In most cases, spouses are allowed to determine the terms of their divorce for themselves. However, one area that will always require the court’s review is child custody arrangements. This is especially true in cases where one or both parents are making allegations against each other. However, it is true for any divorce case, as well. The court will want to review the agreement to ensure that it is in the best interests of the children.
The process of law in the United States is adversarial. That means that parties enter into a dispute with contested claims. The judge decides the case by looking at the relevant law and determining who has the better claim. In a divorce case, you have two parties that are often contesting the claims of the other. But who represents the interests of the children? In Arizona, the court represents the interests of the children. So proving your case requires the help of an Arizona child custody attorney.
The Best Interests of the Child
In terms of custody battles, the court will consider one factor above all others: The best interests of the children. However, how does the court come to this decision? In fact, there are several factors that the court will weigh when reaching the decision. These include:
The current relationship between the parent and the child
The location of the child relative to their current school district
The child and parent’s mental and physical health
Which parent is more likely to enforce the visitation agreement
Allegations related to drug abuse or domestic violence
The wishes of the child, if the child is suitably mature
In most cases, the court will attempt to keep the child’s environment as close as possible to what it was before the divorce. Children are susceptible to major disruptive changes in their routine, and when avoidable, the court will attempt to avoid rocking the boat too much. This often means that children will stay with the parent who gets the home. This affords them the ability to stay in the same school district, remain in contact with their friends, and keep some of their routines.
What Does the Child Want?
The court will consider the child’s wishes so long as the child’s reasoning is based on a durable factor. They may sound confusing, but it is not. If the child wants to live with one parent because they have a better relationship with them, then that is a factor that is likely to continue into the future. If the child’s decision is based on something that can immediately change, the court is less likely to consider it. So the reasoning cannot be whimsical or trivial. The court will not consider the wishes of a child who was obviously coached by one of the parents.
How is Testimony Collected?
A parent may not want a child to testify against another parent in a formal setting. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 25-405 allows the court to interview the child in chambers as opposed to a formal interrogation. The interview is recorded by a court reporter, but the judge may seal the interview depending on what is discussed.
Types of Custody in Arizona
Custody in Arizona means legal decision-making power over a child. Alternatively, a parent may have physical custody of a child but not decision-making authority to determine where they go to school or the types of health care they receive. In most cases, both parents retain decision-making power over the child.
Second, a determination must be made as to where the children spend most of their time. Usually, the parent with the family home retains primary custody of the child, and a visitation schedule is afforded to the non-custodial parent.
The terms can be confusing because you have one word (custody) that refers to two different concepts, decision-making authority and physical possession of the child.
Custody Denials in Arizona
A parent may be denied custody or visitation over a child if the court finds that the child could be harmed by the interaction. In that case, the parent would have to petition the court for access to the child. The parent would be afforded supervised visitation rights temporarily with the hope that, eventually, they would be able to have unsupervised visitation.
The court will apply a series of factors laid out in Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 25-403.03 to determine if the parent should be given that opportunity and the proper course for rehabilitating the parent/child relationship.
Talk to a Tempe, AZ Child Custody Lawyer Today
Singular Law Group, PLLC, represents the interests of spouses in custody battles. Call today to set up an appointment, and we can begin discussing strategy immediately