The 5 Most Common Ways to Lose Custody of a Child in Arizona


With the purpose of protecting the state’s children, Arizona’s Department of Child Safety has principles that include having families in stable and healthy homes that take responsibility for the children. The department underlines some of the reasons that a child can be taken away from the family home and even have parents lose custody of the children.

1. Physical Abuse

In the state of Arizona, it is permissible to use force with children “to the extent reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline” as stated in ARS 13-403. This means that spanks and disciplines of that nature are acceptable, if the parents find that it is needed in the upbringing of the child. This statute does not allow anything beyond that. Visible marks on the child such as swollen skin, cuts, and bruises cross the line into physical abuse.

Although the physical signs might not be visible, there are other indications that the child can be suffering from physical abuse. The Mayo Clinic points out red flags such as dramatic changes in behavior like anger and defensiveness. The child may act out in other ways: becoming aggressive, isolating themselves, and drop in academics.

Negative emotional effects can be a lasting scar from physical abuse that might carry into the child’s adulthood. Because of this and the obvious immediate dangers, parents can lose custody of their children due to physical abuse.

2. Neglect

Neglecting the welfare of a child can give reason enough to the state to remove a child from the parents’ custody. Not giving a child the sufficient care due to “inability or unwillingness” can cause serious physical and emotional problems in their lifetime. Failure to Thrive is a condition that children develop when they are not properly cared for. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, Failure to Thrive can delay physical strengthening and growth, mental and social skills, and puberty.

Some signs that a child is being neglected is wearing the same clothes every day, not showering to the point that the child’s hygiene suffers, and extreme lack of supervision. Although neglect is not direct physical abuse to a child, courts will still see this as a dangerous situation to be in and will remove children from parents’ custody.

3. Sexual Abuse

If a child is victim to sexual contact as described in ARS 13-1401, ARS 13-1411, or ARS 13-3507, the child will be removed from the custody of the parents. It is important to note that sexual abuse is not only the sexual contact with a minor. Exposure to any sexual materials, whether they be visual or audible, are abusive and harmful to minors’ well being.

4. Emotional Abuse

Physical abuse is a more obvious reason to lose custody of a child, but it is also possible to lose custody if the child suffers from emotional abuse as well. If the guardian is seen as creating an unhealthy emotional environment by yelling or manipulating the child in a way that risks their emotional health, a child may be removed from the familial home.

Most recently in the news, a couple in Maryland lost custody of two children after posting Youtube videos of pranks gone too far. The couple is seen yelling at the two children under ten years old for messes that they didn’t make. The children are visibly afraid and upset with the situation meant to be a joke by the parents. The prank turned traumatic for the children and are now in the custody of the biological mother.

5. Child Abduction

Although a parent may have shared custody of a child, all parties must consider each other when considering moving children or taking them on vacations for extended periods of time. When a couple divorces and there are children from the marriage, it is required that they create a parenting plan. A parenting plan that is approved by a court organizes the responsibilities of each parent and dictates the expenses and how much time the children spend with each parent.

Time is divided in a way that the court believes best serves the interest and well-being of the children. Since this is court ordered, parents cannot deviate from the parenting plan; parents must turn over children to the other as a schedule says. There is a way to ask for permission to change the schedule based on specific situations in order to fit the day to day situation of the children’s life.

If permission is not asked for, however, this can be a serious offense. Unexpectedly moving with a child or extended unexplained trips can be labeled as child abduction. This can be reason enough to lose the custody that the parent had.

Other Ways of Losing Custody

There is not a specific set of statutes in Arizona that outline every way of losing custody of a child. With the goal of having children in “safe, strong families to succeed in life”, however, family situations that do not exemplify this standard are subject to investigations by DCS specialists.

How JacksonWhite Can Help

If you are facing the possibility of losing custody of your children, JacksonWhite can help. The AZ Family Law team is experienced in custody issues and has a proper understanding of Arizona’s requirements for child safety. Attorneys Tim Durkin and Jon Mark McAvoy can help you navigate child custody whether it is during a divorce process, parenting plan modifications, or DCS investigation and court proceedings. If you have concerns about the custody of your children, call JacksonWhite at (480) 467-4348.

Report Child Abuse

If you suspect that a child is a victim of abuse, you can report concerns to Arizona’s Statewide Toll-Free Child Abuse Hotline: 1-888-767-2445. Any reasonable suspicions are enough cause to call and “do not need to prove the abuse” as stated by the Department of Child Safety.

Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.

Contact Our Family Law Team

Call (480) 467-4348 or fill out the form to schedule your consultation and discuss your best legal options.