Arizona parents who are divorcing will also need to come to an agreement regarding child custody and visitation. This is ideally decided by themselves in furtherance of the child’s best interests, but when that is not possible, the court will step in and make a decision.
A custody order is generally opened for a legal divorce or separation, a paternity suit or to renegotiate earlier custody arrangements. There are guidelines around the altering of previous arrangements including a requirement to wait one year after an earlier order unless there are circumstances like abuse. Parents have the opportunity to use mediation to come to an agreement before the case goes to court. Custody may also be extended to individuals who have a parental-like relationship with the child.
The first decision will be whether the parents have joint physical custody and joint legal custody or if one will have sole custody. Physical custody concerns where the child lives while legal custody is related to decisions about the child such as those related to education and health.
Parenting time refers to the time spent with the child for the parent who does not have primary child custody, and in most cases, it is a requirement to grant a parent this time. In the case of unmarried parents, paternity must be determined before any other custody issues are worked out. Two parents might come to agreements on child custody and visitation, but then one parent might have to move for a job. That parent would have to give two months’ notice, and the other parent might have the option to stop the move. If the parents cannot agree about a move required for work, it may be necessary for the courts to step in.
Source: AZLawHelp.org, “Child Custody Article“, September 10, 2014