Navigating Child Custody in Arizona: Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities

Navigating Child Custody in Arizona: Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities

When facing a child custody battle in Arizona, it’s crucial to understand the legal landscape and terminology. In Arizona, the terms “legal decision making” and “parenting time” have replaced the traditional concept of custody. Here’s what you need to know to navigate this complex and emotional terrain.

Legal Decision Making: A New Perspective on Custody

In Arizona, “legal decision making” is a critical term that has in part replaced custody. This concept involves making significant decisions about your children’s welfare, including their education, health care, and sometimes religious upbringing. Here are key points to understand:

  • Legal decision making is about major life decisions for your child.
  • It is distinct from everyday choices like clothing or hairstyles.
  • An Arizona Judge may order sole legal decision-making or joint legal decision-making.  Arizona law requires our Judges to allow both parents to share legal decision-making regarding their child so long as such is consistent with the child’s best interests.  Thus, the starting point in Arizona is often joint legal decision making.
  • An order for sole legal decision-making does not allow that parent to unilaterally alter a court-ordered parenting time plan.

Parenting Time: Maximizing Involvement

Parenting time refers to the actual time each parent spends with their children. Arizona law focuses on the best interests of the child, with an emphasis on maximizing time with both parents. Understanding this concept is vital:

  • The law aims to maximize parenting time for both parents when feasible and in the child’s best interests.  Thus, the starting point in Arizona is often equal parenting time.  
  • While equal parenting time is often the starting point, it is not guaranteed.  It’s essential to consider what is in the best interest of the children.

Adjusting Expectations and Working Towards Solutions

As an attorney, it’s my role to help parents assess their expectations and work towards the best possible outcome for their children. This involves:

  • Discussing and understanding client’s hopes and concerns.
  • Evaluating the feasibility and advisability of equal parenting time as opposed to some reasonable alternative. 
  • Addressing any significant concerns that might affect the child’s well-being, and evaluating the feasibility and advisability of a restricted parenting time plan..

Navigating the Legal Process

The legal process for determining legal decision making and parenting time can be complex. It often involves:

  • Detailed analysis of each parent’s situation.
  • Consideration of the child’s needs and best interests.
  • Navigating court procedures and legal requirements.

Your Rights and Responsibilities

As a parent, you have rights and responsibilities:

  • Right to be involved: You have the right to participate in major decisions and have meaningful parenting time.
  • Responsibility to your child: Your foremost responsibility is to consider and prioritize your child’s best interests.


Navigating child custody in Arizona requires understanding the nuances of legal decision making and parenting time. It’s about focusing on what is best for your children and working towards a solution that respects their needs and your rights as a parent. If you’re facing these issues, it’s crucial to seek legal advice tailored to your unique situation.

Remember, every family’s situation is unique, and this information is a general guide. For personalized advice, it’s always best to consult with a legal professional.

Do you have a question? Send it to RJ, and we’ll get you the answer you need.