Overview of Arizona Child Custody Agreements and What They Decide

Child custody stands as one of the most significant aspects to address when traversing the challenging terrain of divorce. The impact of child custody decisions resonates deeply with the children of divorced parents, shaping their emotional well-being and future. 

It’s essential to recognize that child custody arrangements can vary greatly from one family to another, but the overarching goal remains the same – to provide a stable and nurturing environment for the children. At The Peterson Law Firm, we’ve handled all kinds of custody cases in Arizona, and we know firsthand how complicated custody proceedings can become. We’re here to offer guidance and help you navigate this complex area of divorce well-informed and with total peace of mind.

What is a Child Custody Agreement?

A child custody agreement is a legally binding arrangement that outlines the terms and conditions regarding the care, upbringing, and decision-making of the children after divorce. This agreement is a comprehensive document that helps divorced parents establish a framework for co-parenting, ensuring the children’s best interests are always the top priority.

Difference Between Child Custody and Custody Court Orders

While the terms “child custody” and “custody court orders” are often used interchangeably, they hold distinct meanings. Child custody refers to the overarching arrangement between parents regarding parenting responsibilities. On the other hand, custody court orders are formal directives issued by the court to outline specific parenting arrangements, including legal decision-making authority and parenting time.

With a custody agreement, the parents of the child collaboratively determine the division of responsibilities and time-sharing arrangements following their separation. When it comes to a court order, the judge makes decisions independently, prioritizing the child’s well-being, even if it’s against the parents’ wishes or without their mutual agreement.

Many divorcing parents would opt to create a custody agreement as it gives them more control of custody arrangements. It also keeps them from lengthy court battles and the costs that come with them. However, this may not be feasible if both parents cannot come to an agreement or communicate well with each other. 

Types of Child Custody

Arizona acknowledges three distinct levels of child custody, each carrying its own implications and responsibilities: 

Sole custody:

Designates one parent as the primary decision-maker and custodian of the child. This parent holds the authority to make crucial choices regarding the child’s upbringing, education, healthcare, and general welfare. The non-custodial parent may still have visitation rights, but the custodial parent has the final say in major decisions. Sole custody can be appropriate in situations where one parent is better equipped to provide stability or if there are concerns about the other parent’s ability to co-parent effectively.

Joint custody:

Entails both parents sharing the responsibilities of decision-making and parenting time. This arrangement requires open communication, cooperation, and a commitment to co-parenting. While joint custody promotes the child’s involvement and connection with both parents, parents need to collaborate in making significant life choices for the child. Joint custody is often seen as an ideal scenario when parents can work together harmoniously for the child’s well-being.

In Loco Parentis: 

“In loco parentis” translates to “in the place of a parent.” This level of custody is relevant when someone other than the biological parents assumes parenting responsibilities for the child. This could be a grandparent, step-parent, or another individual who has been substantially involved in the child’s upbringing. Arizona law allows in loco parentis individuals to petition for legal decision-making and parenting time rights, recognizing their role in the child’s life.

Factors Determining Arizona Child Custody

The court considers numerous factors when determining child custody arrangements:

  • The child’s age and preferences (if applicable)
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable home environment
  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The primary caregiver between the two parents
  • The mental and physical health of both parents
  • Cooperation and communication between parents
  • Each parent’s willingness to support the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • The presence of domestic violence or abuse
  • The child’s adjustment to the community, school, and home
  • The parents’ ability to encourage and support a positive relationship between the child and the other parent

Common Inclusions in Child Custody Agreements

Child custody agreements generally cover various aspects, including:

  • A detailed parenting time schedule
  • Holidays and special occasion arrangements
  • Communication methods between parents and children
  • Decision-making authority for education, healthcare, and religious matters
  • Access to the child’s medical, dental, and psychological records, as well as school records
  • Financial support, including child support, insurance, and other costs related to childcare
  • Medical and healthcare needs: This includes the payment of medical bills, sharing the child’s medical information, and making healthcare decisions
  • Protocol for dispute resolution
  • Relocation guidelines
  • Parental behavior: This ensures that the parents always put the child’s best interests first and that they do not engage in destructive or harmful behavior while they are with their child

Rights of Non-Custodial Parents

Even if a parent doesn’t have physical custody, they maintain significant rights. These include the right to access information about the child’s education, healthcare, and well-being, and the right to participate in important decisions about the child’s upbringing.

Dependable Legal Support for Child Custody Cases in Arizona

Child custody decisions are pivotal in shaping the lives of your children post-divorce. Making these decisions carries with it an immense emotional weight, but we are here to help lighten your load. At The Peterson Law Firm, we will provide you with the right information and guidance you need to ensure the best possible outcome. Contact us today for compassionate and knowledgeable legal representation that keeps your children’s well-being at the forefront. By working together, we can secure a brighter future for your children and ensure they thrive in a loving and nurturing environment.


We value each and every one of our clients, employees, friends, and neighbors. Together, we have a social responsibility as a community partner to take proactive measures to keep our community well and to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Our office will remain open during regular business hours. However, we are implementing some additional precautions to limit social interactions and personal proximity. Specifically, we will seek to conduct consultations, meetings, conferences through video teleconferencing or on the phone whenever possible. Should an in-person appointment be needed, then we will coordinate those on an appointment basis.

If you have questions about your case and the status of the court, then please call. Our Firm will continually monitor the status of the coronavirus, so we are prepared to resume normal operations as quickly as possible.

From all of us at The Peterson Law Firm, please stay well.