How will a judge make a decision about legal decision-making and parenting time?
When deciding who will have legal decision-making and how much parenting time will be awarded, a judge will try to make an arrangement that s/he thinks is in the "best interest of the child." Generally, the judge will try to make sure that both parents share the rights and responsibilities of parenting. This means that the judge tries to let both parents play an active role in taking care of the child and making decisions about the child's life.
When making his/her decision, the judge is supposed to consider all factors that are relevant to the child's physical and emotional well-being, including the following:
- the past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child;
- the interaction/relationship between the child and his/her parent(s), siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest;
- the child's adjustment to home, school and community;
- the wishes of the child regarding legal decision-making and parenting time, if s/he is old enough to make an intelligent decision;
- the mental and physical health of all people involved;
- which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent (however this does not apply if the judge believes that a parent is acting in good faith to protect the child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse);
- if one parent intentionally tried to mislead the court to win legal decision-making or parenting time powers, to cause a delay or to increase the cost of litigation;
- if there has been domestic violence or child abuse;
- the nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in getting the other parent to make an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time;
- if a parent has participated in a parenting education course (if required by the court) - Note: see What Is The Parents' Education Program? for detailed information; and
- if either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect.1
1 A.R.S. § 25-403