What is Legal Custody in Arizona?

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Legal custody in Arizona gives parents the ability to make decisions regarding their children after a divorce. Legal custody is also known as joint custody.

With legal custody, both parents have a say in their children’s academic education, religious education and their overall health and welfare. A husband and wife may request joint legal custody during their divorce proceedings. Having legal custody means that both parents have to put aside the differences they have with each other, and make decisions that are in the best interest of their children.

For instance, if their child has a learning disability that is not being addressed at the school their child is attending; both parents can decide to find another school that will accommodate their child’s disability. If the school charges tuition, then both parents will have to make arrangements to pay the costs. Religious education is usually not a factor when both parents share the same beliefs. However, when one parent does not agree with another parent’s beliefs, joint legal custody becomes a very important factor in the divorce.

One of the most widely publicized examples of this is the divorce between celebrities Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

According to media reports, Katie Holmes did not want their daughter, Suri, to grow up in the Church of Scientology, where Tom Cruise has been a long-time member. Katie Holmes was granted sole custody of their daughter, which means she has the authority to make decisions regarding Suri’s religious education. Tom Cruise will be allowed to have parenting time with his daughter because he did not give up his visitation rights. Arizona law also grants sole legal custody, which means only one parent is allowed to make decisions on religion, medical care and education for their child or children. This type of situation usually occurs when one parent either no longer wants to make decisions for his or her children, or has been determined to be unfit due to physically abusing or neglecting the children, substance abuse addiction or mental incompetency.

The final decision on whether parents receive joint legal custody or sole custody is made by the judge presiding over the divorce.

Couples with children who have decided to divorce are advised to seek legal counsel if they want joint legal custody or sole custody of their children. A divorce attorney in Arizona can help parents receive accurate information on Arizona’s divorce laws and what impact the dissolution of the marriage will have on their children.

By David Michael Cantor, Esq.

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