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Child holding adult man's hand
a child holds the hands of two parents with joint custody

There are three basic types of child custody: sole custody, joint custody, and in loco parentis. Though Arizona now uses the term legal decision-making instead of child custody in these cases, the Arizona Revised Statute definition states, “legal decision-making means legal custody.” This new term also indicates that the child’s designated custodian has the right to make important decisions on behalf of the child. These decisions encompass many choices, including those relating to education, healthcare, and religion.

In a perfect world, everyone agrees on the best custodial arrangement for the child. When no agreement is forthcoming, though, the Arizona legal system determines child custody, guided by the child’s best interests.

Sole Custody (Sole Legal Decision Making)

What does sole decision making mean in Arizona? Essentially, when one parent receives sole custody of the child, this means that the court deems that parent responsible for making all major decisions for that child. This does not mean that both parents may not discuss the issues, only that the final decision rests with whichever parent the court named sole legal decision-maker.

Even in sole custody arrangements, the non-custodial parent still has certain rights pertaining to the child. For example, both parents are to have equal access to the child’s information, such as medical information and school records.

Joint Custody (Joint Legal Decision Making)

What does joint legal decision making mean? Essentially, joint legal decision-making grants both parents equal decision-making rights and responsibilities for the child.

Typically, parents must submit a parenting plan in order to receive an order of joint custody in Arizona. Although neither parent’s rights are superior to the other, the court may include orders that one parent has ultimate authority over certain decisions. Additionally, joint legal custody does not necessarily translate into joint physical custody.

So what is joint custody in Arizona? Joint physical custody dictates that the child will spend equal amounts of time with both parents. Joint physical custody may be awarded for either joint legal custody or sole legal custody.

In Loco Parentis

In loco parentis means a person the child treats as a parent and has a parental-type relationship with. If such a person exists in the child’s life, he or she may petition the court for custody or parenting time. This person must have had a significant, meaningful relationship with the child and be able to prove that it is not in the child’s best interest to be placed with either parent. He or she must also prove one of the following:

  • One of the child’s parents is deceased
  • The child’s legal parents are unmarried
  • The child’s legal parents are married but dissolution of the marriage or legal separation is pending

You need a proven family law attorney to guide you through this process. Edwards & Petersen, PLC specialize in child custody cases.

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