For parents in Arizona, child custody disputes can be among the most conflict-filled and difficult situations they might have to go through. These types of family law cases can be complex and take a long time to resolve. Because of the potential issues and possible litigation, child custody matters can also be expensive.
One way to get child custody rights in Arizona involves working with a licensed legal paraprofessional instead of a lawyer. Legal paraprofessionals are licensed to provide more services than a child custody paralegal and can handle all aspects of their client’s cases.
Legal paraprofessionals are a more affordable option than retaining an attorney and have years of experience working in the area of family law.
At De Novo Law, Stephanie Villalobos, LP, provides highly skilled legal representation to her clients. Before she received her license as the first licensed legal paraprofessional in Arizona, she worked for more than 30 years as a child custody paralegal under the supervision of family law attorneys.
Her status as a legal paraprofessional means that she is authorized to provide legal advice and representation to her clients without needing to be supervised by an attorney. To understand how to get child custody in Arizona, you need to know the different types of child custody and the processes that might be involved.
Types of Child Custody in Arizona
When many parents think of child custody, they envision where their children will primarily reside. However, child custody in Arizona refers to the parents’ legal decision-making authority.
How the child’s time will be divided between the parents is called parenting time.
Decision-making authority is defined in ARS 25-401 and is the ability of a parent to make important decisions about his or her child’s religion, education, personal care, and healthcare. It is also referred to as legal custody and can be ordered as sole decision-making authority or joint decision-making authority.
Parenting time is how much time each parent will have to spend with the child and is also referred to as residential custody.
Parenting time can be shared equally or less equally, and in some cases, a parent might only be granted supervised visits while the other parent has primary residential custody. However, those types of situations are rare and normally involve situations in which the child would be unsafe in the custody of the parent who receives supervised visits.
In general, Arizona family law judges begin by presuming that children derive the greatest benefit by having frequent and meaningful contact with both of their parents. It is only when spending time with one of the parents would present safety concerns that a judge might order supervised visits.
Legal decision-making authority and parenting time decisions are made based on the child’s best interests according to the factors in ARS 25-403. The different types of child custody and how to get child custody in Arizona are discussed below.
Joint Legal Decision-Making
Joint legal decision-making authority can be ordered when the court believes it is in the best interests of the child for both parents to jointly make major legal decisions about their child’s health, education, personal care, and religious upbringing. If this is ordered, both parents will have to reach agreements about these types of important decisions. If they cannot, they will have to ask for the dispute to be resolved by the court.
In some cases, one parent will have the final authority to make decisions.
In that type of joint decision making, the parent will still have to consult with the other parent and consider their opinions before making a decision. However, they will have the ability to make the final decision.
Sole Decision-Making Authority
In some cases, a court might find that it is in the best interests of a child to grant legal decision-making authority to only one parent. If you are granted sole decision-making authority, you will be able to make important decisions about your child’s education, medical care, personal care, and religious upbringing without consulting with the other parent.
However, the parent with sole decision-making authority will still need to inform the other parent about the decisions they have made on the child’s behalf. However, both parents will still have the ability to make routine decisions about the child’s care when they have parenting time.
Common Types of Custody Arrangements
Pursuing joint custody means that your child will live with both of you and that you and the child’s other parent will make decisions about your child together. If one parent has sole custody, that parent will have sole decision-making authority. The other parent’s parenting time might be limited to only occasional visits, or they might only have supervised visits.
In some situations, the court might grant each parent sole decision-making authority over certain aspects and the shared decision-making authority over others.
For example, if two parents are of different religions, the court might grant religious decision-making authority to one parent while ordering them to have joint decision-making authority about their child’s education and medical care.
How to Get Child Custody in Arizona
Now that you know the various types of custody orders that might be issued, it is important to understand the factors judges consider when they make decision-making and parenting time orders.
The best interest of the child factors include the following:
- The relationship the child has with each parent
- The relationship of the child with other members of the home
- How well the child is adjusted to their current home, school, and community
- Whether the child is of sufficient maturity and age to provide input
- Whether there is a history of domestic violence
- The mental and physical health of the child and both parents
- Whether one parent is likelier to encourage the development of a good relationship between the child and the other parent
- Whether either parent has a conviction for falsely reporting child abuse
- Whether either parent has misrepresented something to the court to try to secure custody or a delay
- Whether either parent has tried to secure an agreement through duress or coercion
Courts generally will not award joint decision-making authority in situations involving a history of abuse or domestic violence. If a parent has abused drugs or alcohol, there will be a rebuttable presumption in favor of granting sole decision-making authority.
If you and the other parent can reach an agreement with the help of a legal paraprofessional, your representative can submit a joint parenting plan to the court.
If you cannot reach an agreement, you and the other parent will each need to submit parenting plans and litigate the matter at a child custody hearing. Following the hearing, the court will consider the evidence and testimony and issue orders.
Temporary Custody Orders
It can take months to resolve a child custody case, especially if an agreement cannot be reached. For this reason, it is possible to request temporary orders while the case is pending to maintain the status quo until the final custody orders are issued.
Temporary orders are often used in divorces with children to minimize any disruptions the child might face. Stephanie Villalobos can draft and submit proposed temporary orders to help you with custody issues while your divorce case is pending.
Moving Out of State or Within Arizona
In some cases, a parent may want to move after child custody orders have been issued. This makes it important to include information about how any proposed relocation will be handled in your parenting plan.
Under ARS 25-408, a parent who wants to relocate with a child 100 or more miles away or out of state must provide written notice to the child’s other parent at least 60 days in advance by certified mail.
If you receive a notice of a planned relocation with your child, you must file any objection you have within 30 days. If you object, a hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, the judge will consider why the other parent wants to move, whether relocating is in the child’s best interests, the effect of spending less time with you might have on the child and other factors.
If the court denies the parent’s petition to relocate, the parent will still be allowed to move but will not be able to take the child.
As long as the child custody orders remain and are not modified, the parent who relocates will still be required to follow them.
Unmarried Fathers and Custody Rights
If a child’s parents were not married, the putative father’s paternity might need to be established before he can pursue his parental rights. If a putative father was married to the mother 10 or fewer months before the child’s birth, he would be presumed to be the child’s father.
The putative father’s paternity must also be established before the mother can pursue child support.
Paternity can be established if the parents both sign a notarized acknowledgment of paternity or if the father signed the child’s birth certificate.
Otherwise, either parent can file a petition to establish paternity with the court.
DNA testing of the putative father and the child will be ordered, and paternity will be presumed if the DNA test results show a relationship of at least 95%. The father can then file petitions with the court to establish his custody rights.
Get Help from a Legal Paraprofessional at De Novo Law
If you have questions about the different types of child custody and how to establish your parental rights, you should speak to legal paraprofessional Stephanie Villalobos at De Novo Law.
Ms. Villalobos has more than 30 years of experience helping people who are involved in child custody disputes and can help you understand your legal options.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice. De Novo Law, LLC and its Legal Paraprofessionals are not attorneys and are not authorized to provide legal advice or representation beyond the areas and scope of practice for which license is held. The transmission or receipt of any electronic correspondence or information does not create a legal paraprofessional-client relationship.
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