Arizona courts are required, by statute, to make orders about parenting time and legal decision-making based on the best interests of the minor child. See ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-403(A). A child’s best interests are determined using eleven (11) factors, one of which considers: “If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.” Id. There is not a hard and fast rule that defines the exact age at which a court will begin to consider a minor child’s preferences in deciding parenting time and legal decision-making. However, it is fairly common for courts to take into consideration of the preferences of children that are at least fourteen (14) years of age.
As of the writing of this discussion, the State of Arizona is considering an amendment to Section 25-403(A) of the Arizona Revised Statutes, which would remove the language “suitable age and maturity . . . .” See Ariz. State Leg., H.B.2342, 55th Leg., 2nd Reg. Sess. (Ariz. 2022). In its place, the amended statute would include the following language:
If the child is at least fourteen years of age and is sufficiently mature so that the child can intelligently and voluntarily express a preference for one parent, the child has the right to select the parent whom the child chooses regarding custody and parenting time. The child’s selection is considered presumptive unless the court determines that the child’s wishes are not in the best interest of the child. If the child is under fourteen years of age but is of suitable age and maturity, the court shall strongly consider the child’s wishes regarding custody and parenting time unless the court determines that the child’s wishes are not in the best interest of the child.
Id. It is important to keep in mind that even if House Bill 2342 is ultimately passed in the State of Arizona, it may be years before Arizona courts fully internalize the changes and develop case law to explore how it will apply in practice.
Every case is unique, with its own facts and circumstances, and it is not possible to list and describe every fact that might be relevant to a case concerning parenting time or legal decision-making. If you or a loved one is considering initiating a family law case involving minor children, such as a divorce, legal separation, action for parenting time / decision-making, or a modification, contact Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC to schedule a consultation.
Disclaimer: This publication is for educational and informational purposes only, and represents Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC’s understanding of the present state of Arizona law. This publication does not constitute legal advice or council, and should not be construed as a comment on the merits of any particular case. It should be noted that the laws and requirements of the State of Arizona may change at any time and that this information may not be complete or correct.