In Arizona, the courts will step in to make parenting time decisions when the parents are unable to come to an arrangement on their own. Under state law, when the courts are required to intervene, they try to choose a plan that gives both parents time with the child and allows for them to share in the legal decision-making aspects of child rearing. Ultimately, the court's main concern with child custody matters is to adopt a plan that is in the child's best interests.
The courts look at different factors when considered proposals from the parents. They aim to balance out the rights and responsibilities of raising the child between the parent in regards to health care, education and religious upbringing. They consider the practical schedules for visitation, and they will pay close attention to where the child is for school vacations and holidays. The location and time for exchanging the child will also be taken into account as part of the overall custody arrangement.
It is also the goal of the courts to consider future needs and potential changes to the custody plan. A procedure may be outlined for addressing requested changes, alleged breaches and future disputes. The courts may establish a timeline for reviewing the terms to see if changes are necessary. In some cases, the courts may even clarify how the parents will communicate with each other regarding the health and well-being of the child.
It's generally better for parents to come to an agreement on their own. While the courts will try to arrive at a plan that suits everyone, their top consideration will always be the child. When parents are unable to create their own acceptable arrangement, they do not have to go directly to the courts. Another option is to work with attorneys who can help mediate the discussion and make proposals that will work for all parties involved.
Source: Arizona State Legislature, "Parenting plans", October 06, 2014