Legal Information: Arizona

Custody

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Updated: 
December 12, 2023

Where do I file for legal decision-making?

Generally, you can file for legal decision-making in the “home state” of the child. (There are exceptions to the “home state” rule, which are explained in the next question). The “home state” is generally the state where your child has lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least the past six months. If your child is less than six months old, then your child’s home state is the state where s/he has lived since birth. Leaving the state for a short period of time does not change your child’s home state.1

If you and your child recently moved to a new state, generally you cannot file for legal decision-making in that new state until you have lived there for at least six months. Until then, you or the other parent can start an action for legal decision-making in the state you just left, where your child most recently lived for at least six months.1 Here are a few examples:

  • My children lived in Washington their whole lives. We just moved to Arizona less than six months ago. If I want to file for legal decision-making right now, I will probably need to file in Washington. The other parent may also be able to file for legal decision-making in Washington.
  • My children lived in Washington their whole lives. We moved to Arizona more than six months ago. I can likely file for legal decision-making in Arizona.
  • My children lived in Arizona their whole lives. They moved to Washington with their father less than six months ago. I can likely file for legal decision-making in Arizona.

You can file a petition for legal decision-making and parenting time either in the civil court or, if you are going through a divorce, in the superior court where the divorce case is being heard.  Most often, legal decision-making and parenting time decisions are made by a judge when the parents are seeking a legal separation or divorce, or when the parent(s) are asking the court to change a legal decision-making and parenting time decision that was made in an earlier separation or divorce case.  Legal decision-making and parenting time decisions may also be ordered when one parent files a paternity or maternity petition.2

1 A.R.S. § 25-1002(7)
2 A.R.S. § 25-402(B); see also Arizona Supreme Court, Planning for Parenting Time: Arizona’s Guide for Parents Living Apart (2009)

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