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If you are trying to establish rights to a child in Arizona, you may be a parent or a non-parent. If you are a biological or adoptive parent, your rights are superior to all others as they concern your child. However, your rights can be affected by some of the following accusations: Abuse of a child; Abuse of substances including recreational or prescription drugs or alcohol; or Abandonment of your child. Your rights can also be affected if you demonstrate a lack of fitness to be a parent.

When a parent has a prior court order confirming rights, then the court order controls access to the child and the ability to make decisions until the court order changes.

Frequently Asked Questions


What if you are a biological or adoptive parent, but you do not have a court order?

If there is no court order, then a court will have to confirm whether you are the legal parent. For fathers, this is a specific inquiry: If you are on the birth certificate or you are a father who signed an acknowledgement of paternity, then you are presumed the parent. If you were married to the child’s other parent when the child was born, then you are also presumed a legal parent. Once the judge confirms that you are a parent, they next have to determine what your rights are.

What is full custody and how do I get full custody?

“Full custody” is not a legal terms. Courts use the terms “Parenting Time” and “Legal Decision-Making.” Legal decision-making is the ability to make major decisions affecting your children (formerly referred to as legal custody). Major decisions concerning a child include their medical care, education and religious training. Parenting Time is the time you spend parenting your child. The Arizona Statutes say that parents should be entitled to the “maximum” time available to share with their children. When you are dividing the “maximum” access that two people equally have a right to enjoy, the most that the maximum access can be is 50%. Therefore, many people make the mistake of assuming this is automatically “50/50” or “equal.”

I want 50/50 parenting time. Will I automatically be awarded equal parenting time?

If you and the other parent cannot agree, the judge will analyze your specific case. For some parents, including those with trouble with the law, substance abuse, or meaningful lack of parenting experience, maximum time may be less. This is why it is so important to have a good lawyer to advocate for you. The judge is most interested in what is beneficial and safe for your children, and your interests as well as the interests of the other parent are a secondary concern.

How will the judge decide who gets access to my child?

The judge will apply a set of factors stated in the Arizona Revised Statutes that the legislature has said the judge must analyze in a contested custody case. Those factors are the “Best Interest Factors.”

They include the following parenting time and legal decision-making considerations:
  • The relationship between the child and the parents.
  • The interaction between the child and their siblings or other adults in the household.
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.
  • The child’s wishes.
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child to have frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent.
  • Whether either parent has intentionally misled the court.
  • Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse.
  • Whether either parent used coercion or duress to obtain an agreement.
  • Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect.

What if we can agree on a parenting plan without a judge getting involved?

Parents can make agreements on their own, called a parenting plan, for parenting time and legal decision-making. If you can agree on all or some of the terms of a parenting plan, then you will reduce much of the uncertainty of your case. However, for the areas on which you do not agree on parenting time, the court may order you to mediation or to a parenting conference. The court sometimes will appoint a third party to conduct a parenting conference and provide an expert opinion on how to resolve parenting time and legal decision-making issues. The parenting conference provider is usually a mental health professional who is experienced in working with divided families. When participating in child custody disputes, each parent places their mental, physical, and psychological condition at issue, and the court is required to consider this in making their determination. The assessment from a professional helps the court to make a fair and educated decision on custody disputes.

What if there has been domestic violence?

One of the most influential factors in determining child custody is the existence of domestic violence. If there is a significant history of domestic violence, a court cannot grant custody to the domestic violence perpetrator. Since domestic violence can vary in degree and severity, the court may consider domestic violence in your case. If one parent acts in good faith to keep a child from witnessing domestic violence or from being a victim of domestic violence, then that parent may not be blamed for withholding a child from the parent who may or already has committed domestic violence.

What if I am not a parent and I want to establish rights to a child?

Arizona law favors legal parents in decisions concerning custody of a child. However, Arizona may consider a third party for purposes of awarding parenting time and legal decision-making. We have successfully represented grandparents and stepparents in third party custody cases.

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Peaceful Family Law was founded in 2009 with a desire to ensure the institution of family was preserved in times of conflict. Jennifer Moshier was one of the first trained collaborative law attorneys in Arizona.

We want our clients to stay in control of their family court outcomes and be involved in making a peaceful transition in to the next chapters of their lives.