Questions & Answers / What is child custody and parenting time?

What is child custody and parenting time?

“Child custody” refers to either legal custody or the physical custody of the child. Arizona does not presume either the mother or father is the more appropriate custodian and the courts are required to make decisions regarding custody without regard to the gender of the parent.    Legal custody involves the right to make final decisions about education, religion, medical needs. Even if a parent has sole legal custody, they are not permitted to prohibit the other parent from finding out information about the child’s education, religion or medical treatments (A.R.S. 25-403.06), they simply do not have the requirement of consulting and agreeing with each other before those decisions are made. Other issues in legal custody involve whether or not the child can get a passport, travel outside of the country, or get a driver’s license at the appropriate age.    Physical custody is often called “parenting time” these days. The courts and legislature have decided that neither parent should be treated as a “visitor” in their child’s lives, and so the term “visitation” is no longer used. The Supreme court has put out model parenting time guidelines based upon the ages of the children and distance that the parents live from each other (and from the children’s schools and daycare facilities). Most parents prefer to negotiate time that deviates from the model guidelines, based upon their own work schedules, family traditions and the children’s individual needs (such as school and extracurricular schedules).    If the parents cannot agree, the judge will make their decisions on custody and parenting time according to the guidelines provided in A.R.S. 25-403 (and 403.01 through 403.05).    Back to Frequently Asked Family Law Questions