Arizona Custody and Visitation Schedules
You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (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 schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.
You have to have a parenting plan containing a child visitation schedule as the Arizona courts will not rule on a custody decision without approving one (AS 25-403.02), so negotiating with the other parent while making your own schedule affords you the freedom of choice.
If you are unable to mutually agree upon a parenting plan and visitation schedule, the court will weigh all the factors in the case, rule according to the best interests of the child, and create one for you.
Children benefit greatly from having the participation of both parents in their life. There is typically a lot of tension between parents at this time, but by putting your differences aside and focusing on the best interests of the child, you can create a child visitation plan that will serve your child well and be ruled a court order by the State of Arizona.
Arizona considers the best interest of the child to be the ultimate determining factor when ruling on custody.
Some of the factors Arizona deems prudent in determining child custody and visitation can be found in Arizona Statue 25-403:
- The wishes of the parents, pertaining to custody
- The wishes of the child, pertaining to any custodial preference
- The dynamic of the existing relationships the child has with each parent, any siblings, and any relationship with others which may impact the child's best interests
- The physical health and mental well-being of all parties involved
- The acclimation of the child to home, school, and the community
- Except during the presence of domestic violence or child abuse, the level of cooperation each parent is likely to have in allowing the child to maintain a frequent and meaningful relationship and ongoing contact with the other parent
- Which parent (if any) has acted as the child's primary caregiver
- Whether or not an agreement on custody was obtained by one parent via coercion or by placing the other parent under duress
- Whether or not a parent has completed the domestic relations education program as mandated by AS 25-351
- Any convictions a parent may have for falsely reporting child abuse or neglect
- Any acts of child abuse or domestic violence
When creating the child visitation schedule, you should include the basic residential schedule, a holiday schedule, and a vacation schedule.
The schedule should be as detailed as possible, to help avoid potential conflict in the future, and you should present it to the court in an organized manner. It is always preferable and better for your child if you can come to an agreement on the schedule.
As parents, you know the intimate details and day to day occurrences in the child's life, as opposed to the court, which must deal in generalizations. Every family is different and your child visitation schedule should reflect your own uniqueness. You can develop your own schedule, choose an established pattern, or modify a commonly used schedule to fit your child's needs.
Here are a few examples of child visitation schedule patterns other Arizona families have used:
- One period of 3-6 hours and two consecutive overnights per week.
- Two days (and nights) with one parent followed by three days (and nights) with the other parent, continuing over time.
- Three consecutive overnights every other week with an additional 4-6 hour period each week.
- Split each week and weekend.
- Alternate weeks, with one overnight with the other parent in the middle.
The scenarios for the visitation schedule are endless, but ultimately, it should be written so that your child has ongoing and continuing contact with both parents.
Your work schedules should be taken into account in order to optimize the time the child spends with each of you.
Holiday visitation schedules have traditionally been the parents taking turns with the holidays, alternating them in even and odd years. Since you are writing your own schedule, you have the flexibility to customize it.
Holidays can be rotated, or they can be planned out according to family traditions. Provisions for three day weekends, Father's Day, Mother's Day, the parents' birthdays, your child's birthday, any special days, and any religious holidays can be included in the holiday schedule.
Vacation schedules should factor in school vacations and can also include the personal vacation time of each of you.
If included, allowances for personal vacation time can be flexible, such as the other parent may have the child for "X" amount of time but needs to give a 30 day notice prior to taking the vacation time.
Provisions for whether or not either of you should be permitted to remove your child from the state or country may also be added.
In Arizona, you have the choice to set up a joint custody arrangement or a sole custody arrangement.
Sections 25-403.01, 25-402, and 25-408 in the Arizona Revised Statues explain how the state defines and views the two types of arrangements.
- Joint physical custody is the situation when the physical residence of the child is shared by the parents so that the child has substantially equal time and contact with both parents.
- Sole physical custody is the situation when the child resides primarily with one parent and has contact and visitation time with the other parent.
- Either parent may be granted custody of the child (in a sole custody arrangement), and there is no preference for a parent because of the parent's gender.
- A parent who is not granted custody of the child (in a sole physical custody arrangement) has the right to parenting time that is frequent and continuing.
- The court does not have a preference for sole or joint custody.
- Joint custody does not mean that each parent has exactly half of the time with the child.
As you try to determine what type of schedule to set up for your child, you should think about what kind of arrangements are best for your child.
If you feel like your child will thrive living primarily with one parent and frequently visiting the other parent then you should have a sole custody arrangement.
If you both want substantial time with the child, and you can work it our logistically, then you should think about a joint arrangement.
For a sole custody situation, you shouldn't assume that you will or will not be granted custody because you are the mother or father. Sometimes fathers don't think they should try to have the child live primarily with them because they think the court will automatically grant custody to the mother.
Instead, if a father wants custody, he should show that it is in the best interest of the child.
Mothers shouldn't assume that the court will grant them custody if they don't have evidence that it is in the child's best interest. It is also important to note that the parent who doesn't have custody still has frequent and continuing parenting time with the child.
As you make a schedule, don't try to eliminate the other parent. You need to add frequent and continuing visitation or the court will not accept it.
Yes. The State of Arizona also affords grandparents and great-grandparents the ability to file for visitation rights (AS 25-409).
Visitation rights may be granted to grandparents if the court finds it would be in the best interest of the child and if any of the following are true:
- The child was born out of wedlock.
- The parents have been divorced for three months of more.
- One of the parents is deceased.
- One of the parents has been missing for three months or more.
If you do not want your child to have contact with a grandparent, you should present any evidence and valid reasons you have for limiting or denying visitation with the grandparent to the court prior to a ruling.
If the court deems that continuing contact with a grandparent is in the child's best interest, the grandparent will probably be granted visitation rights. You should come to court with a proposed visitation schedule, just in case, otherwise you may be forced to comply with the visitation schedule the court provides.
The top twenty cities in Arizona (by population, CDF estimates, 2009) are: Phoenix, Tucson, Mesa, Glendale, Chandler, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe, Peoria, Surprise, Yuma, Avondale, Flagstaff, Goodyear, Lake Havasu City, Buckeye, Maricopa, Oro Valley, Sierra Vista, Prescott.