Custody and The Best Interest Factors

How the Court Determines Child Custody Issues

How do the courts make decisions when children are involved? Best Interests of a Child.

When a family court judge makes a decision regarding Custody of a minor child, the court is obligated to make its determination based on the Best Interests of a Child. To do this, the court uses a standard called, The Best Interest Factors.  The Best Interest Factors are used by family court judges when making decisions regarding custody, parenting time, and legal decision-making.

Best Interests Factors

  • The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.
  • The wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to legal decision-making.
  • If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to the custodian.
  • The interaction and interrelationships of the child with the child’s parent or parents.
  • The child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent.
  • The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making.
  • Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.
  • Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02.

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How the Courts Determine Issues Regarding Children

The Best Interests of a Child is a standard by which a court determines what arrangements would be to a child’s greatest benefit, often used in deciding decision-making and parenting time matters and in deciding whether to approve an adoption or a guardianship.

The Law – A.R.S. § 25-403.

  1. The court shall determine legal decision-making and parenting time, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child. The court shall consider all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being.
  2. In a contested legal decision-making or parenting time case, the court shall make specific findings on the record about all relevant factors and the reasons for which the decision is in the best interests of the child

Parenting Time is the schedule of time during which each parent has access to their child. Each parent is responsible for providing the child with food, clothing and shelter during his or her parenting time. During his or her parenting time, that parent may also make “routine decisions” concerning the child’s care.

A.R.S. § 25-403.

  1. The court shall determine legal decision-making and parenting time, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child. The court shall consider all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being.

Legal decision-making is the legal right and responsibility to make all non-emergency legal decisions for a child including education, health care, religion and personal care.

25-403.01. Sole and joint legal decision-making and parenting time

  1. In awarding legal decision-making, the court may order sole legal decision-making or joint legal decision-making.
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