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What are the “Best Interests of the Child” in Phoenix?

Most state laws refer to child custody decisions as being in the “best interests of the child” but this may be interpreted differently in each situation, and each case is unique. In Arizona, family courts take into consideration many factors to determine where the child’s best chance of a balanced life lies.

The court considers the preferences of the parents as well as the child, and evaluates the relationship between child and parent as well as siblings (if any) and significant others such as grandparents. It will also look into the current educational and community situation of the child to determine if it would be healthier for the child to maintain the status quo or to allow the child to be placed in a new situation. Another important factor would be the age, mental state, and physical health of the child.

An Arizona family court judge is just as likely to award sole custody as well as joint custody depending on the circumstances, and to award sole custody regardless of the parent’s gender if it is in the best interest of the child. Historically, family courts tended to favor awarding physical custody to the mother for very young children when the parents cannot reach an agreement on their own, but this is not supposed to be the case any longer. The court will also decide on a visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent.

The parents are encouraged propose a jointly-prepared parenting plan subject to the court’s approval. This includes a custodial schedule, plans for education, religion, and health as well as plans for vacations and holidays. Unless there is a case of domestic violence or false allegations of such, or the judge discerns a level of coercion or duress in the custody agreement, such parenting plans are considered favorably as long as it conforms to the law. It would be advisable to have family law attorneys like the San Jose lawyers of Daniel Jensen draft such agreements in accordance to the parents’ wishes to ensure that it is a legally binding and fair agreement.

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