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Legal Decision-Making Attorneys in Mesa

Our Child Custody Lawyers Serve Families throughout East Valley

In Arizona, the phrase “legal decision-making” replaced the term “child custody” in 2013. In Title 25 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, Marital and Domestic Relations, Chapter 4 specifically refers to all child custody laws in the state of Arizona. These encompass all legal decision-making and parenting time court orders. The consequence of the state’s decision to use legal decision-making over child custody is that Arizona courts don’t decide who gets custody of the children; instead, they determine who has legal decision-making authority over the children.

If you and your spouse are getting a divorce and have children, ensuring that they continue to enjoy the same level of care is one of the most important things to consider. At Edwards & Petersen | PLC, our Mesa legal decision-making attorneys can help you navigate this complicated and often emotionally fraught process.

Contact us online or call (480) 418-5656 to get started with a free initial consultation.

Legal Decision-Making vs. Parenting Time

Legal decision-making is the legal right of one parent (or both, in shared or joint decisions) to make all non-emergency legal decisions for the child, including choices regarding healthcare, religion, and education. Additionally, legal decision-making means legal custody.

Parenting time refers to each parent’s scheduled access to the child. During this time, the parent is responsible for routine childcare decisions and can make emergency decisions even if they are awarded joint legal decision-making authority.

How Legal Decision-Making Is Determined

The court determines legal decision-making and parenting time based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Contributing factors include:

  • The child’s relationship with the parent and other family members, such as siblings
  • Issues with one or both parents, such as a history of domestic violence
  • The mental and physical health of all parties
  • The wishes of the child, if they are of a suitable age and maturity to express those wishes

Arizona law presumes that joint legal decision-making is in the best interest of the child, but this presumption can be overruled.

When deciding to award sole or joint legal decision-making and parenting time, the court considers a number of factors, always with the goal of determining what is best for the child.

These include but are not limited to:

  • Agreements reached by the parents (or lack thereof)
  • The cause behind a lack of an agreement
  • The parents’ ability to cooperate with each other
  • Logistic issues

Third-Party Legal Decision-Making Rights

In Arizona, a ‘third party’ (someone other than the child’s legal parent) can petition for legal decision-making authority or visitation.

In order to do this, the third party needs to show that:

  • He/she is in loco parentis to the child. This term comes from the Latin for ‘in place of the parent’ and refers to a person who assumes parental status and responsibilities for the child.
  • It would not be in the child’s best interests to be placed in the care of either parent seeking legal decision-making powers.
  • A court of ‘competent jurisdiction’ has neither entered or approved an order relating to parenting time or legal decision-making in the 12 months before the third party made his/her petition. This time frame may be circumnavigated if the petitioner can prove that the child’s existing environment is endangering his/her mental, physical, or emotional health.

Additionally, the third party must also prove one of the following:

  • At least one of the child’s legal parents is deceased.
  • The legal parents of the child were not married to one another when the petition was filed.
  • A Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation of the child’s legal parents was pending at the time the petition was filed.

Arizona Child Custody Relocation

If you share joint or legal custody and want to relocate, you must provide your child’s other parent with an advanced notice of your move. That parent can then petition the court to stop the relocation.

During a relocation case, a judge’s primary concern is for the welfare of the child. They will consider the following when determining if a relocation is in the best interest of the child:

  • The reason for moving
  • Whether or not the quality of life will improve for the child
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • What the relationship will look like for the child and the parent that doesn’t move
  • The child’s relationship with any siblings
  • The adjustment the child will have to go through
  • The child’s preference (if they are old enough)

The parent that is moving has the burden of proving that a move is in the child’s best interest. It’s important that you have legal help if you are trying to relocate or if your child’s other parent is trying to relocate. The team at Edwards & Petersen | PLC can help.

Hire a Skilled Family Law Attorney

With so much at stake and so many variables to consider, you need an attorney experienced in Arizona family law to help prove that you are the parent who should have legal decision-making authority for your child. The Mesa child custody attorneys at Edwards & Petersen | PLC are prepared to fight for you whether we resolve your case through mediation or litigation.

Contact us at (480) 418-5656 to request a free consultation with our team.

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