You may have heard the word “Custody” or “Legal Custody” used in connection with a parent’s right to make decisions concerning education (such as school choice), medical decisions (such as whether a child will receive certain immunization) and religion (such as religious preferences). However, Arizona does not use the word “custody” in making decisions about a minor child. Instead, Arizona uses the term “legal decision making” to better define what a court must do in deciding the issue of who can make decisions related to the minor child.

Legal decision making refers to the right and responsibility of a parent to make non-emergency decisions involving the child. These decisions include education, health care, religious training and personal care.

The court will award either sole legal decision making or joint legal decision making. Sole legal decision making gives one parent the right to make all major decisions for the child, without having to consult with the other parent.

Joint legal decision making requires the parties to share decision making responsibilities. Neither parent’s rights are superior to the other parent’s rights, except on specific issues as set forth by the court.

Arizona provides by statute that, absent contrary evidence, it is in the best interest of the child that both parents participate in decision making about the child. Discuss with your lawyer whether there is any evidence to support the following factors to be considered by the court:

  • The agreement or lack of agreement by the parties as to joint legal-decision making.
  • Whether a lack of agreement is unreasonable or influenced by a reason not related to the child’s best interest.
  • The past, present and future ability of the parents to cooperate in decision-making.
  • Whether joint legal decision-making is logistically possible.

Based upon a review of the factors, the Court may decide it is in the best interest of the minor child for one parent to exercise sole legal decision-making, or whether both parents should have joint legal decision-making.