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Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody in Arizona

Posted By Legal Team | August 28 2023 | Child Custody

A critical decision in divorce in Arizona is determining child custody. The goal of the courts is to provide what is best for a child by looking at both parents to decide whether they are fit to parent a child. A priority is never placed on one parent over the other in the court’s decision, which often favors joint custody in the beginning.

But specific challenges may play a part in Arizona courts awarding sole custody to a parent. Understanding these two types of child custody in Arizona help parents better prepare for the needs of their child.

Joint Custody

The most common agreement for parenting is joint custody. This arrangement allows each parent to play a crucial role in contributing to decisions that affect a child. Those decisions often include:

  • Medical decisions
  • Educational options
  • Religious choices
  • Legal decisions 

Joint custody requires parents to work together as a team to discuss the crucial factors in a child’s life. This communication can be challenging for couples after a divorce, but it is a goal that will benefit the child and both parents.

Parenting Plans

Parents in Arizona sharing in joint legal custody must provide a written parenting plan that lays out each parent’s requirements in the parenting relationship and provides conflict resolution for unexpected interruptions in parenting time. Joint custody does not explicitly mean equal shared time with each parent but allows both parents to participate equally in the decisions that can influence a child.

Sole Custody

Certain situations may permit a parent to retain sole custody of a child. Sole custody refers to one parent making significant decisions regarding raising a child. When a court awards sole custody to a parent, that parent will make the medical, educational, legal, and religious upbringing decisions without needing to confer with the other parent.

Reasons for Granting Sole Custody

Sole custody is often granted to provide for a child’s safety. Instances of domestic violence or substance abuse can contribute to a parent being awarded sole custody. Sole custody only applies to the legal decisions that are made for a child.

It is critical to understand that sole custody is separate from physical custody or parenting time. Even parents challenged with substance abuse disorders will likely be awarded visitation rights such as supervised visits, pending they meet the court’s criteria for visitation. Arizona courts will prioritize time with both parents for a child’s benefit when possible.

In instances of domestic violence or child abuse, an Arizona court will intervene to protect a child from abuse by revoking the abusive parent’s visitation. An Arizona family law attorney can initiate the proper steps to document the abuse and protect your child by filing an Arizona order of protection to intervene in harmful situations.

Understand Your Custody Rights in Arizona

The best outcome for a child whose parents are divorcing is joint custody, allowing both parents to contribute to the decisions that will impact the child’s life. When this is not achievable, then sole custody may be granted. An Arizona family law attorney can help you craft a parenting plan that benefits your child following a divorce.

Contact the Law Office of Karen A. Schoenau for a free case evaluation concerning child custody in Arizona. You deserve an advocate who will offer sound guidance throughout the custody process and protect your child’s rights in an Arizona divorce.


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