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Can an order be initiated to change a custody status from joint to sole?

Yuma, AZ |

The divorce decree states Joint but that's when the ex-husband and I lived in the same county but now the father of the child has moved out to the east coast with his current wife and two kids as I stay back in the west coast with our child. Being that the he is not around the child as much as before and I am now the primary caregiver supporting and providing for the child without any help from him, can an order be initiated to change the custody status?

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Attorney answers 2


Yes, you can file a petition to modify custody and/or parenting time, which would be appropriate in this case where the circumstances have changed since the initial decree. You can file one by yourself (without your ex), but need to serve the petition and other documents on your ex and allow him the chance to respond. You can also agree to a new custody order and parenting plan by agreement. If the parenting time changes in the new agreement, you can also request a new child support calculation.

Filing a petition to modify custody is a complex process, and you should definitely consult with a lawyer about the particular details of your case before taking any legal action.

This post is general information about divorce and family law in Arizona, and is not legal advice. Divorce is a complex process, and taking legal action without the one-on-one professional advice of a lawyer can produce unexpected results.


While I agree with my esteemed colleague that yes, you can file a Petition to Modify Legal Decision Making (formerly “Custody,”) I do believe that the fact that he now lives across the country is likely not sufficient grounds to take away his right to make decisions.

Obviously, the Parenting Plan will need to be addressed to modify his Parenting Time. He would be entitled to longer visits in the summer and alternating breaks from school with the kids, but his decision to move across country alone does not make him any less the child’s father.

If he voluntarily chose to no longer be a part of the child’s life, that would be a different matter, but the miles alone do not alter his rights to be a dad.

You mentioned that he is not helping you. If there is no child support ordered or if it is insufficient, you can also Petition the court to Modify or Order Child Support.

Most family law firms here in AZ do not charge for a consultation. I would suggest that you consult with a local attorney to help you decide how best to proceed.

Good luck!

Patrick Sampair
The Sampair Group, PLLC

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Not trying to take away his rights as the father. I understand the visitation rights the noncustodial parent rates and the type of visitation rights that can be granted which I agree for him to visit his child and from what he has stated "Whenever I can afford the travel and time." The initial order states joint but for almost 2 years, I been the sole custodial parent for the child. The order states he will pay for child care but he expects me to pay him back on tax returns when we both agree on the divorce that we will not ask each other for money, i.e. Spousal Support.

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