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Arizona no longer refers to joint “custody”. Rather, it is now called joint legal decision making. Joint legal decision-making means both parents share decision-making authority for the children, including in the areas of medical treatment, education, religion, and personal care. Most parents, whether by agreement or by a court ruling, share legal decision-making. However, this is not always the case. Arizona law sets forth certain circumstances under which the court must or may presume that joint legal decision making is not best for the children.

Here are two instances where joint legal decision making may not be awarded in a divorce:

  1. Domestic Violence

A court may not award joint legal decision-making if the court makes a finding that significant domestic violence exists, or there has been a significant history of domestic violence. A rebuttable presumption against joint legal decision making exists if one parent has committed an act of domestic violence against the other, even if it is not what the court deems to be “significant.” (A rebuttable presumption means the court may assume joint legal decision-making is not best unless the other parent proves it is.)

  1. Drugs Or Alcohol

There is also a rebuttable presumption that joint decision-making is not in the child’s best interest if a parent has abused drugs or alcohol, or been convicted of certain drug or alcohol offenses within 12 months before the petition or request for custody is filed. Even if none of these circumstances is present, the court is still required to consider other factors before it determines joint legal

decision-making is best for the children, including the abilities of the parents to cooperate in decision making, whether the parents agree on joint legal decision making or not and, if not, whether the lack of agreement is unreasonable or influenced by an issue not related to the child’s best interest.

The court will also consider all other information that might be relevant when determining joint legal decision-making.

Contact us at Hallier Stearns PLC for more information about whether your spouse should be awarded joint legal custody.