For the greater part of the 20th century, the family courts in Arizona tended to favor the mothers when awarding child custody. This meant that fathers who wanted shared child custody after their divorce were often disappointed. However, in the last three decades, the manner in which the courts have begun awarding child custody cases has undergone a significant shift, with the mutual agreements that favor shared custody being encouraged.
The family courts have to make decisions regarding two types of custody. Legal custody gives parents complete autonomy over the decisions regarding their children's religion, education, health care and any other part of their wellbeing. Residential or physical custody refers to where the children reside at night.
While the divorce laws are not the same in every state, there is a presumption of joint legal custody that is the starting point for family courts when child custody decisions are being made, and they are also willing to award shared residential custody. Dividing residential custody into two equal halves is rare, as there are logistical complications that can arise from working parents having to transport children back and forth during the school week; as a result, when residential custody is split, the mothers still tend to be favored.
According to one law professor who specializes in family law, the changing ideas about the role of fathers in parenting and the relaxed attitudes about divorce both resulted in the increase in the divorce rate starting in the 1970s. Both factors are also responsible for the higher rates at which the family courts began awarding shared custody.
A family law attorney might assist parents with resolving disputes regarding child custody, parenting time and other related matters in a divorce. The attorney may consider the factors of a case and may litigate to obtain a client's desired settlement terms.