If one is contemplating divorce in our state, when there are children involved, the first thing that comes to mind is child custody. The health and welfare of our children is always our primary concern. But, for our Arizona readers, our state makes the process very clear.
As a prerequisite, child custody is a legal term that refers to which parent can make decisions about the welfare of their child, where the child will live and visitation rights. The parent named the custodial parent is said to have primary custody of the child, and generally, that parent controls where the child lives. Though, keep in mind, in Arizona, there is no preference given to either parent based on their sex.
Parenting time, otherwise known as visitation, residential time, access or contact is the legal term used to refer to the time parents are legally allowed to spend with their children when they do not have sole legal custody. This term is often used for the non-custodial parent.
Of course, parents are empowered to make decisions together before going to court. However, where the parents cannot agree on custody and parenting time, the Arizona family court system can and will make final determinations in the divorce process. This is done at the Superior Court level, which handles family and divorce matters.
Sole versus joint custody
Sole legal custody is when one parent orders that they are responsible for making all major decisions for the child. This also, usually, means that this parent is where the child residents primarily. In joint legal custody, both parents share in making decisions for the child, and a written parenting plan must be agreed to by the parents and court. The child will usually split time with the parents or live in one shared home. However, as Section 25-403, Arizona Revised Statutes explains, this does not mean a 50-50 split.
As our Tucson, Arizona, readers can see, child custody can be tricky, especially because a judge may need to get involved. Nonetheless, if the parents can agree on the best interests of the child, neither will have to worry about what some stranger will dictate.