Family Law

Child Custody and Deployment

Child Custody and Deployment

In Arizona, what was known in the past as legal custody is now called “legal decision making” (LDM), while what was known in the past as physical custody is now called “parenting time” (PT).

Under Arizona law, all “legal decision making and parenting time” (LDMPT) matters are determined according to what’s in the child’s “best interest.” The specific factors that the court will consider are listed at A.R.S. § 25-403. If one of the child’s parents is a service member who has a family care plan (https://www.militaryonesource.mil/military-life-cycle/deployment/preparing-for-deployment/how-to-create-a-family-care-plan-for-caregivers) in place, then the court will consider the terms of that plan when determining what is in the child’s best interest. A.R.S. § 25-411(A).

When can an LDMPT order usually be changed?

As a general rule, a LDMPT order must be in effect for at least one year before it can be modified (changed), unless one of the child’s parents can show that the child’s current situation poses a danger to the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health. A.R.S. § 25-411(A). However, if a joint LDM order was entered, and one of the parents is not complying with the order and six months have passed since the order went into effect, then the other parent can ask the court to modify it on that basis. A.R.S. § 25-411(A).

What exceptions exist for parents who are service members?

If a parent involved in a LDMPT case is currently deployed or may be deployed in the future, the usual rules about when and how a LDMPT order can be changed, and even who can be named in the order, do not apply.

  • If the parent who has the majority of parenting time (the “custodial parent”) receives temporary duty, deployment, activation, or mobilization orders that involve moving a significant distance away from their residence, then any existing LDMPT order cannot be changed until at least 90 days after their deployment ends, unless they agree to a modification. A.R.S. § 25-411(B).
  • The court cannot consider one parent’s current or future deployment alone as supporting the other parent’s claim that a “real, substantial, and unanticipated change in circumstances” requires that an existing LDMPT order be changed. The other parent must be able to show that other reasons also exist. A.R.S. § 25-411(B).
  • The parent who is a service member can ask the court to enter a temporary modification of an existing LDMPT order during their deployment if:
    • They have received formal notice that they’re going to be deployed in the near future; and
    • Their deployment will have a material (significant) effect on their ability to exercise their parental rights and responsibilities and/or parent-child contact as required by the existing LDMPT order. A.R.S. § 25-411(D).
  • If a parent who is a service member receives temporary duty, deployment, activation, or mobilization orders that either (a) involve moving a substantial distance away from their residence or (b) will have a material effect on their ability to exercise parenting time, then they can ask the court to temporarily assign either all or part of their parenting time to someone else during their absence. The other person can be one of the child’s relatives, including a stepparent, or anyone else who has a “close and substantial relationship” to the child, so long as the court determines that it will be in the child’s best interest. A.R.S. § 25-411(G).

Can a service member exercise legal decision making and parenting time if they are stationed in another state or country?

Yes, so long as they receive permission from whichever court has jurisdiction over the child.

If the child has resided here in Arizona for the prior six months (or since birth if the child is less than six months old), then, as a general rule, Arizona is the child’s “home state,” and a parent who is a service member can file for legal decision making and parenting time in a court of this state and request that the court permit them to move the child to another state or country. A.R.S. § 25-1002(7).

If Arizona is the child’s “home state” at the time the child’s custodial parent is deployed overseas, then Arizona continues to have jurisdiction until the parent’s deployment ends. A.R.S. § 25-1013.

Where does someone file a petition for legal decision making and parenting time?

Petitions for legal decision making and parenting time, as well as motions to modify legal decision making and parenting time, are filed with the clerk of the local Superior Court.

Can the other parent object to a service member’s plan to move a child?

Yes, the other parent can file a response to the service member’s petition for legal decision making and parenting time (or their motion to modify legal decision making and parenting time) and also appear at the hearing to tell the court why they believe such a move would not be in the best interest of the child.

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

Privacy Policy | Terms of Use

feedback