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Phoenix Divorce Attorney Ron ThomasAs an Arizona child custody attorney, I have tenaciously represented clients in custody cases for almost three decades.  Child Custody disputes are common in Arizona.  However, there is a common misconception regarding the term “custody” and how it is applied in Arizona.

If you are facing a contentious child custody battle, I invite you to call Thomas Law Office to schedule a consultation to learn how I can work tirelessly to seek the custody and parenting time arrangements that you want (subject to Arizona law). I also invite you to read through the following article to learn more about child custody matters in Arizona.

Frequently Asked Questions

It is critical to understand the different custody options available in Arizona, including:

  • Joint Legal Custody. Joint custody, known as “joint legal decision-making” in Arizona, allows both parents to retain the legal power to make important decisions regarding a child (e.g., medical care, religious affiliations, etc.).
  • Sole Legal Custody. In highly contentious custody disputes in which parents cannot effectively make decisions, sole legal decision-making authority is typically awarded to a single parent.  This type of custody gives only one parent the legal right to make key parenting decisions.
  • Shared Physical Custody. Equal parenting time is designed to provide both parents with equal time with a child (e.g., a child may spend one week with the mother, followed by one week with the father).  Arizona courts regularly award equal parenting time, as it often provides the most significant opportunity for children to form meaningful relationships with both parents.
  • Visitation | Parenting Time. If one parent is granted sole physical custody, the noncustodial parent will typically be granted visitation, referred to in Arizona as “parenting time.”  Parenting time can be nonspecific to accommodate variable work schedules; however, noncustodial parents with consistent work schedules are often awarded alternating weekends with a child.

Child custody matters are among the most contentious and challenging family law cases, especially for Arizona fathers.  You need a strategic custody and visitation plan built specifically for you and your family and a guide to help you navigate the process.  As an Arizona men’s child custody lawyer, I stand ready to provide you with an uncomplicated path to a child custody outcome that will help you proceed forward.

If a person has obtained an Arizona court order granting them sole custody, which is sreferred to as sole legal decision-making authority in Arizona, generally, they need not consult with the other parent before making major decisions affecting the child’s best interest in the areas referred to above. That is, the custodial parent gets to call the shots when making big decisions. If, however, the Arizona court order states that both parents have joint custody or legal decision-making authority, the parents are required to communicate with each other before making major decisions about the child’s best interests in the areas referred to above.

In amicable separations (in which parents can effectively communicate and agree on most issues), reaching an agreement between the parties is typically the least cumbersome and most economical path to settling a custody matter.  However, many custody disputes are highly contentious, meaning that courts must step in and determine custody and visitation for the parents.

A judge is legally required to make such determinations based on what is in the best interests of a child, carefully weighing the following factors:

  • The child’s wishes (if the child is old enough and mature enough, a judge may consider their preference);
  • The parent’s wishes;
  • The child’s relationship with each parent;
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all involved parties;
  • The ability of each parent to provide for a child’s basic needs;
  • Any history of domestic violence or abuse;
  • The willingness of each parent to facilitate and encourage a meaningful and ongoing relationship with the child and the other parent; and
  • Any other factors that the court may deem necessary and proper to the determination.

It is critical to understand that these are just a few of the factors that judges in Arizona may consider when making child custody determinations. It is critical to note that each case is unique, and judges will typically evaluate all relevant factors to make the best decision for a child’s well-being.

No.  Historically, mothers were more likely to be granted sole physical custody of children over fathers; however, as society has progressed, so has family law.  In Arizona, both parents have an equal opportunity to obtain sole or joint custody, as courts are supposed to determine legal decision-making and parenting time based on what is in a child’s best interest, not the gender of the parents.

At Thomas Law Office, we are tenacious is seeking the outcomes desired by our clients – including in seeking their custody objectives.

Unless there are specific reasons why it is not in the best interest of a child to visit with a parent (such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, etc.), Arizona law requires courts to provide frequent and continuing contact with both parents.

Formerly, parenting time was referred to Arizona and most other states as “custody” or “visitation.” Recent Arizona amendments now have replaced these terms with “parenting time.  A parent that does not have primary or equal parenting time  is at least allowed to have frequent and meaningful parenting time with their children.

Parents can set a parenting time schedule by agreeing on the terms, or a court can do so on their behalf through issuing parenting time orders, which often include:

  • alternating overnight weekend visits,
  • alternating holiday and school breaks (including birthdays), and
  • pick-up and drop-off instructions (including travel responsibilities).

Most judges in Arizona presumably would prefer to award the parents joint custody or legal decision-making authority.  However, there are some Arizona statutory factors that may reduce the chances of being awarded joint legal decision-making authority.  One such example is a DUI conviction.  Another is a domestic violence conviction.  However, for the most part, Arizona judges will consider a wide variety of factors to determine whether joint or sole custody should be awarded in that particular case.


Most commonly, a major issue is going to be whether the parents can cooperate with each other when it comes to making such major life decisions for their children, such as those referred to above.  If the parents constantly argue and rarely agree on anything, awarding joint legal decision-making authority (custody) typically is going to be counterproductive, unless the judge feels that their argumentativeness is likely related to their previous romantic relationship with each other and will subside quickly after they recover from the breakup of their relationship.


Even when parents are having trouble reaching agreements, there are things Arizona judges can do to encourage the parents to cooperate before taking joint custody away from one of the parents. For example, a judge can require the parties to use certain forms of communication, such as specialized parenting communication apps like Our Family Wizard, to minimize friction during the communication process.

I have been helping fathers navigate contentious child custody disputes for almost three decades, and I enjoy seeing my clients rejoice when their case is successfully resolved.  Your child custody rights are important and should be fully protected in court.


Sometimes a successful resolution may come from a settlement agreement. Other times the successful resolution is achieved only after a long and brutal Arizona custody battle. As an experienced Phoenix custody lawyer, I do not limit myself to just representing clients who want mediation or out-of-court solutions. I have almost three decades of courtroom experience that can be used to your benefit if your case is not a good candidate for mediation or an out-of-court settlement.


Whether you are seeking full custody, shared custody, temporary custody, or child custody advice, as an Arizona father’s custody lawyer, I am ready to be your advocate.  Responsible Arizona parents are entitled to a quality relationship and ample time with their child, and I will do everything in my legal power to get you the result you deserve.


Winning child custody is not something you want to try on your own.  Because there are significant and long-term consequences associated with child custody and parenting time decisions, I invite you to call me to learn how I can help you in your matter.

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