Phoenix Child Custody Lawyer

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 Gillespie, Shields, Durrant & Goldfarb, 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 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 over 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 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 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 Gillespie, Shields, Durrant & Goldfarb 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.

Phoenix Visitation Attorney

Laws regarding visitation rights vary greatly from state to state, and in Arizona, they can be particularly complex. Arizona has extra provisions that give ceratin family members extra rights when it comes to visitation, but earning these rights requires the skill of an experienced Phoenix visitation lawyer. In general, here is how visitation law in Arizona works:

Visitation for the Non-custodial Parent

In general, the courts prefer to grant joint custody for parents in divorce proceedings. However, there are some instances where one person will retain sole custody. Even if you are the non-custodial parent, you are entitled to visitation rights under the law, whether they are supervised or unsupervised.

When determining the extent of your visitation rights, the family law courts will consider:

  • If you are fit to spend time with the child
  • If you want to continue your relationship with the child
  • If you can follow a visitation plan
  • If visitation with you is in the best interest of the child
  • If the child will benefit from a relationship with you
  • If the child can engage in open communication with you

The law acknowledges that children typically benefit from a relationship with both parents, so courts try to make visitation work, excluding circumstances such as an imminent threat to the safety of the child. However, in the state of Arizona, it is lawful for the custodial parent to withhold visitation rights if child support payments are not paid on time. Barring visitation, by contrast, is not a lawful reason for you to stop child support payments.

Whether you’re the parent with legal guardianship or not, the Phoenix visitation attorneys at our firm can help strengthen your arguments before the judge and defend your visitation rights as a parent. We can begin helping in a free consultation with our child custody and visitation experts.


Unlike other states, Arizona has extra measures in place that allow grandparents to have visitation rights despite the objections of one or both guardians. However, to successfully achieve this, grandparents need to provide clear evidence that their visitation rights are in the best interest of the child. Additionally, to overrule the objections of a parent, one of the following criteria must be met:

  • The grandparent seeking visitation is the parent of the child’s non-custodial parent, and the divorce has been finalized for at least three months.
  • The grandparent is a parent of a non-custodial parent who has been deceased or missing for at least three months.
  • The parents of the child were never married.

In determining the extent of the grandparents’ interest in the child, the courts will consider many factors, including:

  • The history of the relationship
  • The motivation of the grandparent(s)
  • The motivation in the parents denying visitation
  • The impact of visitation on the child’s life and daily activities

Please visit our Phoenix grandparent custody page for more detailed information.


Using the same criteria, aunts/uncles, siblings, stepparents and other third parties are eligible to petition the courts for visitation rights. However, in many cases, extended family are free to visit while the child is in a parent’s custody. Specific visitation rights are reserved specifically for when one or both parents are barring access to a child.

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 Gillespie, Shields, Durrant & Goldfarb, 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.