Arizona Child Custody Factors
Glendale Family Law Attorneys Discuss The Factors That Influence Child Custody In Arizona
If you and your child’s other parent can’t agree on how to split custody, the family law judge assigned to your case will make a determination based on certain factors. Many of our clients come to us assuming that the mother will be awarded full custody, and the father will be given visitation of the child. This is no longer how courts make child custody determinations. Now, courts don’t have a preference between mother and father, and generally prefer for the child to have equal time with both parents. This doesn’t mean that one parent can’t be awarded sole or primary custody, when appropriate.
The Child Custody Battle Between Parents
The stereotypical custody battle is between two parents who want as much time with the child as possible. This isn’t always the case- one parent may be moving, expecting incarceration, is pending military deployment, involved in intensive medical treatments, or does not wish to seek primary custody for other reasons. If one parent wants full custody of the child and the other parent only wants minimal visitation rights, this can reduce the timespan of the custody battle. If both parents want sole custody of the child and aren’t willing to compromise, this will likely result in a complicated legal battle.
The Child’s Opinion Is Considered In Custody Cases
In addition to the parents’ wishes, the child’s wishes will be taken into consideration, to an extent. The child’s opinion will carry more weight as the child ages. Usually, the courts will start to take the child’s opinion more seriously around age 12. The child’s intelligence and maturity level will be taken into consideration as well.
Each Parent’s Relationship With The Child: Absent Parents & Child Caregivers
If one parent has been largely absent from a child’s life, the court is unlikely to grant that parent full child custody should they suddenly reappear. When one parent is left with the majority of the responsibility for childcare, the other parent may have not learned necessary parenting skills to use after the parents split up. However, a parent won’t be denied custody for having a job if they are able to adequately care for the child both during and outside of work hours. Each parent’s potential for a future relationship with the child will also be considered.
Physical, Mental Health & Emotional Capability To Care For a Child
Sometimes, a parent doesn’t have the physical, mental, or emotional capability to care for a child, despite their best intentions. For example, if a parent is on bed rest, or requires inpatient mental health treatment, it may be impossible to care for the child. The child should be in the other parent’s custody, if they are a fit parent, until the parent has recovered.
The Child’s Relationship With Other Household Members
Often, a child has to interact with more people than just a parent in each household. Whether a parent remarries, has other children, or moves in with friends or relatives, the child’s relationship with all other household members will be considered when determining child custody. If a child has a tumultuous relationship with a stepparent or stepsibling, it may be in everyone’s best interest for the other parent to have primary custody.
Child’s Best Interests: Consistency In Home & School Environments
The courts recognize that it is usually in a child’s best interests to have some consistency in their home and school environments. The child is already likely to have a drastic change in their schedule, and adjusting to a new town, school, and making new friends adds additional stress. The more dramatic the adjustment, the more likely the other parent will be to gain custody of the child. For example, two parents divorce and both move out of the marital home. One parent downsizes to a smaller apartment in Arizona, while the other parent moves across the country for a new job. Adjusting to a new home in the same city- especially if the child is in the same school district- is preferable than moving the child thousands of miles away for a whole new life.
Each Parent’s Likelihood To Allow The Child To Have a Relationship With The Other Parent
There are several ways one parent, whether intentionally or unintentionally, may act in a way that damages the child’s relationship with the other parent. There are several ways a parent could do this. Making false allegations of abuse to win custody could backfire. The judge might not award custody to a parent who uses duress and coercion to prevent the other parent from seeking custody of the child. Purposefully drawing out custody litigation to price out the other parent could do the same. Unless the child will be in danger, one parent shouldn’t withhold visitation or parenting time from the other parent, even if that parent is behind on child support payments. A history of withholding visitation- even virtual visitation and phone calls- and disobeying custody orders may push the court to give the other parent custody.
Another related custody issue is parental alienation. This is conduct by one parent meant to taint the child’s view of the other parent. The parent may talk badly about the other parent to the child, or discuss inappropriate details about the divorce or custody battle. The parent may also spread rumors about the other parent, either by word of mouth or social media. This can be a factor used against that parent during a custody determination if it prevents the other parent from fully being a part of the child’s life.
Contact Our Experienced Family Attorneys In Arizona
There are several other factors unique to your situation that could affect how the judge rules on custody in your case. To see what these may be, call today to schedule your free consultation with one of our Arizona child custody lawyers. Our dedicated staff and attorneys have years of achieving positive results for clients in situations just like yours. To learn more about how state laws will affect your case, what our attorneys can do for you, and for an affordable quote for legal services, call (480) 833-8000 for your free consultation today!