Updated: 2021-09-02 by
Arizona courts use the "best interest of the child" standard to make child custody decisions. Specifically, judges refer to Arizona Statutes Section 25-403 which says:
The court shall determine legal decision-making and parenting time, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child.
How Courts Make Child Custody Decisions in Arizona
Arizona law directs the court to consider the following list of specific factors when deciding what is in the best interest of a child:
- the past, present and potential future relationship between each parent and the child
- the interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child's parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest
- the child's adjustment to home, school and community.
- the wishes of the child, if the child is of suitable age and maturity
- the mental and physical health of all everyone involved
- which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent (this doesn't apply if a parent protecting the child from domestic violence or child abuse)
- whether either parent has intentionally misled the court during the case
- whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse
- either parents use of coercion or duress to obtain an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time.
- whether each parent has complied with court ordered education programs
- whether either parent has falsely reported child abuse or neglect.
The law gives Arizona judges a lot of flexibility to establish parental rights and responsibilities based on the best interest of the child. In addition to the guidelines listed above, the court may consider any other factors the judge finds relevant to the situation.
Court Should be Your Last Resort
Going to court to get custody of a child will be stressful for you and, worse, tough on the children. Also, because judges have so much flexibility to make custody decisions, it leaves the family vulnerable to the biased opinions of individual judges. For these reasons and more, a court case is something to pursue only if all other options—like negotiation and mediation—have failed. Take advantage of all the resources available to you for creating a parenting plan before subjecting yourself and your kids to a court battle.
Studying the law. This article summarizes the key factors courts use to make custody decisions in Arizona. That said, family law is a complicated subject and laws do change. We recommend that you read the full version of Arizona Statutes Section 25-403, available from the Arizona State Legislature.
Working with a lawyer. If you’re working with a lawyer, mediator, or both, ask them for help understanding how Arizona law applies to your specific circumstances.
Finding your local family court. In Arizona, family law cases are handled in the county district courts. Be sure to take advantage of the self-help resources your court offers.
You may also be interested in:
Know the basics of how to get custody of a child in Arizona, from the best interests of the child to child custody mediation and going to family court.
Know how joint physical custody and joint legal custody work in Arizona so you can create the best parenting plan for your family.
Answers to common questions about Arizona custody enforcement, including whether police will enforce a custody order.