Legal custody grants a parent decision-making authority over all non-emergency decisions for their child, including those regarding education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and personal care. Decisions about where the child goes to school, their medical and psychological treatment and care, and whether they are allowed to get a body piercing or a tattoo fall under the category of personal care.
These matters have nothing to do with where the child spends their time, as a parent could have sole legal decision-making authority and share equal parenting time. A lawyer from our dedicated team could help you advocate for legal custody in Mesa and ensure that your children’s needs are met.
Awarding Decision-Making Authority
The assignment of legal decision-making authority focuses on the best interests of the child. According to Arizona Revised Statutes §25-403, the history of co-parenting can affect the award of legal decision-making authority. If the parents want to make decisions jointly and have done so in the past, that dynamic may influence a judge’s final order.
However, if one parent is non-communicative, abusive, overly aggressive, dominates the conversation, or does not give consideration to the other parent’s views, those are things the court considers. For decisions to be made in the best interests of the child, parents need to be able to co-parent. Judges consider their ability to do so in the past, present, and moving forward.
Legal custody in Mesa can be awarded jointly, which is the preferred method for most courts, but it ultimately depends on what is in the best interests of the child. A history of domestic violence or substance abuse creates a presumption against sharing legal decision-making authority. When there is domestic violence in the relationship, there is a much higher likelihood of one parent being granted sole legal decision making.
When the Child Reaches Adulthood
The general rule is that the court does not have jurisdiction to enter legal decision-making or parenting time orders for a child that is emancipated. Emancipation means the child is no longer considered a minor and has reached the age of majority, which is 18 years of age in Mesa.
In other words, when the child turns 18, the court has no power to enter parenting time orders, to tell the child which parent to spend time with, and it cannot give one parent the power to make decisions because the child is now considered an adult. In some situations, a court could extend the emancipation age. For instance, if the child has a disability and cannot make decisions on their own, they may need a guardian to make decisions for them.
Impact on Visitation Rights
Decision-making rights or legal custody has nothing to do with visitation or parenting time. Although they both focus on the best interests of the child, they are addressing different things. If someone is awarded sole legal decision-making authority, that does not necessarily mean they are awarded more parenting time.
However, because the court considers the same pool of facts when making a decision about legal custody and parenting time, oftentimes the two can be correlated. When the case involves facts where one parent is likely to be awarded sole legal custody, it probably also involves facts where they may be awarded a parenting time preference. For more information on legal custody in Mesa, it is best to work with a seasoned professional from our firm, so give us a call today.