Child custody is a term that was once used in Arizona to describe a parent’s decision-making authority for and visitation with their children. The term now is legally obsolete. Arizona has replaced the term child custody with its two component parts: legal decision-making and parenting time. Legal decision-making refers to the parents ability to make non-emergency medical, educational, religious, and personal care decisions for the children. Parenting time (visitation) is the schedule established for each parent to have the children in their care. It is the declared public policy of the state of Arizona that it is in a child’s best interest:

  1. To have substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing parenting time with both parents and
  2. To have both parents participate in decision-making about the child.

Joint legal decision-making requires both parents to agree about medical providers and medical decisions, which school the children attend, and any special religious education. If the parents are unable to agree on any of these issues, mediation is required and court intervention might be necessary. In limited circumstances, one parent may be awarded sole legal decision-making authority wherein that parent makes all of the decisions without the involvement of the other parent.

Parenting Plan for Child Custody in Arizona

Parenting time must be outlined in a parenting plan that defines day to day schedule that the children will follow, how school vacations and holidays are divided, telephone access, and how parenting disputes are resolved.

Arizona law provides that parenting time with each parent is to be maximized to the greatest extent possible.

In essence, it is presumed that the parties will have approximately equal parenting time with the children baring an agreement otherwise or circumstances which dictate that it is in the best interest of the child to be with one parent more than the other. The most common equal parenting-time schedules are the “5-2-2-5” schedule, “2-2-3” schedule, and the “week-on/week-off” schedule. The schedule that is most appropriate is dependent on the age of the children.

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