Child Custody

One of the most important considerations in a divorce is the decision of child custody. Child custody decides who gets legal guardianship of the kids. Many responsibilities come along with the custody decision, including which parent will have the right to make decisions on their child’s behalf and who has the duty of care for and to support the child.

The decision of who gets custody of your children is paramount to their quality of life and upbringing. A quality Phoenix child custody attorney can help fight on your child’s behalf.

In addition to keeping your child’s best interests in mind, there are also a few considerations that the state of Arizona takes into account. At GillespieShields, our Phoenix child custody lawyers have 30 years of experience in all concentrations of family law. We take the time to listen to your story and help you fight for the best interests of your child while keeping parental conflict to a minimum.

Child Custody Laws in Arizona

The state of Arizona bases its child custody determination on a number of factors. Arizona’s family court judges will not make a decision based on the gender of the parent; rather, they consider the child’s best interest to be the main priority.

Different forms of child custody include:   

  • Alternating Custody: Also called divided custody, children live with one parent for an extended period and an alternate amount of time with the other.
  • Shared Custody: Similar to alternating custody as children spend an extended period of time with one parent and then a similar amount of time with the other parent. However, both parents retain the duty of care and support.
  • Joint Custody: Both parents share equal physical custody; this is the preferred result in Arizona’s family courts.
  • Sole Custody: One parent has physical custody and is the primary caretaker responsible for making decisions on their child’s behalf.
  • Split Custody: When divorcees have multiple children, this arrangement allows for each parent to have physical custody of some of the children.
  • Third-Party Custody: Neither biological parent is granted custody, but rather a third person like a grandparent or other family relative; this is reserved for extreme situations. In Troxel v. Granville, a U.S. Supreme Court Case from 2000, affirmed biological parents maintain the fundamental right of choosing how to raise their kids as they best see fit. With this in mind, examples of extreme situations include sexual, physical and emotional abuse or incarcerated parents.

Physical custody, as mentioned above, is the day-to-day care of a child and usually presumes where the child’s legal residence is.

Under the new legislation, however, Arizona judges will no longer use “sole custody” or “joint custody,” but rather “legal decision making” and “parenting time.” Despite the change in wording, the meaning remains the same. Judges may decide to make decision-making rights equal, for example, or divide certain decisions (medical to the mom and educational to the father).

What Do Courts Consider in Determining “Best Interests” for Child Custody Cases?

  • The child’s preference.
  • The wishes of both parents.
  • The child’s ability to adjust to a new home, school, and community (if relocating).
  • If the parents have any criminal history, i.e. domestic violence or child or drug abuse.
  • The mental and physical health of potential guardians.
  • The relationship between the child and each parent.
  • The parent’s willingness to maintain a meaningful relationship with each other.

The ultimate goal of the courts – and ideally for the mother and father, as well- is to find the ideal scenario for fostering and encouraging a child’s overall health and happiness.

Because the child’s best interest is always a top priority, it will be exceptionally hard for a parent with a criminal history or history of drug abuse to gain custody. After considering all factors, the court will make a decision to award either sole or joint custody. Usually, joint custody will only be awarded if the situation is feasible and both parents agree. The parents will need to submit an agreed upon parenting plan for approval.

How will a child custody lawyer help my family?

Your Phoenix child custody attorney will be able to assist you in making difficult custody decisions, determining arrangements, and preparing necessary documents to help you achieve the best possible outcome. Occasionally, disputes between parents may need to be handled via a mediation lawyer, which we also provide for our clients.

If you and your spouse are considering a divorce in Phoenix, there are a number of situations you will need to plan for ahead of time to avoid confusion and stress in the future. In addition to making a decision about child custody, child support will also need to be addressed. Child support in Arizona is also based on a set of guidelines, and the courts usually take into account the amount of time the child spends with each parent, standard of living, and parental income, among other factors. These proceedings can be an equally challenging part of divorce law, and it is up to you to secure competent legal counsel that will represent your needs accordingly.

The Phoenix child custody attorneys at GillespieShields are experienced in fighting for the best interest of your child, both in custody and support arrangements. We strive to maintain civility between parties so you can have peace of mind in otherwise stressful situations.

Hiring a Phoenix Child Custody & Visitation Lawyer

Procuring visitation rights as a grandparent or third party can be a challenge, especially with the complexities of Arizona law. To secure your rights to see the loved child in your life, you will need a competent and compassionate legal team on your side to help you gather evidence and speak to the courts.

Our Phoenix child custody lawyers have been practicing in in Maricopa County since 1985. We are deeply experienced across a wide spectrum of practices, including family law, estate planning, business law, employment law, and catastrophic injury cases. We take pride in providing our clients with exceptional service and undeniable value.

Our commitment to our clients has been recognized on several occasions, including superb AVVO ratings and two Martindale-Hubbell client recognition awards. At GillespieShields, we represent our clients effectively with tact and vigilance. We respect our clients deeply, and we hope that you will contact us for any of your legal needs.

“I would like to thank Jeff McCombs for getting me through a very nasty custody case. As a single man in the state of AZ trying to gain custody of children is hard enough. This man had a plan, great strategy, he spoke directly to the courts and he was very prepared. In short the man did his job perfectly.” – Bradley H.


Most family law cases should be settled in mediation, but it is essential to have an attorney guide you. Our attorneys have seen far too many unfair, impracticable, and unmanageable resolutions in mediation because of poor representation. This creates more legal problems in the future, which drives up legal fees. It is so much harder to undo something than to do it right the first time. We believe that mediation can be highly successful and effective if our clients are informed and an attorney is present to ensure that the resolution is reasonable and fair. The attorneys at Gillespie, Shields, Durrant, & Gillespie Shields and Taylor are creative problem solvers and fierce advocates of fairness. We are committed to ensuring that your mediation establishes fair and sustainable results.

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