Arizona Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Arizona and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Arizona courts.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
Arizona Statute 25.402 provides the definitions for the various types of custody:
- Legal custody pertains to the rights of the parents to make and/or be informed of decisions concerning the child.
- Physical custody refers to the living arrangements of the child.
- Sole custody means only one person has legal custody.
- Joint physical custody means the parents share the child between the two homes in a manner that ensures that child has adequate and substantially equal time with both parents.
Also of note, the term "parenting time" designates the condition under which a parent, when having access to the child, may make routine daily decisions regarding the care of the child.
The type of parenting plan that you will follow should coincide with the type of custody you are awarded.
The State of Arizona requires parents to submit a parenting plan prior to awarding custody (AS 25-403.02) and it is mandated that the parenting plan contain at least the following elements:
A child custody visitation schedule that includes a regular routine and a schedule for holidays and school vacations. The schedule should be carefully planned out, as detailed as possible, and demonstrate regard for the child's best interests.
A statement of the rights and responsibilities of each parent regarding the personal care of the child, outlining who will be responsible for making decisions about matters such as religious training, healthcare, and education. Either or both of the parents can be designated to make decisions.
A plan for conciliation, which must include a process in which dispute resolution, proposed changes to the parenting plan, and breaches of the plan, shall be resolved. Mediation and private counseling are common methods of conciliation.
A procedure for periodic reviews of the plan by the parents. The plan will most likely need occasional adjusting as the needs of the child change and the child gets older.
A statement explaining that joint custody does not necessarily mean equal parenting time and that both parents understand this.
A statement that indicates each parent has read, understands, and will abide by the notification requirements of AS 25-403.05, subsection B. This section of the Arizona Statutes requires that the parent must immediately notify the other parent, via first class mail or electronic means, if the parent knows that a registered sex offender or any person who has been convicted of a violent or dangerous crime against children has had or may possibly have access to the child.
When you fail to reach an agreement with the other parent, even after attending mediation, the court shall determine any elements of the parenting plan that you cannot or will not agree upon.
The court is very thorough in the methods used to determine custody of the child. As provided in AS 25-405, the court may seek the advice of professional personnel for recommendations and insight.
The court may also require the child be interviewed in chambers to determine the wishes of the child. If you do not want your child to be questioned by the court or other strangers, agreeing upon a parenting plan written in your child's best interests should prevent that.
Even if you do agree on your plan, the court may also include other factors that are necessary to serve the best interests of the child. The State of Arizona treats the protection of the physical well-being and the emotional health of the child with the utmost importance.
Yes. Although it is not required as part of the parenting plan, you may wish to include provisions regarding the issue of child relocation.
Arizona Statute 25-408 presents the established laws regarding child relocation, such as one parent providing the other parent a written 60 day notice before relocating the child out of state.
However, Arizona Statute 25-408.H allows that any provision in an approved parenting plan shall not be deviated upon by the court; unless the court finds that the provision is no longer in the child's best interests.
Therefore, whatever you include in your custody agreement, such as an established boundary in which the parent must maintain a home for the child, will be honored and upheld by the court unless factors affecting the best interests of the child are brought to light.
You are free to add any stipulations or elements to your plan that you feel are important or relevant. A detailed parenting plan will make it easier to parent your child apart and will help prevent conflict, as the "rules" will have been established.
You should think about the unique needs of your child and your specific custody situation as you consider what to include in your plan. Some parents include provisions for transportation, extra-curricular activities, and expenses such as orthodontics.
No. The State of Arizona does not consider the gender of a parent to be a factor when determining custody (AS 25-403.01). Custody may be awarded to either or both parents. All the court cares about is what is best for the child.
When determining whether a joint custody agreement is right for the child (25-403.01), the court will consider:
- If the parents agree on joint custody
- If a parent doesn't agree to joint custody because of an issue that isn't related to the child's best interest, or if the parent's lack of agreement is unreasonable
- How well the parents are able to cooperate in making decisions about the child
- Whether the joint custody arrangement is logistically possible
Along with the above factors, the court will also consider the following factors (found in AS 25-403) when determining what is in the child's best interest:
- The wishes of the parents
- The wishes of the child for the custodian
- The interaction and relationship the child has with each parent, siblings, and anyone else who affects the child's best interest
- The child's adjustment to home, school, and community
- The mental and physical health of the child and parents
- How likely each parent will allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the other parent
- The previous roles of the parents in providing primary care to the child
- If a parent has been convicted of a false reporting of child abuse or neglect
- If there has been domestic abuse or violence
Since the key component of every family law case in Arizona is the policy of the court to rule in accordance with the best interests of the child, a successful parenting plan should also encompass those interests.
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