Child Custody FAQs

Q: Is the non-custodial parent entitled to visitation with a child that primarily resides with the other parent?

A parent is entitled to visitation with a child unless there is a finding by the judge that such visitation will endanger seriously the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.

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Q: What is joint legal custody?

Joint legal custody means the parents jointly make major decisions about the children such as religion, education, health care, and residence. Sole custody means one parent makes these decisions.

With either joint legal or sole legal custody, there must be an arrangement for the time-sharing of the child or children. Some counties such as Maricopa and Pima Counties have developed Access Guidelines to help the judge and parents determine the access of each of the parents to the child or the children.

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Q: How is child custody determined?

Child custody is determined by a judge according to the factors set forth in the statute. The applicable statute is Arizona Revised Statutes §25-403.

The factors the judge considers are the wishes of the parents and the child (if old enough to express a preference); the interaction of the child with the parents and siblings; the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community; the mental and physical health of the parents and the child; which parent is more likely to allow frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent; which parent or parents have provided primary care of the child; and the nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement for custody.

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Q: During our marriage, my wife and I had a three-month trial separation. After we reconciled, she told me she was pregnant. Now that we are getting a divorce, I am starting to wonder if our daughter is mine. Do I have the legal right to find out whether she is my daughter? And if I’m not actually her father, what are the implications in our custody and support negotiations?

You are faced with quite a dilemma. If you find out she is not your biological daughter, you will no doubt feel a variety of emotions that could complicate your relationships with family members. If you do not find out who the real father is, then your relationship with her may become contaminated with doubt. This could easily be acted out in negative ways towards her, her mother, and even the other children.

We would recommend that you decide whether or not you wish to find out whether or not you are her biological father, which the court in most cases, can direct via genetic testing, if either party refuses to participate on their own.

Needless to say there are legal issues of importance here, mainly waiver and estoppel. These issues must be discussed in detail with the attorney representing you.

Regardless of the paternity results, you would do well to see a counselor or therapist to process the feelings you and your wife have about this issue.

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Q: What is Conciliation Services?

Conciliation Services is a separate division of the court consisting of trained family counselors and mediators that are available to assist litigants going through a divorce or other family disputes to assist in resolving those disputes without the necessity of a trial. Conciliation services are offered free to the public.

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