Legal Decision-Making & Parenting Time


Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time are two legal terms that make up what was formerly referred to as child custody. The rights and responsibilities may be determined and agreed upon by the two parents amongst themselves during mediation but if a resolution cannot be reached between them, it becomes the court’s decision. While determining how and to whom both are awarded the court takes into consideration certain aspects of each unique situation in an attempt to rule in the best interest of the minor involved. These include any and all factors that contribute to the physical and emotional well-being of a child including;

  • Age of the child in question
  • Preferences of the parents and child or children
  • Mental and physical health of the parents and child or children
  • Criminal records as well as history of drug or alcohol use by the parents
  • Educational situation of the child
  • Availability of the parents, including time spent at work.

Legal Decision-making is the current term for what used to be referred to as “legal custody.” It allows the chosen guardian to make important nonemergency decisions about the child’s life such those regarding healthcare, religion, education, and personal care as defined in A.R.S. § 25-401(3). It can be awarded solely meaning one parent holds all rights and responsibilities of decision making, or jointly which entails both parents sharing the rights and responsibilities equally “except with respect to specified decisions as set forth by the court or the parents in the final judgment or order,” according to A.R.S. § 25-401(6).

Parenting time is the term used for what was previously called “physical custody” or “visitation.”  It is defined in A.R.S. § 25-401(5) as “the schedule of time which each parent has access to a child.” During these specified times, the parent is responsible for the basic needs of the child as well as allowing them to “make routine decisions concerning the child’s care.” The courts encourage both parents to maintain a close relationship with their child through time spent together. However, if the court feels that a child’s physical or mental health is jeopardized by contact with a parent, it may rule to limit of completely deny any parenting time.

Determining custody is one of the most emotional and stressful aspects of a separation of divorce. An experienced and caring family law attorney can help with the entire process and make sure you reach a favorable agreement. Let the family law attorneys at Giordano Spanier & Heckele Law Firm, assist with any of you legal-decision making and parenting time issues. Call today (520) 339-6804 or email [email protected] for you consultation.