HOW IS CHILD CUSTODY DECIDED?
By Kent Berk on August 14th, 2013 in
Divorce is not only a stressful time on the spouses involved but has an enormous effect on the children. Which parent will gain custody? Who will they live with most of the time? What are the visitation rights?
Gaining child custody may be one of the biggest issues in your divorce case, so having an experienced divorce attorney at your side is critical.
An article from Livestrong.com discusses the steps and standards in deciding child custody.
Courts all across America use the same standard, known as the “best interest” of the child. Even though the rights of parents in divorce cases are important factors in deciding custody (or, in Arizona, parenting time and legal decision making) matters, the court’s primary focus should always remain in finding the arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.
In Arizona, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-403, the judge is required to evaluate all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being, including:
1. The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.
2. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
3. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.
4. If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.
5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
6. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. This paragraph does not apply if the court determines that a parent is acting in good faith to protect the child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.
7. Whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent.
8. Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to [A.R.S.] § 25-403.03.
9. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time.
10. Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.
11. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under [A.R.S.] § 13-2907.02.
A frequent part of the child custody process is mediation. Some jurisdictions require parents in divorce proceedings to participate in mediation if they can’t come to a settlement on their own.
During mediation, a professional mediator meets with parents and tries to help them resolve issues concerning child custody. The mediator doesn’t make the decisions for the parents or who “wins or loses”; rather, he or she only facilitates communication and negotiation between them to help them achieve a settlement of custody issues.
The judge will issue a decree as the final step of the process. The decree will incorporate all the issues settled by the divorcing spouses or decided by the judge after a hearing or trial.
Please contact our office if you have questions about child custody or other family law matters.