In Arizona, we do not use the term “custody.” We instead use the terms “legal decision-making” and “parenting time.” These two aspects of a parenting plan comprise what is traditionally considered custody in other states. In determining parenting time and legal decision-making in the child(ren)’s best interests, the court refers to what is known as the Best Interest Factors.
Best Interest Factors
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, including:
When entering an order regarding legal decision-making, the Court refers to A.R.S. 25-403.01, below:
“‘Legal decision-making’ means the legal right and responsibility to make all nonemergency legal decisions for a child including those regarding education, health care, religious training and personal care decisions.” A.R.S. § 25-401(3). Legal Decision-Making can be ordered in three different forms:
Joint Legal Decision-Making: This means both parents have to make decisions regarding the health, education, welfare and religious decisions together regarding the minor child(ren). Neither parents’ rights are superior to that of the other parent. A.R.S. § 25-401(2).
Joint Legal Decision-Making with Final Say: This means both parents confer to make decisions regarding the health, education welfare, and religious decisions together regarding the minor child(ren), however, in the event of a dispute, the parent with final decision-making authority has the ability to make the final decision in the event of a disagreement. This requires both parents to communicate regarding the best interests of the children but designates one parent with superior decision-making authority over the other parent.
Sole Legal Decision-Making: This means one parent is designated with the authority to solely make decisions regarding the health, education, welfare, and religion of the minor child(ren). This does not mean the parent with sole decision-making authority does not have to keep the other parent informed, can prevent them from attending medical appointments, school functions, religious functions, etc., it simply allows one parent to make decisions.
Pros and Cons of Joint Legal Decision-Making
Both parents are involved in making decisions in the best interests of the child(ren).
|When the parents cannot agree, the parties must use the Court or other court professionals to resolve the issue.|
|Both parents have input.
|If one parent is unfit, joint legal decision-making may not be in the child’s best interests, particularly where one parent is the perpetrator of significant domestic violence.|