What Decisions Can I make with Legal Decision-Making Authority

Legal decision making, or legal custody as it was formerly called in Arizona, is the right to make important decisions about your child. In some cases, you may have full authority to make these decisions. While in other situations, you may have to defer to someone else’s decisions.

Decisions You Can Make

The parent with legal decision-making authority can make major decisions about their children, such as decisions related to their:

  • Religion
  • Education
  • Health
  • Welfare

However, legal decision-making authority generally applies to non-emergency situations. It also does not allow for daily routine decisions that may apply when the children are with the other parent, such as what they eat or wear.

Types of Decision-Making Authority

In Arizona, there are three different types of decision-making authority that may be provided by an agreement between the parties or court order. These include:

  • Sole decision-making authority – This allows you to make the important decisions related to your children. The other parent may only be able to make day-to-day decisions while the children are in their care. This type of decision-making authority is generally reserved for situations in which one parent is unfit to make decisions for the children due to drug, criminal, significant mental health, or domestic violence issues.
  • Joint decision-making authority – With this type of decision-making authority, you and the other parent have an equal say in the major decisions related to your children. Neither one of you have a superior right over the other. If you two reach an impasse, you may be able to resolve this difference through mediation or by using a parenting coordinator who can investigate the issue and make a recommendation to the court. The last resort is to have a judge issue a tiebreaker based on the best interest of the child. This is by far the most common arrangement for decision-making authority in Arizona.
  • Joint decision-making authority with final say – This requires you to discuss important decisions about your child with the other parent. However, one parent can overrule the other if either of them disagrees.

Court Factors

When the court determines what type of authority to order in a case, it considers the following factors to determine what is in the best interest of the child:

  • The relationship between each parent and the child
  • Which parent is more likely to provide important and ongoing contact with the other parent and the child
  • Any history of domestic violence or child abuse
  • Mental and physical health of the parents
  • The wishes of the child
  • Whether one of the parents refused to make an agreement regarding legal decision-making authority
  • Whether joint decision-making authority is logistically possible

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney

If you would like more information about legal decision-making authority, what powers it provides, and how to modify an order related to this power, it is important to discuss this information with a knowledgeable family law attorney. Contact Udall Shumway at 480.461.5300 to schedule a confidential 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 so for more representation you can contact Oak Harbor Attorney to take your case. If you need legal advice regarding What Decisions Can I Make, or any other family law issue, please feel free to contact Sheri D. Shepard at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, 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.