Arizona Child Custody Terms

Family Law

Ending your marriage might be one of the biggest challenges you will ever face. Navigating through a divorce is painful, but it is even more difficult when child custody issues are involved.  Hiring an experienced Scottsdale Family Law attorney to handle child custody issues can provide you with the legal expertise, support, and advocacy you need to navigate the complexities of the legal system and achieve a favorable outcome for you and your children.

Contact the lawyers at Scottsdale Family Law to help negotiate the custody arrangements for your children.  With more than 100 years of combined experience, our family law attorneys have the knowledge, skills, and expertise you need.  To set up an appointment with a member of our team, all you need to do is call 602-279-1900, or click the button at the top of this page. 

Why You Should Hire an Experienced Scottsdale Family Law Attorney to Handle Child Custody Issues

One of the biggest mistakes parents make when going through a divorce is to assume they can manage child-related issues on their own. Regardless of how amicable your relationship has been with the other parent, agreeing on parenting issues often presents a unique set of challenges. 

It’s naïve to assume that you and your spouse will be able to work out all the details of a parenting plan unaided.  If you want to make sure that you and your children’s rights are fully protected, it is important to seek guidance from an experienced Scottsdale Family Law attorney.  The process of determining child decision-making and parenting time is unfamiliar territory for most people. Here are a few key things you need to know.

Commonly Asked Child Custody Questions

n Arizona, “child custody” has historically been divided into two separate types: legal custody and physical custody.  Although these terms are well known to most people, they are no longer officially used by the Arizona court system.  The term “legal custody” is now referred to as “legal decision-making,” and “physical custody” is now called “parenting time.”

What is legal decision-making?

Legal decision-making refers to the authority granted to a parent (or guardian) to make important decisions on behalf of children.  It encompasses important issues, including education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities.  In deciding the issue of legal decision-making, the Court will determine which parent has the right to make these major decisions that affect children’s lives.

Legal decision-making may be awarded solely to one parent (called “sole legal decision-making”) or shared between both parents (called “joint legal decision-making”), depending on the circumstances of the case and what is determined to be in the best interests of the children.

When legal decision-making is shared by the parents, both parents are required to consult with each other and make joint decisions regarding these important issues.  However, depending on the circumstances, specific decision-making responsibilities may be allocated to each parent based on their strengths, abilities, and the children’s needs.  In determining legal decision-making, the best interests of the children are prioritized, and several statutory factors must be considered.

What is parenting time?

Parenting time refers to the schedule or arrangement that determines when children will spend time with each parent when the parents live separate and apart.  Parenting time is also commonly known as “visitation” or “access,” but the legal term is parenting time.

Parenting time schedules can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the family and the best interests of the children.  These schedules may be agreed upon by the parents themselves or ordered by the court if the parents are unable to reach an agreement.  The court may consider factors such as the children’s ages, the parents’ work schedules, the children’s school schedules, and any history of domestic violence or substance abuse when determining the parenting time schedule.

The primary goal of parenting time arrangements in Arizona is to ensure that the children maintain a strong and meaningful relationship with both parents, while also considering the child’s best interests and well-being.  Additionally, parenting time schedules should be flexible enough to accommodate the child’s evolving needs and extracurricular activities.

In many cases, parents will be awarded equal parenting time, where children spend an equal amount of time with each parent.  In appropriate cases, one parent may be awarded primary residential “custody,” and the other is considered the non-custodial parent.

Holidays and special occasions are also included as part of parenting time. Parents will determine in advance how their child will spend important holidays and special events such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, spring break, and summer vacations.

What is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a comprehensive parenting agreement that outlines how parents will share parenting responsibilities and make decisions regarding their children.  It acts as a roadmap for co-parenting and establishes guidelines for the care, upbringing, and well-being of the children.  The plan includes details such as each parent’s rights and responsibilities for the personal care of the children and for decisions in areas such as education, health care and religious training, the parenting time schedule, the procedure for parenting time exchanges, the procedures for addressing disputes or alleged breaches of the agreement, the procedure for how parents will communicate with each other about the children, how often the document will be reassessed, etc.  The plan will specify the legal decision-making arrangement, and sets forth the parenting time schedule and arrangements for when the children will spend time with each parent, including regular parenting time, holiday and vacation schedules, transportation arrangements, and procedures for resolving scheduling conflicts.  It may include provisions for how parents will communicate with each other about parenting issues and share information regarding the child’s well-being, school activities, medical appointments, and other important matters.

Parenting plans are highly individualized and should be tailored to the unique needs and circumstances of each family.  Parents are encouraged to collaborate and negotiate in good faith to develop a parenting plan that prioritizes the best interests of their children while also considering each parent’s rights and responsibilities.  Once agreed upon or ordered by the court, a parenting plan becomes a legally binding document, and both parents are required to adhere to its terms.

What is a Parenting Coordinator?

If parents are combative, uncooperative, or unable to agree on parenting issues, the use of a Parenting Coordinator may be helpful.  A Parenting Coordinator is a trained professional who can help parents by assisting them with implementing and complying with their legal decision-making and parenting plan orders and helping them resolve conflicts that arise concerning legal decision-making and parenting plans.  It is important to know that a Parenting Coordinator can only be appointed if the parents agree to the appointment of such a professional.

Contact the Family Law Team at Scottsdale Family Law

Divorce is difficult and you should not do it alone.  Trust our experienced family law team to help you navigate through the complexities of your child-related issues.  Contact us today to learn how we can help make sure your parenting agreement benefits you and your children the best.  Call us today at 602-279-1900.

Key Expertise:
  • Representation in child custody agreements
  • Representing the client in child-related court proceedings
  • Representing the client in modifying child-related orders
  • Advising on child-related matters

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