Many Arizona parents who divorce have some sort of joint legal and physical custody of their children. This usually presents itself as the children spending roughly equal amounts of time with both parents, with both parents also entitled to make decision about their children’s lives. However, in some cases joint custody may not be desirable or practical for reasons of safety, such as child or spousal abuse. In these cases, Arizona law provides for temporary physical custody and decision-making rights to fall exclusively to one parent until the matter is resolved.
Reasons a parent may be granted temporary or permanent sole custody include the threat or fact of domestic violence or abuse, how the children interact with both parents and whether either parent has ever been involved in the filing of a false report of abuse or neglect against the other. The court’s overriding consideration is the best interest of the children first and foremost.
In some cases a parent may flee an abusive relationship. When this occurs, the parent should take steps to establish an exit strategy that allows for the parent to remove the children legally from the source of the abuse. If the parent does not do this or the children are left with the abuser, the court may question this decision when custody issues arise. This in turn may make it harder to obtain custody.
When attempting to negotiate a child custody agreement, an attorney might consider the past, present and future relationship of each parent to the child, just as a judge most likely will. The attorney may also look at whether there is any suggestion of domestic abuse or violence which may prevent joint custody. When appropriate, the attorney might recommend mediation to resolve custody and related issues between the parents.