Child custody is the determination of which parent makes major decisions on behalf of a minor child(ren). A custody determination usually stems from the filing of a Paternity and Custody Matter, Divorce or Legal Separation. Arizona has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act which requires that in order for a state to have jurisdiction of a custody matter, the children should have resided in the state for six (6) months or more. There are generally two types of custody, sole legal custody or joint legal custody. When a parent is awarded sole legal custody, he or she will have the sole ability to make all decisions regarding the child(ren). Most sole custodians additionally have primary custody regarding where the child resides. Even with a sole custody order, there is an expectation that the sole custodian will notify the non-custodial parent when important issues arise in regard to the child. When parents are awarded joint legal custody, the parents will have to make agreements regarding all major issues affecting the minor child. Where this is a disagreement between parents regarding major issues that affect the child(ren), parents are typically expected to seek mediation or some alternative dispute resolution before filing matters with the Court. If parties cannot agree by any method, the Court may be addressed to resolve conflicts with respect to custodial decisions about the children. The family court in Arizona typically favors an award of joint legal custody between parents. Where a trial is held to determine custody, the Court must consider a number of factors to determine what custodial arrangement is in the best interest of the child(ren). A.R.S. 25-403 sets forth the factors a Court must consider in determining an appropriate custody order. The factors under A.R.S. 25-403 are as follows:
1. The wishes of the child's parent or parents as to custody.
2. The wishes of the child as to the custodian.
3. 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.
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 one parent, both parents or neither parent has provided primary care of the child.
8. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding custody.
9. Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.
10. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02.
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