Legal Custody

Legal decision-making (custody) is defined under A.R.S § 25-402 as which party can make legal decisions regarding the children.  These decisions do not effect parenting time as described below, but rather impact legal decisions such as medical decisions, educational decisions, and in certain circumstances, religious decisions.

Legal decision-making authority (custody) in Arizona is determined under A.R.S. § 25-403, which requires the court to look at the following areas:

  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. If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.
  4. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
  5. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful 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.
  6. 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 parenting time preference to that parent.
  7. Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to section 25-403.03.
  8. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time.
  9. Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.
  10. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02.

In contested legal decision-making or parenting time cases, the court shall make specific finding on the record about all relevant factors and the reasons for which the decision is in the best interests of the child.

Joint Legal Decision-Making (Custody)

When the parties have joint legal decision-making (custody), they are required to make all significant legal decisions together. This means choosing schools, doctors, and other legal decisions must be made jointly, with neither party having any veto power.

Joint Legal Decision-Making (Custody) With Final Decision-Making Authority

In some cases the Court will appoint one of the parties to have “final decision-making” authority on a specific issue, such as medical decisions. Although one party may have this authority, the parties are still required to consult in good faith prior to a decision being made. Rose Law Group pc Family Law Attorneys can describe what circumstances make this type of authority necessary.

Sole Legal Decision-Making (Custody)

Sole legal decision-making (custody) is when one party can make all legal decisions without consultation with the other parent. This does not mean that the parent with sole decision-making (custody) can determine what parenting time the other parent gets, but rather is limited to decision making. Sole legal decision-making (custody) is often difficult to obtain, and our attorneys can describe the requirements.

Legal Decision-Making Frequently Asked Questions


What is legal decision-making?

Legal decision-making is the legal term for child custody under Arizona family law. Until a January 2013 change in statute, the official legal term was child custody.

Those named legal decision-makers by the court have the authority to make decisions affecting a child’s life. Those decisions include where a child lives and attends school, what medical procedures the child undergoes or what religious teachings he or she receives.

What forms can legal decision-making take?

Arizona family law provides two options for determining a child’s parenting structure: sole legal decision-making, in which one adult has the ultimate legal authority over a child, and joint legal decision-making, in which two people must agree on decisions affecting the child. The people named legal decision-makers might be parents, but could also be an aunt, grandparent or other adult.

What grounds does the court consider when granting legal decision-making authority?

Arizona family law statutes outline the factors the court must consider when selecting a legal decision-maker.

Those factors include the wishes of the parents and the child, the nature of the relationship between each parent and the child, any potential impacts to a child’s school and community life, and the mental and physical health of the parents or anyone else living in the home.

Rose Law Group pc Family Law Attorneys can help you navigate the courts to arrive at the best possible outcome for your situation.

How does the child custody/legal decision-making process work?

In any legal decision-making case, the court will first determine whether it has jurisdiction over the child in question. Under Arizona family law, the child must live in the state on the date the legal decision-making proceedings begin or, if not currently living in Arizona, the child must have lived in the state within six months before the start of court proceedings.

The ultimate goal of legal decision-making authority cases is a court-approved parenting plan. The plan details the scope of each parent’s authority, describes the process for how parents will communicate about the child’s needs, and outlines a schedule for when each parent will spend time with the child, including divvying up holidays and breaks from school.

Parenting plans also include dates for future review. Our Rose Law Group pc Family Law Attorneys can help you negotiate changes in existing parenting plans for those seeking adjustments.

What happens if parents don’t agree on a parenting plan?

If the parents cannot agree on a legal decision-making arrangement for their child, Arizona family law requires that each propose a parenting plan and submit it to the court.

Phoenix family law instructs the court to favor a plan that allows each parent to enjoy as much time possible with the child, as long as the plan promotes the child’s best interest.

How can a family law attorney help you?

The process of negotiating a parenting plan for your child often becomes emotional and complicated. Our Family Law Attorneys can guide you through the process, representing you in court and helping you achieve the best solution.

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