In any divorce with shared children, you will need to determine whether both parents will have legal decision-making authority and how much parenting time each will have. In general, you can negotiate this instead of going to court, although whatever agreement you reach must accord with Arizona law. If you do go to court, the court will make these determinations based on the children’s best interest.
The court will decide what is in the children’s best interest by weighing “all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being.” Eleven such factors have been spelled out in the statute, but the court has the authority to consider other factors that may be relevant.
Arizona law requires courts to consider these factors when making a parenting order:
- The past, present and potential future relationship between the child and each parent
- The interrelationship and interaction between the parents, the child, the child’s siblings and anyone else who may have a significant effect on the child’s best interest
- The child’s adjustment to home, school and community
- The child’s wishes as to the parents’ legal decision-making authority and parenting time, but only if the child is of suitable age and maturity
- The physical and mental health of everyone involved
- Which parent is more likely to allow frequent, meaningful and continuing contact between the child and the other parent (except that the parent may, in good faith, act to protect the child from domestic violence or child abuse)
- Whether either parent has intentionally misled the court in order to cause unnecessary delay, increase the cost of litigation or to gain advantage in legal decision-making or parenting time
- Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse
- Whether either parent has used coercion or duress to obtain an agreement for legal decision-making or parenting time
- Whether the parent has complied with formal education plans regarding domestic violence, divorce, mediation and available resources
- Whether a parent has been convicted of falsely reporting child abuse or neglect
When you are working to negotiate a reasonable parenting order, you should understand the factors the courts would consider so that you can have a reasonable estimate of what the court would order if you went to trial.
If you are planning to go to trial, your attorney will go over these and any other relevant factors with you in order to make the argument that your proposed parenting order would be in your children’s best interest.
If you have questions about how legal decision-making authority and parenting time might be decided in your case, contact your divorce attorney.