How is Child Custody Determined in Arizona

How is Child Custody Determined in Arizona?

Possibly one of the biggest concerns for families with children who are considering divorce is how child custody is determined in other states as well as Arizona. There are many who are under the false pretense that custody is frequently granted to the mother or wealthy parent- but that is not always the case.

Arizona has revised its custody laws recently, moving to a “parenting time” and “legal decision-making” model instead of the previously used custody terminology.

This move took effect in January of 2013 and was meant to signal a shift toward giving priority to joint parenting instead of a model that had a tendency toward “every other weekend” custody agreements and mothers being naturally favored as the custodial parent.

Arizona family law courts use an assortment of factors to decide which household or guardian would be in the best interest of the child, these include:

  • The parent’s and child’s wishes
  • The parent-child relationship
  • Social and emotional hardships the child would have to endure if pushed to move
  • Physical and mental health of all parties involved
  • History of any past neglect or abuse
  • Drug abuse or criminal history by either parent
  • Employment or time available to take care of the child
  • Which parent was more involved in the child’s life preceding the divorce

Considerations that are not taken into account in dictating child custody in Arizona:


Many of us are under the impression that the female will be granted as the primary caretaker. More important than gender in the decision is the parent-child relationship and passion for their care.

Social Economic Standing or Wealth of the Parent

Parents only have to provide safe and sufficient housing for the child. If one parent is wealthier than the other and the other earns a more modest income, the court doesn’t automatically grant custody to the more affluent parent. Cleanliness, a comfortable living environment and the capability to provide for the child’s healthcare will be taken into account.


The courts always make an effort to act in the “best interests” of the child. As long as the parent’s religion doesn’t put the child in harm’s way, the parent’s religion is not grounds for ineligibility of parental duties.

Making Legal Decisions

Parenting time dictates how much time a parent is required to physically spend with their child/children.

Parents in Arizona are obligated by A.R.S. §25-403.02 to submit a parenting plan if they can’t come to an agreement.

Courts make this determination based on the same “best interests of the child” factors outlined by A.R.S. §25-403.

Things to take into account:

  • The older and more mature the child is, the more their liking will be taken into account in the legal process.
  • Slewing false or unsubstantiated accusations of neglect or abuse against the other party can be used against you in the decision-making process.
  • The parent that is more open to communication and eager to negotiate with the other party is usually more likely to get primary custody or the greater part of the child’s guardianship.
  • Family law courts in Arizona are allowed to grant both sole custody and joint custody. Sole custody is more typical when the parties can’t to come to an agreement.

If both parents present a written parenting plan, are open to communicating with each other and it is in the best interest of the child, the courts will award joint custody. More than 95% of families settle on a custody situation in a peaceful way outside of court. If you and the child’s other parent cannot peacefully settle on a child custody agreement, contact a family law attorney in your state to discuss what your legal options are.


Speak With Our Child Custody Attorney In Scottsdale

Our child custody and guardianship attorney in Phoenix and Scottsdale will advance your case with concern and personal attention and always have you and your children’s best interest in mind when offering legal solutions.

An experienced family law attorney will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome in your situation. We advocate for our clients, so they have the brightest future possible. Give us a call today at 480-999-0800 for a free consultation.

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