In the past, judges tended to award custody to mothers when a couple separated. Fortunately, times have changed, and Arizona law now dictates that mothers and fathers get equal consideration in a custody battle.
Moreover, depending on the specifics of the case, the court may opt to award primary or even sole custody to the father. Keep reading to learn how child custody cases work in Arizona and the ways in which a father can win a custody battle.
Understanding Child Custody Terms
Arizona may assign fathers custody (known as legal decision-making) or visitation, (known as parenting time).
If you’re awarded sole or joint legal decision-making, you will be able to make major decisions about your child’s healthcare, education, and religious upbringing.
For example, you will have a role in determining where your child goes to school or if they attend church each week.
On the other hand, fathers who are awarded parenting time get a certain amount of physical custody but not the right to make significant decisions. The parenting plan created by the court specifies where children will live and how much parenting time they will spend with each parent.
Establishing Paternity in Arizona
It’s worth noting that Arizona courts will not award parenting time or legal decision-making until paternity has been established.
If you’re an unmarried father looking to win a custody battle, you may need to take a DNA test to prove you have a legal right to visitation. Failing to establish paternity could leave you at the mercy of the mother’s whims when it comes to spending time with your child.
Additionally, establishing paternity could prevent you from facing legal consequences down the line. If you don’t have a legal right to see your child, the mother could opt to call the police and forcibly remove the child from your care.
By taking a paternity test, you can secure your rights while ensuring your child receives proper emotional and financial support in the coming years.
Arizona Child Custody Laws
Once legal paternity has been established, you will have the same parental rights as your child’s mother. As of 2010, Arizona is no longer a “pro-mom” state.
In other words, mothers and fathers have equal rights in case of divorce or separation. Rather than assuming young children are better off with their biological mothers, the courts now believe that it’s important for children to spend time with fathers, too.
Children should have “substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing parenting time with both parents” except in cases involving domestic violence or substance abuse. The goal is to find a custody arrangement that fosters the child’s security, health, and happiness.
Here are some of the various factors courts consider when awarding legal decision-making or parenting time:
- The quality of a child’s relationship with each parent
- The parent’s ability to create a safe, secure environment for the child
- The amount of time the child has spent with each parent
- The parent’s mental and physical capacity
- The parent’s living situation and accommodations
- Whether there’s a history of violence, neglect, or abuse
As a father seeking custody, you should consider these factors and determine whether lifestyle changes need to be made in order to increase your odds of success.
Tips for Getting Custody as a Father
Fathers are more likely to secure custody of their children today than in decades past. Here are some steps you can take to boost your chances of winning decision-making rights or parenting time:
Stay Up to Date on Child Support
Whether you’re paying court-ordered child support or giving money to your spouse based on an informal arrangement, it’s important to keep up with these payments. Beware, payments made outside of Clearinghouse are presumed to be gifts and might not be counted towards court-ordered obligations.
Regardless of the current custody situation, be sure your child support payments are sent on time and keep a record of the checks. According to A.R.S. § 25-501, both mothers and fathers are obligated to provide support for children, and failing to meet your obligations could impact the result of your custody case.
Courts may consider a parent’s home environment when making custody decisions. If you’re a father looking to win decision-making rights or parenting time, start by getting your home and finances in order. Along with creating a space in the house for your child to sleep, you may need to acquire furniture, toys, and study supplies.
Additionally, fathers should ensure they have sufficient funds to take care of the child. You can present this information to the court as evidence of your desire and ability to parent.
The court is more likely to award custody to fathers who are already active figures in their children’s lives. If you want to boost your chances, start by showing up for your child on a regular basis. Avoid canceling or rescheduling visitation dates and be there for important occasions, such as birthday parties, sports games, and family vacations.
Keep Detailed Records
Documentation is crucial for winning a custody case. Make your child support payments through the Clearinghouse. It’s also smart to gather medical and school records and collect family photos showing you and your child together. Strive to organize files by date so the judge can review them easily.
Connect With Your Child’s Caretakers
One of the best ways to demonstrate your involvement in your child’s life is to reach out to the other adults who take care of them. Fathers looking to win a custody battle should strive to connect with teachers, doctors, babysitters, and relatives who have regular contact with their children.
Get Help with Your Custody Case
Gone are the days when courts automatically sided with the mother in child custody disputes. While fathers can and do win custody battles, their chances are far greater when they have an experienced family law attorney in their corner. At JacksonWhite Law, we work tirelessly to help you maintain a healthy relationship with your kids for the future.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.