Domestic Violence and Child Custody in Arizona

Custody comes in two forms, legal and physical. Physical custody defines the place where the child lives and receives their daily care activities. Legal custody is the parent’s right to make crucial decisions regarding the child’s life, like healthcare and education. A judge must look at 11 different factors when determining the custody of a child in the state of Arizona. Two of the factors are directly related to domestic violence.

A.R.S. § 25-403

The factors that a judge of the court must use to determine child custody are outlined in A.R.S. § 25-403. The described factors are used not only for custody but for parenting time as well. They are directly linked to the physical and emotional well-being of the child in question.
A judge has to look at:

  • The past, present, and future relationship the child and the parent may have
  • The interaction and relationship of the child with the parents, siblings, or anyone else who may affect the child’s best interest
  • Adjustment of the child to their home, community, and school
  • The age of the child and the maturity, the potential for hearing the child’s wishes in the matter
  • The physical and mental health of all parties involved
  • Which parent is likely to allow the child to have meaningful contact with the other parent (this does not apply if the court determines the parent was acting in good faith due to a domestic violence or child abuse issue)
  • If the parent intentionally misled the court, causing an unnecessary delay in proceedings, to increase litigation costs, or to persuade the court to give them preference
  • If domestic violence or child abuse exists under A.R.S. § 25-403.03
  • The extent or nature of coercion or duress that may have been used by a parent in obtaining the agreement for legal decision-making or parenting time
  • If the parent complies with Chapter 3, Article 5 of this title (the education of spouses on domestic violence, divorce, mediation, and other available resources)
  • Whether either of the parental parties has been convicted of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under A.R.S. § 13-2907.02
  • The court will be required to make all specific findings for relevant factors and the reasoning for the decision on record regarding the best interest of the child.

Evidence Used By The Court

Evidence presented for domestic violence is considered to be against the child’s best interest. What this means is that the parent who committed the domestic violence acts is less likely to receive custody of a child. In Arizona, it is also not possible for parents to share joint custody in cases where domestic violence has been proven.

The court examines the following to determine the occurrence of domestic violence:

  • Rulings made by other courts
  • Police reports
  • Child protective services reports
  • Medical reports
  • School records
  • Records that may exist from domestic violence shelters
  • Witness testimony
  • After examining the evidence, the court must apply a rebuttable presumption, or legal assumption, that the child’s best interest is not with the parent who performed the acts of domestic violence.

An Arizona Family Law Attorney Can Help

If you are currently in a custody battle within the Arizona Family Court System, an Arizona family law attorney can help. When domestic violence is a factor in a custody battle, you may need legal help. Hiring an Arizona family law attorney can help you gather the necessary evidence you need for the court, strengthening your case. You should not have to handle a custody battle on your own.