Physical custody is a phrase that you will not hear in Mesa family courts. In 2013, the State changed the language surrounding custody and now uses the term parenting time instead. It refers to either parent’s responsibility for providing food, clothing, shelter, and making routine decisions concerning the child’s support or care during their scheduled parenting time.
Legal custody or decision-making authority, on the other hand, does not include the day-to-day decisions. For example, the parent with physical custody does not have to talk to the other party about what the child is going to eat, the types of activities they are doing, or what TV shows they are watching.
Parenting time can be week-on/week-off, every other weekend for one parent and the remaining time with the other, or anything between. Understanding the nuances of physical custody in Mesa can be made easier with the help and guidance of a lawyer from our firm.
How Often is Physical Custody Recommended?
The presumption for most family law judges in Mesa is to award equal parenting time. This is not statutory and is based on a judge’s experience. Most cases start with both parents having equal rights, and they move away from that based on the facts of a particular situation.
If one parent asks for more than half of the parenting time, they must have a compelling reason related to the best interests of the child. For example, perhaps the other parent uses drugs, is abusive, or has a criminal history. Alternatively, it could be something as simple as one parent not giving the child adequate support and time. Mesa courts start with a presumption of equal physical custody and consider any reasons why it should not be equal.
Rights and Responsibilities
A parent with physical custody over their child is responsible for providing food, clothing, and shelter and for making routine decisions about their day-to-day lives. Unless the judge sets a specific restriction in the court order, parents are free to do whatever they want within the boundaries of the law.
Examples of potential restrictions include supervised parenting time or that which takes place in a public setting. Additionally, the court may grant unsupervised parenting time with mandatory drug testing. If a parent tests positive for an illegal substance, their parenting time may be suspended. Other restrictions could be on cell phone or social media use, unaccompanied flights, or being around certain individuals that the parents or the court agrees is unsafe.
Children’s Best Interests
Physical custody in Mesa is awarded in accordance with the best interests of the child. When two parents cannot agree on what is in the best interests of their child, a judge is required to make the decision for them. While the court has broad discretion to determine what is in the best interests of a child, Arizona Revised Statute §25-403 gives guidelines on what should be considered.
Specifically, there are 11 core statutory factors the court considers when deciding what is in the best interests of a child. The court is required to consider these factors and take evidence before they can make a best-interests determination on a final basis. For example, the past, present, and potential future relationship between the parent and the child must be considered in every custody decision.
A judge must hear testimony on how both parents had a relationship with the child in the past, how things are going presently, and the trajectory for the future. They may examine the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community as well as how the child interacts in either parent’s living environment, how they are doing in school, and how they are doing socially.
The court also considers the history of co-parenting between the parties and whether their lack of agreement is motivated by something that is not in the best interests of the child. There are parents who fight with each other because of their mutual disdain for one another and do not think about what is best for their child.
Let an Attorney Help You Obtain Physical Custody in Mesa
Determining what is in your children’s best interests may seem obvious to you, but to a third-party stranger in court, there are many things to consider. A lawyer from our firm could help you establish that spending a majority of the time with your kids is in their best interests and assist in drafting an arrangement to present to a family law judge. Call us today to get started on your case for physical custody in Mesa.