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Arizona Child Custody and Visitation Questions & Answers

Child Child custody refers to the rights and relationships between the parents and their children when the marriage relationship has failed or ended. The court can order sole custody or joint custody. The most important aspect of custody, rather than deciding what legal term to use, is to decide how both parents will share responsibility for the children, and the amount of time each parent will spend with the children.

Can the custodial parent refuse to provide custody or visitation rights if child support is not being provided by the other parent?

Child support is a different issue from child custody. A parent cannot be denied access to a child merely because that parent is not paying support. Likewise the custodial parent cannot be denied support even if that parent is not providing access to the child to the non-custodial parent.

What is sole custody and joint custody?

Sole Custody: An order of Sole Custody generally gives one parent the full legal responsibility for the child, with regard to making all decisions in the child’s life. The other parent will generally have visitation rights.

Joint Custody: The effect of a joint custody order is that both parents have equal say in the major decisions of a child’s life, such as education, major medical treatment and religion. Joint Custody does not effect the amount of support obligation that the non-custodial parent is required to pay or otherwise affect visitation. Generally, each parent has specified access rights (visitation).In some cases, the parents can also share joint legal and physical custody. However, joint custody does not necessarily mean that each parent will spend equal time with the child or children.

How is Child Visitation decided?

The court will order reasonable visitation according to the age of the child, but the amount of visitation can vary by agreement between the parents. A judge cannot make a parent visit a child if the parent does not want to. Provisions are normally made with regard to weekday, weekend, holiday and summer access.

Sometimes a parent believes that any access by the other parent should be supervised. This means that the non-custodial parent only has visitation with another person present. Supervised visitation can be ordered in cases where the non-custodial parent abuses drugs or alcohol, is violent or abusive, or does not have the parenting skills to care for the child without another adult present. Supervised visitation is not intended to punish the parent, but to protect the child.

Can Child Visitation be totally denied a parent?

The Court does not generally allow a custodial parent to totally prevent the other parent from seeing the child on a regular basis. However, this may be appropriate if the non-custodial parent has seriously harmed or abused the child, or is otherwise a serious danger to the child's emotional or physical health. An order of no contact by a parent is a last resort, and is used solely to protect the child.

The Maricopa County Superior Court publishes the guidelines established by the Court for establishing child visitation in a contested case. If you use the guidelines you might be able to agree on visitation arrangement that is best for the children and the parents, without the delay and expense of a contested court trial. If you are unable to agree, then the judge will have to decide what is in the best interest of the child when deciding what kind of custody and visitation to order. Often this is complicated, and we look forward to talking with you to help you understand your rights, duties, and responsibilities as to custody and visitation.

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