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Child Custody And Parental Rights Of Incarcerated Parents In Arizona

The attorneys at GillespieShields practice family, employment, civil, criminal, and immigration law.

What are the Parental Rights of Incarcerated Parents in Arizona?

Arizona family courts do not take the termination of parental rights lightly. However, Arizona child custody rights are not the same as the parental rights of incarcerated parents.

The belief that incarcerated individuals automatically lose all legal rights as parents is incorrect. A judge cannot terminate the parental rights of incarcerated parents without establishing just cause. On the other hand, if the incarcerated parent is also the sole custodial parent, imprisonment can affect their custodial rights.

If A Parent Goes To Jail, Do They Lose Custody?

What if the Custodial Parent is in Jail? Physical child custody obviously is not an option when a parent is behind bars. However, legal custody, even joint custody, is possible. Again, under Arizona law, terminating the parental rights of incarcerated fathers or mothers is not automatic. Since this is not a cut-and-dried case, it makes it vital that a family law attorney is involved. You can request a consultation from our team of knowledgeable Arizona attorneys.

If a parent’s custody rights are in question, the parent has the right to a court hearing on the matter. It is then up to the court to decide whether or not a parent is able to maintain their parental custody rights while in prison. A family law attorney can help argue the case, whether you are trying to maintain your rights or whether you are seeking sole custody. If violence, including domestic abuse or child abuse is part of the custody battle, it is vital to have good representation.

What Parental Rights Do You Have in Prison?

The Arizona Department of Child Safety clearly states that their department will provide reunification services to incarcerated parents, and they will ensure that the parents are able to participate in visitations, services, and case plan staffing.

A judge’s decisions on parental rights must take into account multiple factors even when one parent is incarcerated. To obtain or maintain custody, an individual must be determined by the court to be a fit parent. Issues such as domestic abuse or child abuse can figure into decision making because these reflect on an individual’s fitness to be a parent.

The jail sentence may impact the judge’s decision when considering factors such as the nature of a parent’s crime and the length of a prison term. Felonies may be grounds for unfitness, as well as prison sentences that are so long that a child is prevented from having a “normal home life” for many years.

What Do Judges Look for in Child Custody Cases Involving a Parent in Jail?

The judge will take several things into consideration, including:

  • the age of the child and the relationship between the child’s age and the likelihood that incarceration will deprive the child of a permanent living arrangement;
  • the relationship of the child and parent prior to incarceration;
  • the degree to which the parent-child relationship can be continued and nurtured during incarceration;
  • the effect of deprivation of parental presence on the child;
  • the nature of the felony;
  • the length of the sentence;
  • the availability of another parent or caregiver to provide a normal home life.

We Can Answer Your Questions About Child Custody and Parental Rights

If you have questions regarding Arizona child custody rights, please call us at 602-870-9700 (Phoenix) or 480-985-4000 (Mesa) or contact us today. Our family law attorneys have the education and experience to assist you at any point in a custody battle.


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7319 North 16th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85020 | 602-870-9700

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