Filing for child custody in Arizona can take from 3 months to an entire year due to the fact that there are so many variables in the process. First and foremost, one of the parents and the child must live in Arizona.

Custody is a legal term that designates which adult has the responsibility for making decisions that might affect the child’s care and welfare. It does not mean that the adult will have exclusive access to the child. The parent without custody is usually granted time with the child.

Sometimes, this is called parenting time, access, contact, residential time or visitations. Occasionally, the two parents can agree to the parenting conditions but often the amount of time for the parent without custody along with conditions is determined by the court.

If you or someone you know is about to start filing for custody or is looking to hire a family law attorney to assist in this process, give us a call at (480) 467-4348 or contact us online.

How Does a Parent Obtain a Custody Order in Arizona?

This is a legal process that applies to certain types of cases. This does take place when a couple files for a legal separation or divorce or when a change is requested from a previous court order. It can also happen in cases in which paternity or maternity issues are raised.

Beginning the Legal Proceedings

So the first step in a proceeding is for a parent to start a court case by filing for legal separation or divorce. If the parents cannot agree on the arrangements for the child, the court will make the decision. The initial decisions can be changed in further court cases.

But if the parents do agree about custody and visitation arrangements, the court will decide if the parental suggestions are in the best interest of the child.

What is Taken into Account in Best Interests of the Child?

There are a number of factors on which the court bases its decision about the best interests of the child. The court takes into consideration the wishes of each party that is the parent who is requesting custody, the other parent and the child. In addition, the interaction of the child with each parent and any other children is examined.

The situation the child lives in, such as home, school and the community interaction is also determined. Moreover, there is some weight given to who has provided care in the past and who is likely to permit visits from the estranged parents.

Sometimes, the court takes even further steps to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Parents are referred to court mediation where the parents discuss the matter with a trained counselor present.

Hopefully, the parents can come to an agreement that the court will then assess. At times, the court can request advice from an outside agency that evaluates the family situation or call upon a social agency, such as  to do an investigation. Throughout the process, the court must also determine if there has been any domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse by either parent or any other circumstance that would endanger the child physically, mentally, emotionally or morally.

However, in the end, a decision is made by the court if the parents cannot come to an agreement.

How Long do the Conditions of the Custody Last?

Either parent can request changes in the existing court order, which must be in writing with reasons stated. The request must be made at least one year after the final court order unless there are circumstances that are deemed as harmful to the child.

Types of Custody

Sole Legal and Physical Custody
In this type of custody, one parent is granted the right to make decisions for the child. The physical aspect is that the child lives with that parent. However, the estranged parent is granted visitation rights. The feeling of the court is that the child has a right to establish a relationship with both parents, not just the one they are physically living with.

However, if one parent proves to be detrimental to the child then visitation may have some restrictions put on them or removed altogether by the court. The amount of parenting time depends on the age of the child and situation, but an increase or decrease can be contested in court.

Joint Legal Custody
Each of the parents has the same right to make decisions for the child. Note that the court can order joint legal custody separated from physical custody. To obtain joint legal custody, the parents must create a parenting plan delineating how they will work together to raise their child. At times, the court may need to make a decision for the parents, if their opinions are conflicting. However, that means going back to the court process.

Joint Physical Custody
In this situation, the child’s residence is shared between the parents. In practicality, it usually means that the child lives with each parent part of the week in their different homes.

Non Parent Custody
In certain circumstances, someone who is not the child’s parent can be granted custody. This person must be known by the child and have formed a relationship with the child. One of the following three circumstances must exist: one parent must have died, or the legal parents are not married or the court case for custody is still in progress.

Unmarried Parents
Until paternity is determined, the court usually grants the mother custody. Once paternity is known then custody is based on the same factors as if the parents were married. In law, there is no preference for any type of custody or a preference for sole custody to be granted to either sex.

Child Support
Once the custody issue has been decided, then child support can be calculated. Each parent will pay a portion dependent on the amount they earn. Note that joint custody does not mean that the parents are no longer responsible for the support payment.

Rights of Both Parents
Both parents have rights to have information about schooling, health and any other records about their child.

Parenting Time

This is one of the most contentious issues. The amount of time most likely will change due to circumstances, such as the child is maturing, there is an issue with either parent that could be seen as detrimental to the child and the wishes of the child, themselves. At times, one parent does not honor what the courts have set out; for example, parenting time is denied. The aggrieved parent cannot retaliate by reducing support payments. The only recourse is to go back to court due to the fact that the visitation rights are a court order.

Sometimes, one of the parents may fear that the other parent may place the child in harm’s way. Once a court order is obtained, parenting time can be enjoyed only if it is supervised. In that case, the visiting parent may only interact with the child in the presence of a supervisor from a social agency. The supervisor attends all functions, such as going to a movie with the child and visiting parent, or having dinner or going for a walk.

When a family reaches the point of filing for custody, many stresses have been experienced by everyone involved. Court rulings attempt to resolve some of these issues by setting guidelines for the best interest of the child.

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

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