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Legal Decision Making (Custody)

Arizona custody statutes changed in 2013. Legal decision-making (custody) is defined under A.R.S § 25-401 as to which party can make legal decisions regarding the children. These decisions do not affect parenting time as described below, but rather impact legal decisions related to medical care, education, and religious upbringing. The applicable statute in Arizona is A.R.S. § 25-403, which mandates that the court consider the following when entering Orders regarding decision making:

A. The court shall determine legal decision-making and parenting time, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child. The court shall consider all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being, including:

  1. The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.
  2. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may      significantly affect the child’s best interest.
  3. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.
  4. If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.
  5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
  6. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. This paragraph does not apply if the court determines that a parent is acting in good faith to protect the child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.
  7. Whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent.
  8. Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to section 25-403.03.
  9. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time.
  10. Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.
  11. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02.

Joint legal decision-making does not necessarily equate to equal parenting time. In cases involving significant domestic violence, chronic drug abuse, and chronic alcohol abuse, the Court will often award sole decision-making to the non-abusive or non-abusing parent.