Arizona’s Best Interests of the Child Standard
Many individuals involved in custody disputes are concerned with how the court will make its determination of custody. They want to know how the court determines custody and what factors the court will consider when making its determination.
Best Interests of the Child.
When making a custody determination, Arizona courts determine custody based on what is in the best interests of the child. Arizona courts will consider all of the factors listed in A.R.S. § 25-403.
What Factors Does the Court Consider?
Some of the factors the court will consider are: (1) the wishes of the parents as to custody; (2) the wishes of the child as to the custodian; (3) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with the parents, siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest; (4) the child's adjustment to home, school and community; (5) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; (6) which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent; (7) whether a parent has provided primary care of the child; (8) whether a parent has used coercion or duress to obtain a custody agreement; (9) whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect; and (10) whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse.
Custody and Parenting Time When Domestic Violence is Involved.
Arizona courts are prohibited from awarding joint custody if there is a finding of significant domestic violence between the parties (A.R.S. § 25-403.03). The court will consider the safety and well being of the child and the victim of the domestic violence and the perpetrator’s history of causing domestic violence.
Once the court makes a finding that one parent has committed an act of domestic violence against the other parent, there is a rebuttable presumption that an award of custody to the parent committing the domestic in not in the child’s best interest. This means that the parent committing the domestic violence must prove that an award of custody and parenting time will not endanger the child or significantly impair the child’s emotional development. Keep in mind that the presumption does not exist if both parents have committed and act of domestic violence.
A.R.S. § 25-403 governs the best interests of the child standard in Arizona. There is no presumption in favor of joint custody vs. sole custody. The court simply looks at the best interest factors to determine whether joint or sole custody is in the child’s best interest. Significant domestic violence between the parents, and certain criminal offenses may require the court to enter an award of sole custody in favor of the non-offending parent.
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