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Primary caregivers and the best interests of the child

Child custody and visitation disputes in Arizona are often bitter and contentious, and family law judges are frequently called upon to make decisions that can have profound and far-reaching consequences. These can be extremely difficult decisions to make, and judges generally consider two major factors when choosing which parent will be granted primary custody. Judges first determine which of the child's parents has taken on the role of primary caregiver, and they then choose a course of action based upon the child's best interests.

The primary caregiver is the parent most involved with the day-to-day care of the child in question. When making this determination, judges will look at which parent tends to the child's nutritional and health care needs and helps them with any problems that they are having at school. The emotional and physical needs of children are paramount when these decisions are made, and most studies have concluded that separating children from primary caregivers can lead to both emotional and behavioral issues.

While judges may lean toward the primary caregiver in child custody disputes, they will be reluctant to make a ruling that is not in the best interests of the child. Parents with substance abuse issues, unstable home environments or a history of domestic violence could find it difficult to convince a judge to award them custody even if they have acted as the child's primary caregiver.

Experienced family law attorneys may urge parents involved in custody or visitation disputes to seek an amicable settlement whenever possible. This is because protracted litigation is expensive, provides no guarantee of a satisfactory outcome and can have a negative impact on children. When parents are unable to settle their differences during traditional negotiations, attorneys may suggest alternative approaches such as mediation.

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