Getting a divorce is always difficult, but things become even more complex when minor children are involved. Making decisions about child custody is often the most emotional and challenging aspects of the separation. Both parents love their children, and each will have their own unique opinion about what types of custody and visitation arrangements are in their kids’ best interests. Having an understanding of your options and what goes into making a final custody determination can help you make the best and most educated decision for your children.
Types of Child Custody Arrangements in Arizona
Sole Physical Custody
Here, only one parent maintains physical custody of the child or children. This means that any minor children will reside strictly with the parent maintaining sole physical custody, and that the custodial parent is 100% responsible for providing supervision. The other parent may still be granted visitation; however, the court must review and approve the plan for such visitation.
Joint Physical Custody
In this type of custodial arrangement, both parents will be legally entitled to significant time periods of physical custody. For example, the child or children may move between his or her parents’ homes every other week, or a similar arrangement may be made. This allows both parents to enjoy a higher degree of continuing contact with their children, and will enable them to maintain a more active role in supervising and child-rearing.
Sole Legal Decision Making
Legal decision making differs from physical custody in that it goes beyond physical living arrangements and supervision, and involves comprehensive decision-making with regards to a child’s health, education, and overall welfare. In situations where sole legal decision making is given, only one parent is granted this level of decision-making power. The other parent will still be able to retain his or her visitation rights, regardless of who is granted sole legal decision making.
Joint Legal Decision Making
Although sole legal decision making is the most commonly granted custody arrangement in Arizona divorces, the court system much prefers the idea of an arrangement with joint legal decision making of all minor children. In this type of arrangement, both parents equally share the right and responsibility to make important decisions about their children’s health, education, and welfare. In order to achieve joint legal decision making, a workable “parenting plan” must be submitted to the court and both parties must be willing and able to cooperate with one another.
Because both parents need to come to an agreement concerning the custody of their minor children, the assistance of an objective third party, such as an attorney or a mediator, may be needed in order to reach a fair and reasonable decision. In the event that both parents are unable to come to an agreement, the court will make the final decision. Arizona judges are required to review the facts and make determinations based on factors including the child’s past, present, and future relationships between each parent; the types of adjustments a child may need to make regarding home, school, and community; the mental health of the child and each parent; any history of violence or abuse from either parent; as well as a number of other items.