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Child Custody is the most emotional and stressful aspect of Arizona family law. Understanding the laws and knowing how the court determines child custody will help you throughout the process and beyond. Our attorneys have handled hundreds of custody cases and we have the experience to help you protect your children and get the outcome you want.

Arizona’s child custody laws and the legal terminology can be confusing. This page outlines some important aspects of Arizona’s custody laws and familiarizes you with the terminology so you can better understand these laws and how they pertain to you and your children.

SB1127 was enacted in 2013 and it changed some aspects of Arizona family law. One of the biggest changes was abolishing the term “custody” in family law because of the common misconceptions and confusion surrounding the term. The important thing to remember about this new law is that only the terms have changed; the two basic questions (listed above) regarding children and family law have remained the same.

What is Child Custody?

There is a lot of confusion with the term “custody”. When most people think about divorce and parents fighting over children, the term “custody” naturally comes to mind. However, the word “custody” is misleading when used in family law because it generally makes people think of only one aspect of child custody, mainly the question, “Who do the children live with?” But in reality, the term “custody” is used to describe both parenting time and legal decision-making.

There are two basic questions regarding parenting and family law:

    1. When do I have the children and when does my spouse have the children?
    2. Who makes major decisions (e.g. school, health, religion) about the children?

Who needs to know about Custody?

Any parent or guardian of a minor child who resides in Arizona should be familiar with Arizona’s child custody laws. But parents are not the only people who may have rights with your children. These persons may request legal decision-making or parenting time under the following circumstances:

A parent in any proceeding for marital dissolution, legal separation, annulment, paternity or modification of an earlier decree or judgment.

A person other than a parent, by filing a petition for third party rights under section 25-409 in the county in which the child permanently resides.

Parenting Plan

Our experienced attorneys at Sonoran Law Group can help you and your spouse/partner draft a negotiated parenting plan. We can provide insight and anticipate future problems. We provide this service at an hourly rate and provide you with a court-approved form at the conclusion that can be filed with the court along with your decree.

Under A.R.S. 25-403.02, every parenting plan needs:

        1. Designation of legal decision-making as either joint or sole
        2. Each parent’s rights and responsibilities for the personal care of the child and for decisions in areas such as education, health care and religion
        3. A practical schedule of parenting time for the child, including holidays and school vacations
        4. A procedure for the exchanges of the child, including location and responsibility for transportation
        5. A plan by which proposed changes, disputes and alleged breaches may be mediated or resolved, which may include the use of conciliation services or private counseling
        6. A schedule for periodic review of the plan’s terms by the parents
        7. A procedure for communicating with each other about the child, including methods and frequency.