Arizona Ranks Near The Top For Child Custody Rules

child custody rulesGetting divorced or separated is never easy on anyone. When there are minor children involved, the process can become much more complicated and emotional. The issues of child custody and visitation are often the most contentious parts of a separation, and not every state handles them the same way. However, the National Parents Organization, a nationwide parents’ rights group, has ranked Arizona as one of the top states for policies that encourage shared parenting in child custody cases.

The National Parents Organization issues an annual report card on all states’ family court policies. They gave more than a third of US states a failing grade for “not giving both parents equal access to their children.

The group’s executive director, Ginger Gentile, says that only Arizona and Kentucky received the grade of “A” on the report card.

“Most states are still failing their children by not ensuring that parents have equal access as the default,” says Gentile. “This means parents have to go to court to fight to see their children, or if they cannot afford to go to court, they might lose out on access altogether.”

How did Arizona get an “A” on the report card?

Ginger Gentile says that lawmakers in Arizona changed state laws several years ago to make shared custody one of the first options in separation and divorce cases. She says that lawmakers should see shared custody as a starting point for families. In the past, most states have defaulted to sole custody, and that has irreparably damaged many children’s relationships with their parents.

Child custody can be complex

When discussing child custody, we have to look at both physical custody as well as legal custody.

  • Physical custody refers to where a child will live after the separation. There can be shared or sole physical custody. If one parent has sole custody, visitation rights are typically set up so the non-custodial parents can see their child.
  • Legal custody refers to which parent gets to make major legal decisions regarding the child. There can also be shared or sole legal custody for this as well. Legal custody decisions are typically related to medical decisions, the religious upbringing of the child, educational decisions, and more.

The level of custody does not have to be the same for both. For example, parents can share physical custody while only one has legal custody and vice versa.

There are various factors that can affect child custody. Some of these factors include:

  • What both parents wishes are
  • What the child’s wishes are
  • The financial stability of the parents
  • The living situation of the parents
  • Any parental history of child or domestic abuse
  • History of drug or alcohol abuse
  • History of contact with child social services

Child custody arrangements will also influence another important aspect of divorce or separation, child support payments in Arizona. Both parents are required to support their child after separation, and failing to do so can lead to serious legal trouble.

What you can do

If you are going through a divorce or separation, and there are minor children between you and your partner, you should speak to a qualified Arizona child custody attorney. Just because this state has an “A” for handling these issues does not mean that each case is the same. You need to make sure your rights are protected at all times. Even if you have already been separated for some time, but wish to gain more custody time with your child, an attorney can help you navigate the often complicated family court system.

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