You undoubtedly never expected that after more than 10 years of marriage, you’d be getting divorced. Many Arizona spouses have can relate to your situation; in fact, some have been completely blindsided by divorce. Regardless of the details that have caused the breakdown in your marriage, it is understandable that your highest priority now is to make sure proceedings focus on the best interests of your children.
Perhaps, you’ve been dealing with your spouse’s substance abuse problem for quite some time. Maybe you have evidence that your spouse has been physically or emotionally abusive to your kids. These and other extenuating circumstances often prompt concerned parents to seek sole custody of their children in divorce. If you plan to do so, there are several things to keep in mind.
Difference between physical and legal custody
Physical custody refers to your children’s post-divorce residence. Legal custody, on the other hand, pertains to decision-making authority regarding issues in your children’s lives, such as education, faith, health care and more. If you’re seeking sole custody of your kids, you are typically asking the court to grant you both types of custody.
The court’s factors of consideration
Most Arizona family law judges believe children fare best in divorce when a shared custody arrangement is possible. However, if you can show the court evidence that such an arrangement would be detrimental to your children’s safety and well-being, the judge overseeing your case might rule in your favor for full custody.
The court can make custody decisions on a case-by-case basis. Most judges consider issues such as which parent has been the primary caretaker of the kids during marriage, each parent’s income, as well as any specific issues that might prompt the court to determine one of the parents unfit.
Documentation and evidence are essential
Just because you no longer want to be married to your spouse, it doesn’t necessarily mean your children should not maintain an active, healthy relationship with their other parent. If you plan to seek sole custody, you’ll want to head to court with any and all documentation and evidence that supports your claim that your ex is an unfit parent.
In such cases, it may be possible to enlist the aid of a third party, such as a teacher, licensed counselor or physician who might be able to provide testimony of incidents that suggest your children’s safety or well-being is compromised when in the presence of their other parent. Because such cases are complex and often emotionally upsetting, most Arizona parents seeking full custody ask experienced family law attorneys to represent them in court.