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How Do Courts Determine the “Best Interests of the Child” in Arizona?

Posted By Legal Team | May 9 2022 | Child Custody, Divorce & Children

When it comes to divorce or separation of parents, child custody issues often come down to determining what is in the best interest of the child. However, what exactly does that mean?

The idea of the “best interests of the child” is actually written into Arizona law, and family court judges will take this into consideration when deciding legal custody, child custody, and parenting time. Here, we want to discuss what goes into determining the best interests of a child in Arizona.

What Does “Best Interests of the Child” Mean?

Family court judges in Arizona will always use the “best interests of the child” standard when it comes to making decisions about physical custody, visitation, and legal decision-making authority for a child. When the Arizona family courts hear child custody cases, there are two issues that must be decided:

  1. Physical custody. This is now referred to as parenting time and refers to which parent the child will live with along with how much visitation the other parent will have with the child. It is possible for both parents to share physical custody, but if one parent has sole custody, then a parenting plan (visitation schedule) must be arranged for the other parent.
  2. Legal custody. Legal custody refers to which parent will have the legal decision-making authority of the child. This can include decisions related to the child’s education, health care, extracurricular activities, religious upbringing, and more. Both parents can share legal custody, or one parent could have sole legal custody.

Letting the court make all of the decisions about parenting and decision-making authority is likely not the best route. Parents should attempt to negotiate with each other to reach an amicable agreement. A skilled Scottsdale family law attorney can help parents negotiate to obtain the best custody arrangement for both the child and the parents. However, the court will review the best interests of the child, which can include:

  • The relationship a child had with each parent previously, their current relationship with both parents, and the potential future relationship based on the divorce aspects.
  • The relationship the child has with any siblings or step-siblings in the home.
  • How well the child is adjusted to their current home, school, and community.
  • The mental and physical health of every party involved.

Preference of The Child and Other Considerations

If a child is old enough and mature enough, the court will take their wishes into consideration. Additionally, the court will need to examine whether or not there was any domestic violence or alcohol or drug abuse involved in the divorce case or in the background of either parent. The court will also examine whether or not one or both parents have misled the court intentionally in the past and whether or not one parent has used coercion or duress to secure parenting time. 

Arizona Child Custody Disputes

In any child custody dispute case, the court will examine all these factors and others when working towards a final decision. It is crucial for a parent to have an attorney by their side who can advocate on their behalf. If you are in the middle of a custody dispute and the other parent provides evidence or testimony against you, a Scottsdale child custody attorney can help formulate a plan moving forward to dispute the testimony and evidence and provide your own testimony and evidence as to why you should have custody.

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