Child custody is typically one of the most important things that is decided during a divorce. As a parent, you may be nervous about what the common ways to evaluate custody are and how judges arrive at their decision. It is important to understand that there are several different types of custody that could be determined within a divorce and they each mean different things.  It is also important to note that the term “custody” in Arizona no longer exists effective 1/1/13.  The new term is “legal decision-making authority.”

Legal decision-making authority Types

The two types of legal decision-making authority in Arizona are joint legal decision-making authority,  and sole legal decision-making authority.  Sometimes the Court will order a hybrid of the two types and order that the parties share joint legal decision-making authority with one parent having “final” or “presumptive” authority over the other in the event of a dispute.

Joint legal  decision-making authority involves the ability to make important decisions in the children’s lives.   If the designation is joint, the parties have to agree on matters pertaining to education, non-emergency medical, religious training, and personal care decisions.  In sole legal decision-making authority, however, only one party will have the rights to make these decisions for the child.

Note that parenting time (formerly known as “visitation”) is different from legal decision-making authority and it is possible for a parent to have parenting time with the Children even if the other parent has sole legal decision-making authority.  In fact, most orders now include a statement contained in statute that a parent having sole decision-making authority does not have the right to unilaterally modify the other parent’s rights to parenting time.

As a parent entering the divorce process, it’s likely that you have many questions about how child legal decision-making authority is determined and what different outcomes mean for your family. In Arizona, judges consider the best interests of the child to be the most important factor in determining a legal decision-making authority arrangement. Since there are many different issues that might impact your child legal decision-making authority arrangement, it is important to talk through your options and potential outcomes with your Arizona family lawyer as soon as possible. This gives you a better understanding of possible future scenarios and helps you get your questions answered upfront. Since legal decision-making authority can be a very emotional issue, it’s helpful to have someone on your side.

The determination between joint and sole legal decision-making authority can have significant implications for the lives of your children as well as your interaction with the children after the divorce is finalized. Hiring an experienced Arizona family lawyer is the best way to ensure that your rights are protected when you head into court. Get all of your questions answered up front by scheduling a consultation.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding What Are the Types of Child Custody In Arizona?, or any other family law issue,  please feel free to contact Steven H. Everts at 480.461.5300,  log on to, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.