Sole Custody

I Want Sole Custody!

No, you don’t. For the first thing “custody” no longer exists in Arizona. For the second, what you think of as “custody” doesn’t really exist.

Since January of 2013, Arizona has “joint legal decision making authority” and “parenting time.” No custody, either legal or physical. What this means is that the default rule in Arizona is that parents share joint legal decision making authority for their kids, and some variation of parenting time. Let’s focus on legal decision making authority.

Legal decision making authority is how we make decisions for our children, usually about three major issue – where our kids go to school, what doctors they see and medical treatment they receive, and what their religious training will be. Fortunately, these decisions don’t come up very often. You may talk about where your kids will go to school at kindergarten, the start of middle school and maybe high school. Unless you have a child with a chronic medical condition such as severe asthma or ADD, you may never have to deal with medical decisions. And usually parents either agree on religion or each parent will do their own thing on their own time. All joint legal decision making authority means is that parents will do their best to come to these decisions together. If they can’t, then the Judge will make those decisions.

You might think, well, that’s why I want sole decision making authority, so we don’t have to go to the Judge. But sole decision making authority won’t prevent that. If you have sole decision making authority, you still have to inform the other parent of the decision to be made and possible options. If the other parent doesn’t agree that your decisions are in the best interests of your child, then that parent can go to the Judge to have the Judge decide.

There are only a few situations where the Court will grant sole decision making authority – one parent has a mental health condition that keeps him or her from making decisions, one parent has a drug or alcohol issue that keeps him or her from making decisions, there has been significant, reported domestic violence against one of the parents, or the parents have been in conflict for so long that the Judge is tired of dealing with them. So “we just don’t get along” is not a good enough reason to ask for sole decision making authority.

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