As a parent, you may file for sole legal and physical custody of your children in an Arizona county court as long as you, the other parent or children live in the Arizona county where you're filing. The parent with sole legal custody makes major decisions for the child. Physical custody refers to the person with whom the child lives. Having sole custody doesn't mean the other parent doesn't see the children. The court may award the other parent "parenting time," which is court-ordered visitation time. A parent may file a petition for sole custody in Arizona as long as the children have lived in the state for at least six months or since birth; however, the petition you need to file depends on your circumstances.
Petition to Establish Child Custody, Parenting Time and Child Support
If you don't already have a custody order and not married to the other parent but have established paternity, you need to complete and file a Petition to Establish Child Custody, Parenting Time and Child Support. On the petition, you'll need to include personal information, such as your name and address, as well as the names, addresses and birth dates of your children. You'll also need to include the name, address and birth date of the other parent. You'll have to indicate whether you have a child support order and if you think it needs to be changed. However, even if you don't want it changed, the judge may alter the support. On the petition, you must also give the reason why the court should award you sole custody and what type of parenting time you want the other parent to have. Further, you'll have to indicate which parent should be responsible for the children's medical insurance premiums and give your financial information for child support calculation.
Petition to Modify Child Custody, Parenting Time and Child Support
If you and the other parent have a custody order already, you may file for sole custody if at least one year has passed since the custody order was entered and circumstances have changed, or there has been a child abuse, spousal abuse or domestic violence incident. If the existing order is for joint custody, you may file if the other parent hasn't followed the joint order for at least six months. In these cases, you'll need to file a Petition to Modify Child Custody, Parenting Time and Child Support. On the petition, you must include the names and addresses of both parents, the children's names and birth dates and information about the original custody order, including the date the judge signed it and the court location. You must indicate the part of the original order you want to change, word-for-word, as well as explain why you want sole custody. The petition also requests information concerning who will be responsible for the child's expenses -- such as health care premiums -- and current financial information for both parents for child support purposes.
Court Procedure Forms
You'll also need to fill out other forms that the court requires as part of the procedure for your case. The court may use a sensitive data form, which allows you to list sensitive information about you and your children -- such as Social Security numbers -- separately from the court papers the other parent will receive. You'll need to fill out and file a summons for either petition. A summons is an official notice from the court to the other parent. It requires the other parent to respond to your petition. Other forms vary by county and circumstances of the case.
If you're married to the other parent, Arizona law requires you file for legal separation or divorce to pursue custody of the children. If you were married to the other parent when the children were born, Arizona presumes your husband is their father. If you weren't married and must establish paternity before you can file for sole custody, you and the other parent may complete and file a paternity acknowledgement or you can file a petition in court to have paternity established.
References & Resources
- The Judicial Branch of Arizona, Maricopa County: Helpful Information About Getting a Change of Custody
- The Judicial Branch of Arizona, Maricopa County: Establish Child Custody
- The Judicial Branch of Arizona, Maricopa County: To Establish Custody or Parenting Time
- The Judicial Branch of Arizona, Maricopa County: How to File Your Petition to Modify Child Custody
- Women's Law.org: Custody (Arizona)