Category: Child Custody Law

Understanding Recent Changes in Arizona Custody Laws

Some important changes were recently made to the Arizona child custody legislation that went into full effect January 1, 2013. Some terminology was modified and some amendments were made in order to clarify the purpose and procedures of the courts when determining custody arrangements for children of divorced parents. The new legislation aims to provide fair treatment for mothers and fathers in court conclusions about custody and further maximize the time both parents spend with their children.


Most significantly, the word “custody” is almost completely removed from the legislation in order to clarify the difference between legal and physical custody. “Legal custody” is now referred to as “legal decision-making” and encompasses the right a parent has to make necessary decisions for the child about education, health and personal care, and religious upbringing. A judge may grant joint legal decision-making, dividing these responsibilities between parents, or give one parent sole legal decision-making authority.

“Physical custody” is now referred to as “parenting time” and indicates the time a child is allotted with each parent. While previously, “visitation” was thought to refer to the allotment of time granted to the non-custodial parent, this is an incorrect interpretation. “Visitation”, as far as the courts are concerned, is any time someone other than a legal parent spends with a child (such as grandparents). [For more information on visitation rights of grandparents, click here].


Arizona legislators are also making efforts to eliminate the biased designation of legal decision-making rights and parenting time based on gender. This gives fathers more of a fair fight in a custody battle, as historically women have been favored for sole guardianship of children or a majority of the parenting time. While the courts had already concluded that having both parents present in a child’s life is in their best interest, the new Arizona custody legislation aims to give both parents equal and maximum time with their children.

A conditional factor was also added to give children more of a say in the division of parenting time, given the court deems the child old enough and mature enough to understand their circumstances. Ultimately, a judge still has the authority to decide how much parenting time each parent receives, but these new clauses will hopefully provide children with cohesive parental relationships, despite the dissolution of a marriage.

Additionally, the legislation used to decree that custody rights were determined based on which parent, if either, provided the majority of the child’s primary care in the past. This process has been changed to take into consideration the past, present, and future potential of a parental relationship.

Fines are now being enforced on parents who intentionally delay court proceedings or are not forthcoming with pertinent information. Prior to the new legislation, these fines were optional based on the judge’s discretion.


Unfortunately, these new decrees were not intended to be retroactive, nor do they guarantee that a new petition for custody changes will grant the family a different outcome. Parents who wish to petition for their custody agreement to be more in line with the new statutes must still provide adequate proof of change in circumstances. [See “Changing my Child Support” for more information].

For the best results in a custody case, it is important to work with a family law attorney who has experience with the legal process and is an expert on how these changes to Arizona custody laws can affect your family. Brad Crider is well qualified to help you through even the toughest custody arrangement or divorce settlement. To set up an initial consultation, contact Crider Law today.



Grandparents: Custody and Visitation Rights

According to Arizona State law, grandparents and great-grandparents of minor children may petition the courts to be given visitation rights or custody privileges if they believe it is in the best interest of the child. However, there are many conditions that must be met for a court to grant such privileges to a non-legal parent. Many unique circumstances may require a grandparent to be responsible for the caretaking of a child, and at Crider Law we will work with you to ensure that your family’s childcare needs are met.


Some parents may try to keep their children from seeing their ex-spouse’s family after a divorce. For grandparents, this can be difficult, especially if they believe the parents are not equipped to take adequate care of the children. To grant grandparents visitation rights, even those with in loco parentis relationships (meaning that the child and the non-parent have formed a meaningful parent-child relationship over a period of time), the courts must see evidence that:

  • The parents’ marriage has been dissolved for at least 3 months, or
  • One or both parents is deceased or has been missing, as reported to law enforcement, for at least 3 months, or
  • The child was born outside of wedlock and the parents are not married at the time the petition is made

The courts will consider the following factors when determining whether grandparent visitation is necessary and beneficial to the child.

  • The historical relationship, if any, between the child and the person seeking visitation.
  • The motivation of the requesting party seeking visitation.
  • The motivation of the person objecting to visitation.
  • The quantity of visitation time requested and the potential adverse impact that visitation will have on the child’s customary activities.
  • If one or both of the child’s parents are deceased, the benefit in maintaining an extended family relationship.

Guardianship & Custody

In Arizona, parents can also choose to relinquish their rights of guardianship to a grandparent or other non-parent, but both parents must give their written consent by submitting a petition for “Consent Guardianship”. In the event that a grandparent or other nonparent wishes to petition for sole or joint custody, the following conditions must be met.

  • The person filing the petition must have an in loco parentis relationship with the child, and
  • There must be substantial evidence that it would be “significantly detrimental” to the child to be placed in the custody of either of the child’s living legal parents (whether adoptive or birth) that wish to retain custody, and
  • The courts have not approved a different custody agreement for the child in question in the year prior to receiving the new custody petition. This rule is exempt if there is reason to believe that the child’s present circumstances are severely dangerous to their physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.

The courts stand on the “rebuttable presumption” that granting custody to the legal parents is in the best interest of the child due to the evidence that the physical, psychological, and emotional needs of the child can be best met by their legal parents. However, in any case where substantial evidence is given to show that a non-parent is found better suited to provide physical, psychological, and emotional stability to a child, the courts may allow grandparents and other non-parents to obtain custody rights and visitation privileges.

To find out how these petitions can affect the future of your family, call Crider Law today to set up a consultation.

“A Child’s Best Interest”: Key Factors to Child Custody

When it comes to determining child custody and parenting time rights in the midst of a divorce, you’ve undoubtedly read the words “in the best interest of the child” countless times. But what does that really mean? Since every family dynamic is unique, you may be wondering how a judge can really determine what is best for YOUR child. You do not have to completely relinquish this life-changing custody decision to a third-party judge however if you are able to first negotiate with your ex-spouse, through assisted mediation or otherwise. While a judge still has power to make the final decision, they will take into account any agreement you and your spouse have come to. In addition to your input, there are many other factors that judges use to determine a custody solution. It is important to be aware of these key factors so you have a say in what best suits the needs of your family.

Custody Options

On matters of custody, courts rarely take an “all or nothing” approach. In the occasional case where one parent is granted sole custody, the child will reside with them permanently and this parent will be responsible for making all legal decisions on behalf of the minor child. More often however, a judge orders a joint custody arrangement. If a judge rules that “joint legal custody” is best, both parents will be responsible for making important legal decisions for the child together. “Joint physical custody” means that the child will have one primary place of residence and a parenting time plan will be drafted to ensure the other parent gets their fair share of time with the child. A combination of these parenting plans may be ordered as part of the divorce settlement.

Key Factors

To determine the best parenting and custody plan, a judge will look at factors like:

  • The physical, mental, and financial capacity of both parents to provide for the child
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment
  • Geographical location and proximity of parent’s homes to each other and to the child’s place of education
  • Any parental history of drug and alcohol abuse or domestic violence
  • The age and number of children involved
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • The child’s preference may be considered if the child is old enough (usually at least age 12)
  • Any special needs of the child

Use Caution

Another important component judges will look at is the apparent willingness of both parents to support their child having a relationship with the other parent. If you have an especially vindictive spouse, they may try and use your words and actions against you to make you seem unfit to parent, limiting your custody and parenting time privileges. Though it may be difficult, be very careful what you say about your ex out loud and in writing during the divorce proceedings.

You will often have to compromise with your spouse on issues concerning custody, but your children are absolutely worth fighting for. Brad Crider is an experienced family law attorney in Arizona who is dedicated to fighting for your rights to time with your children. For further information on specific custody questions or to set up your initial consultation, call the Crider Law Offices today.

Preparing to Co-Parent: Communication is Key

In a divorce where children are involved, additional challenges arise as you and your ex-spouse figure out how to co-parent effectively. Most judges in a court of law will determine that joint custody is in the best interest of the child(ren) unless one parent has proven to be dangerous to or unable to provide for the child. Children generally benefit from both parents being a part of their life, but it is your responsibility as the parents to enable your children to have a good relationship with their mother and father.


The key to co-parenting is effective communication. You will want to communicate with your ex only as often as is necessary to convey important information about your child. You do not have to be friends with your ex, but you should treat them with respect, especially in front of your children. Some suggestions for effective co-parenting communication include:

  1. Keep the conversation focused on your child and their needs.
  2. Do not needlessly drudge up the past – focus on the present problem or circumstance.
  3. Do not make assumptions or use language that accuses. Keep a level head.
  4. Communicate with them the way you want them to communicate with you, even if they do not initially reciprocate.
  5. Be courteous, business-like, and cooperative.

Can I Text My Ex?

Some parents aren’t sure which medium to use to communicate to ensure they are not crossing boundaries. It often depends on the relationship between the parents, but most often, the best form of communication is through e-mail. E-mails allow parents to correspond directly while keeping a record of what was said and agreed upon. E-mails are nonintrusive and can be checked at the leisure of the recipient, but it is important that both parents agree to respond in a timely manner.

Texting can be useful to communicate quick, important information (such as notifying the other parent that you are on your way to pick up your child), but texting can also present problems. Due to technology failures or a dead phone battery, texts may not go through, may not be read, may be delivered late, etc. Texts are also not a reliable record of exchanged information.

Phone calls may be appropriate at times when information is needed quickly, so long as both parents are able to communicate over the phone without conflict.

Communicating to Your Kids

An equally important aspect of co-parenting is the way you talk to your kids about the other parent. As mentioned earlier, it is in the best interest of the child to develop a healthy relationship with both parents. This will be difficult if one or both parents are constantly degrading and talking ill of the other parent. Do your best to keep your child out of the middle of your relationship struggle.

If your inability to communicate with your ex is affecting your children, seek the guidance of your attorney for resources that can help you in preparing to co-parent.

Relocation and Child Custody

Child custody issues often occur when a divorced parent decides to relocate to another city out of state or, in some cases, within the same state, but more than 100 miles away. Relocation frequently happens when a parent has decided to take a new job or wants to live closer to family. When this decision is made, there is typically a custody hearing involved to determine what is fair for both parents.

Most divorces that involve children give both parents certain visitation or custody rights. According to Arizona law, both parents are entitled to reasonable parenting time in most cases. This ensures that children have frequent and continuing contact with the parents. Relocation by one of the parents disrupts this contact. The moving parent must be able to show that the move is in the best interests of the child.

Arizona law requires that the court hearing the custody matter consider the following:

  • The relationship of the child with the parents,
  • The wishes of the child as to the custodian depending upon age and maturity,
  • The interaction and relationship between the child and the child’s parent or parent’s the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school and community,
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved,
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent,
  • Whether one parent, both parents or neither parent has provided primary care for the child,
  • The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement re custody,
  • Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.
  • Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect

When the divorce decree states that both parents are entitled to custody or parenting time, the parent who is moving must provide a 60-day written notice to the other parent unless a provision for relocation exists in the parenting plan or court order at the time of the divorce. The non-moving parent then has 30 days to request a hearing to prevent the relocation.

It’s a very good idea to consult with a family law attorney if you are either looking to relocate or your child’s other parent is planning to relocate. Motions and notices must be submitted correctly and in a timely fashion. Relocating with your child without providing the right notice will hurt you. The courts do not take this lightly and will move swiftly to make changes in your custody rights. Please give us a call to discuss your plans. On the other hand, if your child’s parent is planning to relocate with your child, contact us right away so we can file a motion to prevent the relocation.

An experienced family law attorney such as Brad Crider of Crider Law will take the time to review the facts surrounding your case and help you see a fair outcome.