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.
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.
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.
I couldn't have made it through the most difficult time in my families' lives if it weren't for the support I received from Brian Petersen and Josh Edwards.
-Michelle (Former Client)
We know that when you need legal help it is a scary time in your life. That is why at Edwards & Petersen | PLC we'll be with you day and night to help you every step of the way.
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