legal custody. However, joint legal custody is also an option even if you have sole physical custody.
What is best for my family?
Every family in Arizona is different, so there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to child custody. The most important thing is that your custody agreement should prioritize and protect your child’s well-being. Making sure that you fully understand how custody works and the potential impact on your child is one of the best steps toward ensuring that you accomplish this.