Understanding the Best Interest of the Child in Arizona Law

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Understanding "Best Interest of the Child" in Arizona

Divorce can be a challenging process, especially when it involves children. You'll have to make critical decisions regarding child custody and parenting time, all based on the best interest of the child. While "best interest of the child" might seem like a vague legal term, it's a critical factor that Arizona judges use in determining how to allocate parental responsibilities.

The legal definition of "best interest of the child" in Arizona

According to Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) §25-403, when assessing child custody, the court shall award custody either to the legal parents or joint legal parents based on the best interest of the child. The statute provides a framework outlining the various factors that judges must consider when making these decisions.

Factors considered in determining the best interest of the child

Several factors influence the best interest of the child in Arizona custody cases. These factors are:

  • The past, present, and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the parent/trusted adult, siblings, or any other persons who may significantly affect the child's welfare.
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved in the proceeding.
  • Which parent is more likely to allow and encourage frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent.
  • The wishes of the child if they are of suitable age and maturity.
  • The child's adjustment to home, school, and community.
  • The reputation of the parents, court records, or any history of domestic violence or child abuse.

The importance of "best interest of the child" principle

The primary reasoning behind prioritizing the best interest of the child is to ensure that they maintain a healthy and stable relationship with both parents. The law seeks to create a stable, safe, and consistent environment that will allow the child to grow physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The best interests of the child doctrine encourages both parents to maintain a meaningful and close relationship with their child(ren). This means that a judge will consider various options in the child's custody and visitation orders to ensure the child maintains contact with both parents. Sole custody will only be awarded in exceptional circumstances where joint custody is not practicable.

What happens when the parents cannot resolve the issue?

If the parents cannot resolve the child custody issue, a judge or mediator may come into the picture. The judge will use the best interest of the child principle as a guideline to make a decision based on evidence supporting what is best for the child. In some cases, the court might appoint a lawyer for minor children. The lawyer will represent the interest of the child and ensure that the court makes a decision that is best for the child.

How can you protect your child's best interests ahead of a custody hearing?

Ensuring your child's best interests are protected starts when you file for a divorce or separation. When filing for a divorce, make sure you are aware of all the factors that the court considers when making the best interest determination. Make a list of contributing factors that favor your position, such as the relationship between the parent and the child, participation in education, extracurricular activities, child care, and other necessary household tasks.

Having a clear image of these details can make a huge difference in convincing the court to side with your argument. Speak to an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process and help you persuade the court to make a decision in your favor.

The bottom line

Divorcing parents need to understand the meaning of "best interest of the child" better. Ensuring the best interests of the child are paramount in all custody and parenting time decisions can ensure that the child maintains close ties with both parents. Even if the marriage ends, the parent-child relationship is forever.

If you are facing a child custody battle in Arizona, hire a reputable family law attorney to help you understand what to expect and how to approach the proceedings. Your attorney will help guide you through the legal process, inform you of your legal rights, and fight to protect your children during the divorce process.

For more information about "best interest of the child" and parenting time laws in Arizona, visit best interest of child Arizona today.