Establishment of Child Custody

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Establishment of Legal Decision Making (Custody) & Parenting Time


There are many reasons parents may want to establish custody. Unmarried parents who don’t live together may desire to have a written agreement that clearly outlines how the two parents agree to raise the child. Issues of support obligations, how much time each parent will spend with the child and who will make decisions for the child should be part of the plan. Raising a child together when the parents are separated is difficult. The plan is the foundation for working together for the rest of your child’s life.

Is the biological father also legally the father, in other words is paternity established?

Establishing paternity is the first step, you can’t skip it and even if there is general agreement about the identity of the  father is you must still follow the legal procedures.

The Legal Process

1. Complete a petition to establish custody and/or child support.

2. Fill out the summons to appear in court.
3.  Serve the opposing party.  The opposing party will have 20 days to respond if he or she lives in Arizona or 30 days to respond if he or she lives outside Arizona.

4. Both parties must complete a parent educational program.




Warning:  Arizona Law has undergone some changes to its custody statutes. ***  These Changes are effective January 1, 2013 and this page reflects the new law.

 Sole/Joint Custody and Legal Decision Making:

Concepts such as sole versus joint custody are now viewed more specifically as legal decision making on issues such as, medical care, religious upbringing, and educational choices.

The Parenting Plan:

Parents are encouraged by the court to come to an agreement with regard to a parenting plan and if possible to provide the court with an agreed upon plan.  However, if the parents cannot agree, each parent must submit a proposed parenting plan to the court.

A parenting plan must include:

  1. Whether the party proposes joint or sole parenting
  2. Each parent’s rights and responsibilities with regard to raising the child
  3. A detailed schedule of parenting time
  4. A detailed procedure for the exchanges of the child
  5. How potential changes, disputes, and alleged breaches will be addressed
  6. A procedure for periodic review of the plan’s terms
  7. A detailed procedure for communication between parents about the child
  8. Parties understand they must notify each other if a sex offender may have access to the child

And if we can’t agree, what happens?

If parents are unable to agree on any part of the plan, the court may decide that part for the parents.  The court’s decision will be based on what would be in the best interests of child’s emotional and physical health.

Warning: Just because the court grants shared legal decision-making, this does not necessarily mean equal parenting time.

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