Arizona Child Custody: Is Primary Caregiver another term for Full sole custody?

Q: I am trying to get my sons mother to meet with me and sign a document which we will get notarized and then im going to bring it to the court to file and document ..basically im getting her to sign over her rights for our reasons without spending 10k in lawyer and court fees..my question is instead of saying full sole custody can i use the term primary caregiver..does it mean the same thing.The opening of this document will say I____acknowledge that ____ is the primary caregiver of our son ______..and then in this letter we will include when and how much for her visitation and a promise saying neither of us will leave state..mainly i want her to sign this for the fact she is acknowledging on paper that i am the primary caregiver which im hoping is the same as full sole custody

A: I often have clients who come to our office for a consultation and during the course of the consultation will say they would like “full custody”. Many people do not understand that under Arizona child custody law there are actually two types of custody which are mutually exclusive of each other and “full custody” is not actually a legally defined term.

The two types of Arizona child custody are as follows:

1. LEGAL CUSTODY: Legal custody entails which parent makes DECISIONS about a child’s non-emergency health care, education and religious training. There is a strong presumption in favor of parents having JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY meaning that the parents must make these types of decisions together and if they cannot agree the parents would either seek mediation to resolve the dispute and/or seek an order from the court to resolve the dispute. Under certain circumstances a court may award one parent SOLE LEGAL CUSTODY whereby that parent would have final decision-making authority with regards to a child’s non-emergency health care, education and religious training after making good faith efforts to discuss the issue with the other parent first.

2. PHYSICAL CUSTODY: Is what most people think of when they hear the term “custody”. Physical custody determines where the child(ren) actually spend their time. Courts generally order either JOINT PHYSICAL CUSTODY whereby each parent would have the child(ren) for about the same amount of time (week on/week off or some other equal time-sharing arrangement depending on the age of the children and other factors). Another common PHYSICAL CUSTODY arrangement would be where one parent is designated as the PRIMARY CUSTODIAL PARENT (sometimes called primary residential parent or primary caregiver) and the other parent has visitation on some sort of regular schedule (every other weekend, rotating overnights during the week, etc…)

LEGAL CUSTODY and PHYSICAL CUSTODY are two separate concepts and it is important to keep that in mind. The term ‘full sole custody” is not a legally defined term under Arizona’s child custody law and it would be necessary that any agreement be drafted to properly address both LEGAL and PHYSICAL CUSTODY.

This answer is for informational purposes only. It is not intended, nor should it be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship shall exist unless and until an agreement for legal services is reached between attorney and client, and a legal services contract is fully executed by and between attorney and client.
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One Response to Arizona Child Custody: Is primary caregiver another term for full sole custody?

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