Child Custody and Legal Decision-making
In 2013, the legislature replaced the term “legal custody” with the term “legal decision-making”. As a practical matter, they mean the same thing.
We understand that, for most clients, the issue of child custody is by far the single most important issue in family and divorce law.
— Neal C. Taylor, attorney
As a parent, your child and your relationship with your child means the world to you. At the Phoenix, Arizona, law firm of Burns, Nickerson & Taylor we understand your priorities, and have helped hundreds of parents achieve their full child custody goals.
Firm attorney Neal C. Taylor was a single parent for over three years. He leads an attorney team deeply committed to advocating for our clients’ child custody rights. The courts will try to fairly divide parenting time in children’s best interests. We are skilled in tying your interests to the interests of your child, and fighting for your full child custody, modification and visitation goals.
We gather evidence about your parenting history, your child’s wishes and other factors to advance your legal goals.
Joint Custody (Joint Legal Decision-making)and Sole Custody (Sole Legal Decision-making)
Sole Custody or Decision-making is when one parent has the legal custody of the child. A parent with sole legal custody generally has a broader decision making authority on most issues.
Joint Custody or Decision-making can be either joint legal or joint physical.
Joint Legal Custody or Decision-making is when both parents share legal authority and custody. Generally, neither parent has superior legal rights, other than any exceptions noted in the parenting plan. Parents who have Joint legal custody/decision-making do not necessarily have equal parenting time.
Joint Physical Custody is when both parents share legal custody AND have substantially equal time with the child/children.
The Choice — Joint Decision-making (Custody) or Sole Decision-making (Custody)? Under Arizona law there is no preference for either joint custody or sole custody. But most family judges prefer joint legal custody/decision-making.
Why is Joint Legal Custody/Decision-making Usually Preferred? It is generally better for a child if both parents meaningfully participate in a child’s life. Joint legal decision-making fosters participation of both parents.
Sole Custody/Decision-making may be in your child’s best interests. You may be the only responsible parent. The other parent may have a history that warns against the award of joint decision-making/custody. There is a preference AGAINST Joint Custody/Decision-making when:
- There has been a significant history of domestic violence.
- A parent has been convicted of a drug offense.
- A parent has been convicted of a DUI or DWI.
- A parent has been convicted of a sex offense.
A recent case illustrates both our commitment to clients and our skills in favorably resolving child custody disputes. Our client had custody of his six-year-old son for over three years. His former spouse obtained an order of protection and an emergency change of custody order from the Superior Court. The court gave his former spouse custody and restricted our client’s parenting time dramatically. The change was made in response to two child abuse convictions, as well as allegations that our client beat his child.
Our client handled his first hearing — he lost. Then, he hired us. Our handling of the case included:
An investigation that revealed 1) the convictions in question were for consensual sex with a seventeen year old, and 2) the beating allegations were fabricated.
- Testimony by a professor from Arizona State University who stated that our client posed no threat at all to his child.
- Constant requests to Child Protection Services to release their report which, when released, supported our client.
- The obtaining of the ex spouse’s diary, which indicated that her allegations were essentially fabricated.
The judge reversed the order completely and custody was restored to our client.
If you have questions regarding child custody, including joint custody and sole custody, contact a firm that has handled hundreds of family law legal cases. We charge reasonable rates and accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. We are available for weekend and evening appointments under special circumstances, and are conveniently located in midtown Phoenix. To contact us, call 602-264-5555.