We know that issues of legal decision-making (formerly known as custody) can quickly become both legally and emotionally complex. Whether you choose joint legal decision-making or sole legal decision-making, you need to be sure that the arrangements you reach will be in the very best interests of your child.
Legal decision-making refers to the right of a person to make decisions about the physical, educational, health and spiritual needs of the child. There are no set rules for legal decision-making, and Arizona courts do not favor one parent over the other, based on gender, while deciding on legal decision-making.
Broadly, there are two different legal decision-making options that Arizona courts award. These however, form just a general framework of legal decision-making options, and you may have a number of other combinations or arrangements depending on your circumstances.
When sole legal decision-making is ordered, only one parent has the right to make important decisions for the child. Sole legal decision-making doesn’t mean that decisions are unilateral. Both parents may discuss these decisions, but the parent who has been given sole legal decision-making, will have final say on these matters.
Sole legal decision-making can be awarded to one party by the agreement of both parents. The court may order sole legal decision-making if there has been a history of domestic violence or abuse, drug or alcohol abuse or other circumstances that cause the court to question the fitness of the non-custodial parent. The court may even award sole legal decision-making where both parents are fit, but are simply unable to work with one another.
When joint legal decision-making is ordered, both parents have equal right to make decisions for their child. Neither parent will have preference over the other’s decision. In some cases, the court may order that certain issues regarding the child will be decided by only one parent.
A court may look at a number of factors before deciding to award legal decision-making to either parent. This includes:
The Arizona Superior Court has continuing jurisdiction of its legal decision-making (“custody”) orders. A legal decision-making order may be modified by agreement of the parties or if the Court finds that there have been substantial and continuing changes of circumstances affecting a child’s best interest. Requesting the Court to amend a legal decision-making order is a very serious proceeding and the factors for seeking a modification should be discussed with an attorney that is familiar with modification proceedings.
Parenting time is another term for visitation. It is important for a child to continue to have a meaningful relationship with both parents and Arizona courts will order parenting time to ensure that a child has continuing contact with both parents. However, parenting time may be limited or even denied if a court finds that a child is at risk of suffering from any kind of physical, mental or emotional harm resulting from contact with a parent.
Parenting time can vary according to a child’s age and needs. It also varies based upon the proximity of each parent’s home. Parenting time can range from having the child in a parent’s care for a day or two each week to caring for the child on an equal time basis.
Parenting Time Modification
Making changes in your parenting time schedule may not be simple, and you may need an experienced Arizona child custody lawyer to help alter your parenting time schedule. Certain situations may demand a modification in parenting time. These include:
Parenting time can also be modified by the agreement of the parents.