Helping Parents Facing Custody Determinations or Modifications in Arizona
Child custody matters can arise for many reasons. You may be getting divorced or have a pending paternity case, or one parent may raise the subject of custody with the court outside of a pending court case. Anytime you are not married to or living with your child’s other parent, you should have a child custody order in place.
Courts look to protect the best interests of children with separated parents, and you want to protect your parental rights, as well. Getting the right custody arrangement is critical for everyone involved, so you want to have legal representation you can trust throughout your custody case. At DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC in Phoenix, we handle custody cases, as well as any other accompanying issues, such as divorce or child support. Call our Phoenix office to learn more about how we can protect your rights in a child custody matter.
Custody Laws in Arizona
There are two types of child custody, traditionally called physical and legal custody. Arizona law now refers to these types of custody as “parenting time” and “legal decision-making.” Parenting time refers to how much time each parent physically spends with each parent, while legal decision-making refers to when each parent has the authority and responsibility to make important decisions for the child’s life.
Arizona law requires courts to examine several factors in custody cases to decide what arrangement will be in the best interests of the child. Some factors include:
- The child’s past relationship with each parent
- How the child interacts with each parent and any siblings or family members
- The child’s adjustment and connection to a specific community, school, or home
- The physical and mental needs of both parents and the child
- Whether each parent is willing to help foster a meaningful relationship with the other parent (absent domestic violence or abuse situations)
- Whether one parent engaged in child abuse or domestic violence, or whether a parent made false reports of abuse or violence
- Whether one parent tried to coerce the other into agreeing to a particular custody arrangement
- The child’s wishes if the child is mature enough to express a choice
- All other factors the court finds relevant
Gone are the days when a court automatically leans toward awarding a mother full custody. Instead, courts in Phoenix Arizona presume that parenting time with both parents is in the child’s best interests unless there are circumstances involving abuse.
Reaching a Phoenix Custody Determination
Many parents are able to work together and design a parenting time schedule and legal-decision-making arrangement that works for everyone. Just because you do not agree at first does not mean that it isn’t possible. Our legal team in Phoenix works to negotiate and work toward a mutually beneficial agreement so you can resolve the custody issues in the most civil and efficient manner possible. If you reach an agreement, we will help you draft a detailed parenting plan, which the court must review. The court will grant the arrangement if it finds the agreement is in the best interests of the child.
However, if two parents cannot agree or the court does not believe the proposed parenting plan is in the child’s best interests, the court will need to make a determination regarding your custody arrangement. Each parent, represented by their attorneys, will have the chance to present their case to the judge supporting their desired custody arrangement. The judge will review the evidence and order a particular parenting time and decision-making arrangement.
As you can imagine, it is not preferable to have a judge who does not know you or your child making decisions about your future relationship. While trial can be necessary in some child custody cases, our lawyers will help you keep control over your situation whenever possible by working toward a settlement agreement.
Modifying Your Custody Order
Even if a custody arrangement works for a couple of years, circumstances can change that may require a change in the parenting time schedule or other details of the arrangement. If you and the other parent agree to the changes, you will need to submit them to the court to officially modify the custody order. If the other parent disputes the changes, you will need to petition the court for a modification, or vice versa.
The law is specific regarding when a parent can petition the court for a modification, including:
- At any time after the initial order if there is evidence of child abuse or domestic violence since the order took effect
- Within six months of the order if the other parent refuses to comply with the order
- Within one year if there is reason for a parent to believe the environment with the other parent is a threat to the child’s health and well-being
- After one year if a parent proposes changes based on a substantial change in circumstances
There are also special provisions regarding the rights of military parents against permanent modifications due to deployment.
It is important to know that courts will not routinely grant modifications on the whims of parents. Instead, you must have specific reasoning to support the need for a modification, and our attorneys can help you modify your order (or oppose a modification) when the time comes. Having the right order in place from the start can help reduce the need for a modification case down the road.
Contact Our Phoenix Child Custody Attorney to Learn More Today
At DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC, our Phoenix family law attorneys help our clients through all types of emotionally-charged cases, including child custody and divorce. We get to know you to best understands your goals, and we work toward a resolution of your case that is tailored to your situation. We understand that it is possible to reach a settlement agreement in some cases and impossible in others, and we are prepared to protect your rights either way.