Arizona Child Custody Laws & Abandonment

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When parents residing in Arizona can’t agree on child custody issues, Arizona law requires a judge to determine custody according to what is in the best interests of the children. To make the determination, a judge uses factors such as the interaction between the children and each parent and which parent is more like to allow the children to have continuous and meaningful contact with the other parent. Arizona child custody laws also covers child abandonment.


In Arizona, parents can obtain two types of child custody: legal and physical. Although each type involves either sole or joint custody, they both have different requirements. Legal custody grants a parent the power to make decisions concerning the children. If sharing legal custody, called joint custody, then parents must make the decisions concerning things such as medical care and schooling. Physical custody consists of the children living with the parents. With sole custody, the children primarily live with one parent. Joint physical custody, however, requires children to spend time living with both parents.

Noncustodial Parental Rights

When a parent doesn’t have primary custody of the children, the parent is considered the noncustodial parent. Arizona Revised Statutes Section 25-408 entitles the noncustodial parent to reasonable parenting time to provide the children with frequent and continuous contact. Parenting time, in Arizona, means visitation. Parenting time isn’t granted to a noncustodial parent after a hearing in which a judge determines that visitation would seriously harm a child’s emotional, mental or physical health.

Nonparental Custody

Under Arizona law, a nonparent can start child custody proceedings in two ways: filing a verified petition or filing a petition along with an affidavit. The nonparent’s petition must include facts pertaining to why she should receive custody. The state can deny petition unless the nonparent, or petitioner, doesn’t prove her claim. For example, the nonparent has to prove that it’s detrimental for the children to remain with their legal parents.


The state of Arizona considers abandoning a child a punishable offense. A parent who abandons a child for at least six months can face approximately three months in county jail if convicted. In Arizona, abandonment includes a failure to maintain a significant relationship or regular contact and a failure to provide minimal effort to talk with or support the children. To prove abandonment, the state must prove that a parent’s conduct demonstrated a purposeful intent to relinquish the parental duties and rights.


About the Author

Demetrius Sewell is an experienced journalist who, since 2008, has been a contributing writer to such websites as Internet Brands and print publications such as "Cinci Pulse." Sewell specializes in writing news and feature articles on health, law and finance. She has a master's degree in English.

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