Arizona does not use the word "custody" in making decisions about a minor child. Instead, Arizona uses the terms legal decision-making and parenting time to better define what a court must do in deciding issues related to a minor child.

Legal decision-making refers to the right and responsibility of a parent to make nonemergency decisions involving the child. These decisions include education, health care, religious training and personal care.

Parenting time refers to the schedule of time that each parent has with the child. Each parent is responsible during their parenting time to provide the child with food, clothing and shelter and to make routine decisions concerning the care of the child.

The court will award either sole legal decision-making or joint legal decision-making. Sole legal decision-making gives one parent the right to make all major decisions for the child, without having to consult with the other parent.

Joint legal decision-making requires the parties to share decision-making responsibilities. Neither parent's rights are superior to the other parent's rights, except on specific issues as set forth by the court. Sometimes the parents may have joint legal decision-making but award one parent final decision making, if after discussing the matter they cannot reach a decision.

Arizona provides by statute that, absent contrary evidence, it is in the best interest of the child that both parents participate in decision-making about the child. Discuss with your lawyer whether there is any evidence to support the following factors to be considered by the court:

  • The agreement or lack of agreement by the parties as to joint legal decision- making.
  • Whether a lack of agreement is unreasonable or influenced by a reason not related to the child's best interest.
  • The past, present and future ability of the parents to cooperate in decision-making.
  • Whether joint legal decision-making is logistically possible.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.