Arizona Parenting Plan & Custody Agreement Guidelines

A parenting plan details exactly how parents share rights and responsibilities for raising their children when they don't live together. It explains the legal decision-making arrangements and includes a detailed parenting time schedule, as well as rules for communication, dispute resolution and more.

In Arizona, a parenting plan is required in all cases involving legal decision-making and parenting time, such as divorce cases and legal separation cases.

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Your parenting plan must include everything required by Arizona law (detailed below). You should also create customized provisions specific to your children's and family's needs.

Ideally, parents agree on a parenting plan that they submit as part of a settlement agreement. (Often, they work with a mediator or lawyers to make their plan.)

When parents can't agree, each submits their own proposed plan in a trial so a judge can choose one or create a hybrid.

Once signed by a judge (either in a settlement or trial), your parenting plan becomes a court order that has legal consequences if not followed.

How to make a parenting plan

You should start to think about making a parenting plan early in the legal process. There are many factors to consider, including children's ages, their relationships with each parent and how parents communicate with each other. If necessary, you can make separate plans for each child.

When it comes time to create the document, you can use your county's form. However, Arizona legal experts caution that these standard forms are often not detailed enough. They advise creating a custom parenting plan that addresses all aspects of co-parenting specific to your children's and family's needs.

If you're creating a plan for negotiations, mediation or trial, the provisions you include serve as requests.

When you and the other parent create your plan together, the provisions are your agreements that you're asking the court to approve in your settlement.

Parents should have a legal professional review their plan before signing or submitting it to the court.

Required parenting provisions

In addition to your parenting time schedule, Arizona law requires parenting plans to include the provisions (rules and guidelines) below.

Legal decision-making

Indicate if parents will share joint legal decision-making authority (formerly called joint legal custody) or if a parent will have sole authority (formerly called sole legal custody).

When you share legal decision-making, specify a process for deciding major child-rearing issues. Consider giving each parent final decision-making authority on specific issues for when you can't agree.

Medical and dental care

Regardless of your legal decision-making arrangement, specify if both parents can make emergency medical decisions when the children are in their care.

Include any provisions for children with special medical needs. (How parents share health insurance costs is part of the child support order.)

Education and extracurricular activities

Explain how parents will make decisions about and participate in children's education and extracurricular activities, such as how parents will coordinate attendance at parent–teacher conferences.

Religious participation

Arizona requires parenting plans to address children's religious education.

If your family doesn't participate in a religion, simply indicate this in your plan.

Otherwise, explain if parents can take the children to any place of worship or if they agree to educate the children in a particular religion.

You might also include other religious participation provisions, such as what happens when a child wants to decide their own religion.

Recommended parenting provisions

In addition to Arizona's required provisions, your plan should include all of the provisions necessary to guide co-parenting for your family. Consider the recommended provisions below.

The generic state and county parenting plan forms include some of these topics as optional provisions — however, they're often too vague for most family's needs. To create more specific provisions, make your own plan.

Child-rearing and co-parenting guidelines

Parenting guidelines establish requirements for child rearing, discipline, etc. You may want to include stipulations for children's social media usage, sleepovers, driving, employment and more. Many parents also include rules for how their new romantic partners will be introduced to and spend time with the children.

Arizona also encourages parents to include agreements to facilitate a positive co-parenting relationship, such as statements of mutual cooperation and promises to support each other's relationships with the children.

Communication and response time

To best facilitate co-parenting, plans should include rules for how parents will communicate with each other, such as stipulations for communication methods and response times. Many parents include an agreement not to communicate important information through the children.

To ensure organized records of your conversations and to help you communicate civilly, your plan can require you to communicate using a parent messaging tool like the one from Custody X Change, which monitors for aggressive language.

You can also include rules for how parents will communicate with the children during the other parent's time.

Dispute resolution

Set a dispute resolution process for when you can't agree on shared decisions. Some parents appoint a mutual friend or religious adviser to informally mediate disputes, while others opt for formal alternative dispute resolution methods.

Age-based rules and changes

Include age-based provisions specific to your children's current needs.

Prepare for their development and future needs with age-based changes. Parenting stipulations for an infant often change when the child becomes a toddler, and children in elementary school require different rules than teenagers. Specify these changes and when they'll go into effect.


If children's safety is a concern, create restrictions on parents' substance use, who can be around the children, physical discipline, firearms in the home and more. These provisions are often included when the court orders supervised visitation.

Child care

If your children go to day care or regularly spend time with a third-party caregiver, you can specify who provides the care. (Child care expenses are included in your child support order).

For occasional child care, parents often include a requirement to give the other parent a chance to care for the children before asking someone else.

Moving (relocating)

If a parent wants to move out of state or 100 miles away (or more) within Arizona, they're legally required to give the other parent written notice 45 days in advance. If the other parent objects to the move, they have 30 days to file an objection, which prompts a hearing where a judge decides.

When a parent moves any distance, both must still follow the parenting plan and time schedule, unless they get them modified by the court.

In your plan, include a statement acknowledging these rules and consider including any other moving rules specific to your situation. For example, plans for Phoenix parents often require written notice to move outside of the Phoenix metro area.


Your child support order accounts for education, medical and dental insurance and child care expenses.

Usually, parents with similar incomes split additional large expenses. Then, each parent covers smaller, daily costs when caring for the children, and child support payments even out discrepancies. In your plan, specify whether you'll use this common arrangement or another.

Required statements

All plans must also include statements indicating that parents acknowledge and will abide by certain Arizona laws regarding co-parenting.

  • Parents must acknowledge Arizona law 25-403.05 (B), which requires them to immediately notify each other if they learn that a convicted sex offender or someone convicted of a crime against a child may have access to the children.
  • Parents must acknowledge Arizona law 25-403.06, which states that both parents are entitled to access to children's medical, school, court, police and other records unless ordered otherwise by the court.
  • Plans must state that, when parents have a dispute, they're required to follow the parenting plan until it's resolved and that either parent can request enforcement for parenting time violations.
  • Plans must state if there's history or allegations of domestic violence. Additionally, when parents want to share joint legal decision-making and parenting time and either has been accused or convicted of domestic violence, DUI, or drug possession in the past 12 months, their settlement agreement must include an explanation of why shared custody is still in the best interests of the children.

To add these statements to a plan you make yourself, simply copy and paste the wording from your county's or the state's generic form into a document that you can attach.

The easiest way to make a parenting plan

When you create a parenting plan, it's critical you address all of your children's needs and use airtight language that leaves no room for interpretation.

If you're writing your own plan, use technology to take the guesswork out of the equation. The Custody X Change app will walk you through each step of creating a comprehensive parenting plan.

Choose from over 140 common provisions in more than 25 categories. Just select the items you want to include in your plan and fill in the blanks. You can also create custom provisions to meet your family's unique needs.

The result will be a professional document that demonstrates your competence as a parent from the first glance.

The easiest and most reliable way to make a parenting plan is with Custody X Change.

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