Legal separation and divorce are usually messy. One of the main contention points is who gets custody of the children, visitation rights, and child support. If the parents cannot agree on how they would raise the children, the court must decide what the best interest of the children is. They would decide on how much time the parents get to spend with their kids, which parent will be the primary caregiver.

Few people want to be separated from their kids. If you’re going to spend as much time with your kids as possible, as well as influence their upbringing, it’s best to hire a Surprise AZ child custody lawyer.

In this article, we’ll discuss the standard terms and frequently asked questions regarding Child Custody in Arizona.

What is parenting time?

It’s is also known as visitation. It’s a term referring to the chance for the child to spend with the non-custodial parent.

What is custody?

Custody refers to the right of a person to make decisions regarding the welfare and the upbringing of the child. The person granted custody is referred to as the “custodial parent,” and usually, the child spends the most time with their custodial parent. The sex of the parent does not influence the decision on who gets custody.

Who decides custody and parenting time?

The parents may agree on these issues. If not, then the Superior Court decides visitation schedule and custody.

What is physical custody?

Physical custody is a parents’ right for the child to reside with them. In sole physical custody, the child’s primary residence is with one parent. If the court grants joint physical custody, then the child essentially spends equal time with both parents. The court may award joint physical custody even if only one parent has the legal custody.

What is legal custody?

A parent has legal custody if they are responsible for making decisions about the child’s welfare. One or both parents may have legal custody of a child.

The parents may have joint legal custody of the child, meaning they have equal legal rights to decide for them. The court may direct that a parent may have more authority over certain decisions if this is in the best interest of the child.

If a parent has sole legal custody, then they’re the only one responsible for the significant decisions for the child’s care. The noncustodial parent may talk with the custodial parent about these, but the final decision rests with them.

Joint custody does not automatically mean both joint physical custody and joint legal custody. Family courts can order joint legal custody without joint physical custody.

Can a person other than a parent have custody?

Yes. According to child custody laws, a person (a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or guardian) who stands in loco parentis to a child may also ask the court for custody. Certain conditions have to be met for a person to be in loco parentis. If you have a meaningful relationship with a child as a parental figure, consult with a Surprise family law attorney to gain the right to spend time with the child.

What does the court consider when deciding what is in the child’s best interests in custody disputes?

The factors considered by the court vary from state to state. Arizona custody law guides the courts with the factors they should consider. Here’s a list of these factors:

  • The parent primarily involved in the child’s care;
  • The parent who has more meaningful and more frequent involvement with the child;
  • How the child interacts with the parents and their siblings;
  • The child’s wishes;
  • The parents’ wishes.

Of course, the court also looks at the circumstances that may endanger a child or negatively affect them. Issues like drug abuse, alcohol abuse, neglect, and domestic violence affect the court’s custody decision. In the best interests of a child, the court will usually refrain from granting custody to a parent who has a history of violence and abuse.


It’s difficult going through a divorce or legal separation. As a parent, it’s natural to want to be present in the child’s life and spend time with them. If you’re concerned about having custody of your child, consult with our Surprise, child custody attorney. At The Dodds Law Firm, we represent individuals in legal matters that affect their families. If you face divorce, a child custody dispute, or another important family law issue, we can help you find a successful resolution. Contact us now for a initial consultation!