How Child Custody Laws Differ from Parenting Time in Arizona


Many states share similar laws concerning child custody and that helps, where divorced parents occupy residences in separate states. Even where both parents reside in the state of Arizona, the laws make several distinctions, identifying different forms of custody. For this reason, some families become confused and end up agreeing to terms they really didn’t want.

Child Custody Definitions Are Important

Even when child custody is being determined without any special requests of parenting time, there are a few distinctions in the types of custody. The court has a responsibility to do what it views is in the best interests of the child. That may mean placing the child with one parent, while giving the other parent authority over childrearing decisions.

Physical custody is one issue facing Arizona child custody lawyers in the representation of their clients. It’s also the first thing that people think about, when the topic of custody is broached. This is the physical living conditions for the child. In determining physical custody, the judge decides which parent will give the child the best home.

Legal custody, on the other hand, has more to do with the child’s upbringing. In granting legal custody, the judge is determining who he thinks will make the best decisions for the child’s care. The parent granted legal custody has the right to make final determinations on the child’s education, religious instruction, healthcare, and nutritional requirements.

In many cases, physical and legal custody may be awarded jointly to both parents. If that is the court’s decision, the parents will have to show that they can cooperate and work together for the best interests of the child. If they cannot, the judge may reverse his decision and award sole custody to one parent or assign a legal guardian.

Parenting Time Keeps Families Together

In Arizona, “parenting time” is the term for a situation described in other states as visitation rights. It can also be referred to as contact, access, or residential time, depending upon a jurisdiction’s preferred terminology. Essentially, it means the same thing: a parent’s right to spend predetermined time with his or her children.

The parent awarded parenting time generally does not have physical custody and is referred to under the law as the non-custodial parent. In some situations, it may be left up to the parent with legal custody to determine the visitation allowances for the other parent. In other circumstances, it may be the court’s decision. Even when the custodial parent may prefer not to share custody, the judge may impose parenting time and force that parent to allow visitations. In considering the best interests of the child, it’s never preferable to cut all ties between child and either parent.

In cases where the parent may be physically or verbally abusive, the court may deny parenting time. Additionally, custody and parenting time may be prohibited if the parent consistently shows risky behavior, such as drunk driving or frequent fighting. In those cases, the parent may be deemed a safety risk to the child.

Cases of child custody are rarely simple or easily decided. For that reason, it’s important for each party to enlist the help of an experienced family law attorney. Hiring an advocate familiar with the complexities of Arizona family law can help you achieve your best possible outcome.