Written by Canterbury Law Group

Types of Child Custody Orders

Child custody orders determine the legal authority and responsibilities of parents or guardians regarding the care, upbringing, and decision-making for their children. These orders can vary depending on the specific needs and circumstances of the family, and they may include various types of custody arrangements. Here are some common types of child custody orders:

1. Legal Custody

  1. Joint Legal Custody:
    • Both parents share the authority to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, including education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities.
    • Joint legal custody does not necessarily require equal parenting time or physical custody.
  2. Sole Legal Custody:
    • One parent has the sole authority to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing without input from the other parent.
    • Sole legal custody may be awarded if one parent is deemed unfit or if there is a history of conflict or inability to cooperate between the parents.

2. Physical Custody

  1. Joint Physical Custody:
    • The child spends significant time living with both parents, and they share physical custody of the child.
    • Joint physical custody arrangements may be equal (50/50) or substantially shared, depending on the specific needs and circumstances of the family.
  2. Sole Physical Custody:
    • The child primarily resides with one parent, and the other parent may have visitation rights or parenting time according to a schedule determined by the court.
    • Sole physical custody may be awarded if it is determined to be in the best interests of the child or if one parent is unable to provide a stable and suitable living environment.

3. Split Custody

  1. Split Custody:
    • In split custody arrangements, siblings are divided between the parents, with each parent having primary physical custody of at least one child.
    • Split custody arrangements are relatively rare and may be considered if it is deemed to be in the best interests of the children involved.

4. Bird’s Nest Custody

  1. Bird’s Nest Custody:
    • In bird’s nest custody, the child remains in the family home, and the parents take turns living with the child according to a set schedule.
    • This arrangement allows the child to maintain stability in their living environment while the parents rotate in and out of the home.

5. Temporary Custody Orders

  1. Temporary Custody Orders:
    • Temporary custody orders may be issued by the court during the pendency of a divorce or custody dispute to establish custody arrangements until a final decision can be made.
    • These orders are intended to provide stability and structure for the family while the legal process is ongoing.


Child custody orders are tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of each family and are designed to promote the best interests of the child. The type of custody order issued by the court will depend on factors such as the child’s age and preferences, the parents’ ability to cooperate, and any history of abuse or neglect. It’s essential for parents to understand their rights and responsibilities under the custody order and to work together in the best interests of their children

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Virtual Visitation

Virtual visitation, also known as electronic visitation or virtual parenting time, refers to the use of technology to facilitate communication and interaction between a non-custodial parent and their child. This method is particularly useful when physical visitation is not possible or practical due to distance, work schedules, health issues, or other constraints. Here are key aspects of virtual visitation:

Key Components of Virtual Visitation

  1. Technology Used:
    • Video Calls: Platforms like Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Meet allow for face-to-face interaction via video.
    • Phone Calls: Regular phone calls are a basic form of virtual visitation.
    • Text Messaging: Regular text messaging can help maintain daily communication.
    • Email: For longer, more detailed communication, sharing photos, and staying updated on events.
    • Social Media: Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks can be used to share updates and stay connected.
    • Apps: There are specific apps designed for virtual visitation that provide secure communication and interactive features (e.g., OurFamilyWizard).
  2. Legal Recognition:
    • Court Orders: Virtual visitation can be included in custody agreements and court orders. It ensures that both parents have agreed to its use and establishes guidelines for frequency and duration.
    • State Laws: Some states have laws specifically recognizing and supporting virtual visitation. These laws ensure that virtual visitation is considered a legitimate form of maintaining parent-child relationships.
  3. Benefits:
    • Flexibility: Allows parents and children to connect despite geographical or logistical barriers.
    • Frequency: Can facilitate more frequent contact than traditional visitation schedules.
    • Emotional Bond: Helps maintain and strengthen the emotional bond between the non-custodial parent and the child.
    • Safety: Useful in situations where physical visitation might pose safety concerns (e.g., during a pandemic or if a parent is deployed).
  4. Challenges:
    • Technology Access: Requires access to reliable technology and internet connections for both parents and the child.
    • Technical Issues: Potential for technical difficulties that can interrupt communication.
    • Quality of Interaction: May not fully replace the benefits of in-person interaction, especially for younger children.
    • Scheduling Conflicts: Coordinating schedules for virtual visits can still be challenging.
  5. Best Practices:
    • Regular Schedule: Establish a regular schedule for virtual visits to provide consistency for the child.
    • Preparation: Ensure that both the technology and the environment are set up in advance to minimize interruptions.
    • Engagement: Engage in interactive activities during the virtual visit, such as reading together, playing online games, or helping with homework.
    • Respect: Both parents should respect the scheduled virtual visitation times and facilitate a positive experience for the child.

Virtual visitation is an effective tool for maintaining parent-child relationships when traditional in-person visitation is not feasible. By leveraging technology, non-custodial parents can stay connected with their children and participate in their lives more actively. Legal recognition and clear guidelines in custody agreements can help ensure that virtual visitation is used effectively and benefits all parties involved.

Many fathers assume they won’t have a fair trial when trying to obtain legal custody of their child. This is not true, although it is crucial to have experienced and trusted child custody help in Phoenix. The family law attorneys at Canterbury Law Group have years of experience recognizing and building formidable cases that will protect your interests and maximize your parenting time.

If you’re a father hoping for custody of your child, we have tips that may help you and your case:

1. Pay Child Support: A father who wants custody of a child should prioritize making regular child support payments. If he has an informal arrangement with the child’s mother, it is crucial to maintain records such as check receipts or a written letter from the child’s mother detailing the support arrangements. If a father is struggling with child support payments, he should request a modification rather than sacrificing a payment.

2. Maintain a Strong Relationship: Even if the child is not in the custody of the father, a relationship can still consistent. The dad should call the child frequently and check in on their day, schedule a time to stop by the child’s school and introduce himself to the administration and ensure the child knows that he’s there to offer any assistance necessary. A father who wants custody should also attend the child’s social, educational, religious and other important events as evidence of a continuing relationship with the child.

3. Keep Precise Records: A father should maintain an accurate visitation schedule record to help obtain child custody. A father can capture accurate visitation records by developing and maintaining a parenting plan.

4. Prepare a Space for Your Child At Home: A father should make a special place in his home for the child, regardless of the size of the home. A court will inquire about adequate living accommodations during all child custody hearings, so a father should be prepared to respond to the judge’s inquiry.

5. Consider Mediation: A father who wants custody of a child should consider mediation or arbitration, prior to undergoing an adversarial court hearing. In mediation or arbitration, cases are decided by a neutral third party. For a father, custody proceedings in a courtroom may be difficult to handle, so he may prefer the smaller, friendlier setting associated with mediation or arbitration.

Our legal team has extensive experience in child custody help in Scottsdale. We help fathers get fair and equitable treatment by the courts. Recent changes to Arizona law mandate that the court treat both mothers and fathers equally in the eyes of the law. If a man fears that his wife may leave and take the children, it is his obligation to ensure he takes steps needed to protect his role as the father. That may mean consulting an attorney before his wife has the opportunity to file for a divorce. The family law attorneys at Canterbury Law Group have significant expertise in father’s rights issues and can capably guide you through. Your children are counting on you to make the right decisions both before and after the divorce case has been filed.

Fathers Rights During Pregnancy
Written by Canterbury Law Group

Fathers Rights During Pregnancy

The rights of fathers during pregnancy can vary depending on legal jurisdiction and the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy. In general, fathers typically have certain rights and responsibilities during pregnancy, including:

  1. Legal Paternity Rights: If the father is legally recognized as the child’s father, he may have certain rights regarding custody, visitation, and decision-making regarding the child’s upbringing. Establishing paternity can vary depending on the laws of the jurisdiction.
  2. Support Obligations: Fathers are typically obligated to provide financial support for their child, including during pregnancy. This can include expenses related to prenatal care and childbirth.
  3. Medical Decision-making: In some jurisdictions, fathers may have the right to be involved in medical decisions related to the pregnancy and childbirth, particularly if they are married to the mother or if paternity has been legally established.
  4. Emotional Support and Involvement: Regardless of legal rights, many fathers choose to be actively involved in the pregnancy and childbirth process, providing emotional support to the mother and participating in prenatal appointments and childbirth classes.
  5. Parental Leave: Some jurisdictions provide paternity leave or other forms of parental leave that allow fathers to take time off work to support their partner during pregnancy and to bond with their newborn child after birth.

Does A Father Have Rights To An Unborn Child?

The extent of a father’s legal rights to an unborn child can vary depending on jurisdiction and specific circumstances. Generally, fathers do not have legal rights to an unborn child in the same way that they do to a child who has been born. However, once the child is born, assuming paternity is established, fathers typically have rights and responsibilities related to custody, visitation, and support.

Before the child is born, fathers may have limited legal rights, but they may still have certain responsibilities, such as providing financial support for the mother’s prenatal care and childbirth expenses. Some jurisdictions allow fathers to seek custody or visitation rights before the child is born through legal processes such as paternity establishment or seeking court orders.

In cases where the father and mother are married or in a legally recognized partnership, the father may have more rights and involvement in decisions related to the pregnancy and childbirth. However, if the parents are unmarried and paternity has not been established, the father’s rights may be more limited.

Establishing Legal Parenthood For Fathers

Establishing legal parenthood for fathers typically involves a few key steps, which may vary depending on the jurisdiction:

  1. Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity: In many places, if the parents are unmarried, they can establish paternity voluntarily by signing a legal document called an Acknowledgment of Paternity. This document is typically available at hospitals, birthing centers, or vital records offices. Both parents must sign the document, and it is usually filed with the appropriate government agency to establish the father’s legal rights and responsibilities.
  2. Genetic Testing: If there is a dispute about paternity or if the mother disputes the father’s claim of paternity, genetic testing may be required. DNA testing can conclusively determine whether a man is the biological father of a child. Courts may order genetic testing if paternity is in question, and the results of the test can be used to establish legal parenthood.
  3. Court Order: In some cases, particularly if paternity is disputed or if one parent is unwilling to acknowledge paternity voluntarily, it may be necessary to seek a court order to establish legal parenthood. This typically involves filing a petition with the court requesting a determination of paternity. The court may order genetic testing and, if the results confirm paternity, issue an order establishing the father’s legal rights and responsibilities.
  4. Marriage: If the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth, the husband is typically presumed to be the legal father of the child. However, this presumption can be rebutted if there is evidence to the contrary, such as proof of infertility or evidence of another man’s paternity.

Once legal parenthood is established, the father typically has rights and responsibilities regarding custody, visitation, and financial support for the child. It’s important for fathers to understand their rights and obligations under the law and to seek legal advice if they have questions or concerns about establishing legal parenthood.

What Is A Father’s Financial Responsibility During Pregnancy?

A father’s financial responsibility during pregnancy can vary depending on factors such as legal jurisdiction, the relationship between the parents, and individual circumstances. However, some common financial responsibilities that fathers may have during pregnancy include:

  1. Medical Expenses: Fathers may be responsible for contributing to the costs of prenatal care, including doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, lab tests, and medications. This can also include expenses related to childbirth, such as hospital bills and delivery costs.
  2. Health Insurance Coverage: If the father has health insurance that covers dependents, he may be responsible for adding the mother and unborn child to his insurance policy to help cover medical expenses related to the pregnancy and childbirth.
  3. Supporting the Mother: Fathers may be expected to provide financial support to the mother during pregnancy to help cover living expenses and other necessities. This can include contributing to rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, and other household expenses.
  4. Childbirth Classes and Other Preparations: Fathers may be responsible for sharing the costs of childbirth classes, prenatal vitamins, maternity clothes, and other expenses related to preparing for the baby’s arrival.
  5. Unforeseen Expenses: Fathers should also be prepared to help cover any unexpected expenses that arise during pregnancy, such as medical emergencies or complications that require additional financial resources.

It’s important for both parents to communicate openly about financial responsibilities during pregnancy and to work together to ensure that the needs of both the mother and unborn child are met. In cases where the parents are unmarried or separated, legal agreements or court orders may be necessary to establish financial obligations and ensure that both parents contribute appropriately to the costs associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

Can You Not Tell The Father You Are Pregnant?

Deciding when and how to share such news can be a deeply personal matter, and there might be various reasons why someone may choose not to tell the father about a pregnancy right away. It’s essential to consider the circumstances and implications carefully.

If you’re in a situation where you’re hesitant to tell the father, it might be helpful to reflect on why that is and whether there are concerns that need addressing. Keeping such news from the father could potentially lead to complications down the road, so it’s essential to approach the situation with care and honesty, whenever you feel ready. If you need advice or support, don’t hesitate to reach out to trusted friends, family, or professionals who can provide guidance tailored to your specific circumstances.

Can You Have A Baby And Not Tell The Father?

Yes, it is possible for someone to have a baby and choose not to tell the father about the pregnancy or the child. There could be various reasons for this decision, such as concerns about the father’s involvement, personal safety, or other complex circumstances.

However, it’s important to consider the potential long-term implications of such a decision, both for the child and for the relationship between the child and the father. In many cases, maintaining open communication and transparency can lead to better outcomes for everyone involved, even if the situation is challenging.

If you’re considering not telling the father about a pregnancy or a child, it might be helpful to seek guidance from trusted friends, family members, or professionals who can offer support and perspective on your specific circumstances.

After the baby is born, you are not entitled to make decisions regarding the child if you are not the biological parent or do not have custody. However, if you have sole or joint legal custody, you are in a position to decide on important aspects of their upbringing. Create a newborn custody agreement to specify the responsibilities of each parent. Make use of a parenting plan template as a reference. It can be drafted while you are pregnant, and once the baby is born, the court can approve it.

Signing Over Parental Rights Of An Unborn Child

Signing over parental rights of an unborn child is a complex legal matter and the specifics can vary greatly depending on jurisdiction. In many places, it’s not possible to sign over parental rights to an unborn child because legal parental rights generally come into effect after the child is born. However, there might be options for relinquishing parental rights after birth through processes like adoption or termination of parental rights.

If you’re considering such a step, it’s crucial to seek legal advice from a qualified attorney who specializes in family law. They can provide guidance on the relevant laws in your jurisdiction and help you understand your rights and options. Additionally, it’s important to consider the potential emotional and practical implications of such a decision, both for yourself and for the child. Talking to a counselor or therapist can also be beneficial in navigating these complex issues.

Father’ Rights In Abortion

The topic of fathers’ rights in the context of abortion is complex and intersects with legal, ethical, and social dimensions. Here’s an overview of the key aspects:

Legal Perspective

  1. Current Legal Framework:
    • In most jurisdictions, the legal right to decide whether to have an abortion resides with the pregnant woman. This stems from the recognition of bodily autonomy and privacy rights.
    • The landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade (1973) established the constitutional right to privacy, which includes a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. This decision was modified by the 2022 case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which returned the power to regulate abortion to individual states, but did not explicitly grant fathers any decision-making power.
  2. Paternity Rights:
    • Fathers generally have rights concerning their children once they are born, including custody, visitation, and child support. However, these rights do not typically extend to decisions about abortion.
  3. State Variations:
    • Some states have attempted to introduce laws requiring that fathers be notified of or consent to an abortion, but these have generally been struck down as unconstitutional.

Ethical and Social Considerations

  1. Bodily Autonomy:
    • The principle of bodily autonomy supports the idea that individuals should have control over their own bodies, which includes making decisions about pregnancy.
  2. Parental Responsibilities and Interests:
    • Some argue that fathers should have a say in abortion decisions because they have a stake in the potential life of the child. However, this interest is often seen as secondary to the pregnant woman’s bodily autonomy.
  3. Relationship Dynamics:
    • The dynamics of the relationship between the parents can also affect opinions on this issue. In some cases, men may feel they should have a say, especially if they are in a committed relationship. Conversely, in situations involving abuse or coercion, giving fathers more rights could endanger the pregnant woman.

Advocacy and Movements

  1. Men’s Rights Groups:
    • Some men’s rights groups advocate for increased paternal rights in abortion decisions. They argue for equal say in the decision-making process or at least for fathers to be notified.
  2. Reproductive Rights Groups:
    • Groups advocating for reproductive rights typically emphasize the importance of protecting women’s autonomy and ensuring access to abortion without additional hurdles, including mandatory notification or consent from fathers.

The rights of fathers in the context of abortion remain a contentious issue. While fathers have significant rights and responsibilities regarding their children post-birth, the prevailing legal and ethical frameworks prioritize the pregnant woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. This balance reflects broader principles of bodily autonomy and privacy, even as debates continue about the appropriate roles and rights of fathers in these deeply personal and complex decisions.

Can A Father Stop A Pregnant Mother From Moving?

The ability of a father to prevent a pregnant mother from moving depends on various legal and contextual factors. Generally, it is difficult for a father to legally stop a pregnant mother from relocating, especially before the child is born. Here are key points to consider:

Legal Context

  1. Rights During Pregnancy:
    • Autonomy of the Pregnant Woman: During pregnancy, the legal rights of the mother over her body and movement are typically prioritized. Courts generally do not impose restrictions on a pregnant woman’s right to move or relocate.
    • Legal Status of the Fetus: In many jurisdictions, a fetus does not have separate legal rights independent of the pregnant woman. Consequently, the father does not have legal grounds to control the movements of the pregnant mother based on the unborn child’s interests.
  2. Post-Birth Considerations:
    • Custody and Visitation Rights: Once the child is born, both parents’ rights and responsibilities come into play. If the mother moves before the child is born, custody and visitation arrangements will be established based on the location of the parents at that time.
    • Impact on Custody: If a mother relocates during pregnancy and the father wishes to be involved in the child’s life, the distance may impact future custody and visitation arrangements. Courts generally consider the best interests of the child when making these decisions, which includes maintaining relationships with both parents.

Factors Influencing Court Decisions

  1. Best Interests of the Child:
    • Courts prioritize the best interests of the child when making custody and visitation decisions. They consider factors such as the child’s stability, the parents’ ability to cooperate, and the child’s relationship with each parent.
  2. Mother’s Reason for Moving:
    • If the mother’s relocation is motivated by valid reasons (e.g., employment opportunities, support from family, safety concerns), courts may view the move more favorably.
  3. Father’s Involvement:
    • The father’s level of involvement and commitment to the child can influence court decisions. Demonstrating a desire to be actively involved in the child’s life can be a significant factor.

Practical Considerations

  1. Communication and Cooperation:
    • Open communication and cooperation between parents can help manage the implications of a move. If possible, discussing and negotiating terms that consider both parents’ roles can lead to more amicable arrangements.
  2. Legal Advice:
    • Both parents should seek legal advice to understand their rights and obligations. Family law attorneys can provide guidance specific to their jurisdiction and circumstances.

Before the child is born, it is generally challenging for a father to legally prevent a pregnant mother from moving. The mother’s autonomy and the absence of separate legal rights for the fetus support her freedom to relocate. However, once the child is born, custody and visitation arrangements will consider the best interests of the child, which may include maintaining relationships with both parents. Communication, cooperation, and legal counsel are crucial in navigating these situations.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Custodial Parents & Noncustodial Parents Rights

One parent is designated as the custodial parent and the other as the noncustodial parent, based on the custodial rights granted to each in the final custody order. These titles have an impact on each parent’s rights and obligations, including who is responsible for paying and receiving child support, among other things.

There are states where terms with the same meaning are used differently. Ohio, for instance, employs the terms “residential parent” and “nonresidential parent.”

A custodial parent: what is it?

The principal caregiver for the child is the custodial parent. They frequently get sole custody, which grants them complete control over all decisions pertaining to the child (sole legal custody) and most or all of the parenting time (sole physical custody).

The custodial parent may be named in a joint or sole custody agreement that the parents come to. Should that not be feasible, the judge determines the appropriate party based on:

The child’s best interests

Who has more time to devote to the child? Who was the child’s primary caregiver when the custody case began? In certain states, the child’s wishes
The opportunity to spend a lot of one-on-one time with your child is one advantage of having custodial custody. There’s also the possibility that you won’t have to pay child support.

But you bear the majority of the parental load, particularly if you’re a single parent. All or most of your child’s growing pains and frustrations must be addressed as you are responsible for their daily care. In addition, you’ll have extra responsibilities that the other parent might be able to avoid, like driving the child to and from school.

Should you and your former partner get along well enough, you may be able to co-parent and divide these duties equally between the two of you.

A noncustodial parent is what?

In most cases, the noncustodial parent has less time with the child and is the one who pays child support, though they may still be eligible for assistance if the custodial parent earns a substantially higher income.

You may remain the noncustodial parent even if you share joint legal and physical custody. Perhaps the court decides you need to pay child support, or perhaps the other parent resides in a better school district.

Even though you might not see your child as much, you play an equally important role in their upbringing as the custodial parent does; children gain the most from having both parents involved.

Rights of noncustodial parents

Noncustodial parents are entitled to visitation privileges and decision-making power, unless the court rules otherwise. The court may mandate supervised visitation if there are worries about the child being with the parent alone.

The custodial parent’s refusal to permit visits does not absolve you of your child support obligations. If you want to make sure the order is enforced, you should bring the matter before a family court.

It is your right to be informed if the parent with custodial rights plans to move. The majority of states have deadlines for the custodial parent to notify the other parent when they are moving. The noncustodial parent now has time to object. If the distance is great enough to interfere with the visitation schedule, the custody order might need to be modified.

Both parents have the right to know where their child is during visits, if specified by the court order.

Working Together

For the purpose of raising your child, you and your ex-partner remain a team, despite your separation. Among the matters you ought to work together on are:

Important decisions pertaining to children, such as the child’s schooling
Significant costs for the child (such as medical procedures)


Getting the youngster to and from appointments

Before going to court, think about attempting an alternative dispute resolution process if you’re having problems reaching a consensus on these issues. It might be more difficult to resolve conflicts amicably in the future if litigation is brought about right away.

Divorce can be tolling on all involved so be sure to guard your kids and preserve their future. For more information on divorce and child custody, contact the Scottsdale divorce lawyers at Canterbury Law Group. We are here to protect you and your children: (480) 744-7711.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Child Custody Mediation: How It Works

Learn the basics of this dispute resolution tool for divorcing spouses and get pointers on approaching your own child custody mediation sessions.

Divorce is an inherently painful process that can be all the more challenging when children are involved. Fighting over child custody issues in court can intensify the pain for all those involved—not to mention the expense.

Fortunately, disagreeing couples can get help working toward solutions for their family somewhere other than court. Child custody mediation exists precisely so that parents who just can’t seem to agree don’t have to take on the financial and emotional costs of court battles.

What Is Child Custody Mediation?

Mediation is a method of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) that has become a mainstay in the world of divorce. When it comes to child custody, mediation is designed to help divorcing or unmarried parents reach an agreement on legal and physical custody of their children without the pain and expense of a traditional court contest.

In a mediation session, spouses meet with a trained mediator, usually in an informal setting (such as the mediator’s office), or sometimes online. Think of the mediator as a guide, navigating the couple through the maze of marital issues they disagree on. (Sometimes the spouses work with a mediator and otherwise handle the case themselves; other times, they each have an attorney who might help them prepare for mediation, provide coaching for the negotiation process, and prepare or review any resulting agreement.)

Unlike a judge or arbitrator, the mediator doesn’t make decisions on the disputed matters. Rather, mediators use their knowledge and skill to try to facilitate a compromise that both spouses can live with. In divorce cases, a successful mediation will normally lead to the preparation of a written settlement agreement.

Although many issues in a divorce can be contentious, child custody and parenting time are often the most emotionally charged and difficult for families to agree on.

Child Custody Overview

Child custody isn’t the all-or-nothing proposition it’s often thought to be—one parent gets the kids, the other doesn’t, end of story. It’s well established that children fare better when both parents are an integral part of their life, and that’s the goal the courts strive for in custody cases.

At its core, child custody includes two basic concepts: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody relates to who will make the decisions regarding the important matters in a child’s life, such as education, religious upbringing, and non-emergency medical treatment. Unless one parent is unqualified for some reason, courts prefer to have parents share legal custody.

Physical custody has to do with where a child will primarily reside. To a large degree, determining physical custody depends on where each parent lives, with the aim being to provide for an arrangement that best suits the child’s needs.

In all custody matters, doing what’s in the child’s best interest is the court’s guiding principle.

Child Custody Mediation Basics

Although many issues in a divorce can be contentious, child custody and parenting time are often the most emotionally charged and difficult for families to agree on. Child custody mediation is intended to help tone down the hostility, for the sake of both the parents and their children.

Court-Ordered vs. Private Child Custody Mediation

Child custody mediation can be either ordered by a court or private and voluntary. Court-ordered mediation is often free, low cost, or priced on a sliding scale based on the parents’ incomes. But even if a judge has ordered you to participate in custody mediation, you almost always have the option of choosing private mediation instead of the mediation program offered through the court.

If you can afford it, private mediation allows you to have more say in the process, and it tends to be more successful than court-ordered mediation (in part because of the time restrictions on most court-sponsored custody mediation). Because of that, private mediation might actually save you money because of the court costs and lawyers’ fees that come when there’s no agreement.

Child custody mediation is also typically more cost effective than going to court, because you’re paying one mediator to help you come to an agreement, rather than both of you paying hourly fees to separate attorneys. Also, you have a say in when the sessions will take place. That’s a luxury that is practically nonexistent in the court system.

Most states (and many counties) require courts to order parents to participate in mediation in any case that involves a custody dispute. So even when couples who can’t agree haven’t opted to pursue mediation before filing for divorce, they’ll usually have to attend mediation at some point. In light of this, it’s important to learn how to approach mediation.

How to Prepare for Child Custody Mediation

First and foremost, remember that custody in general, and mediation in particular, isn’t primarily about the parents. It’s about the children. You have to make a commitment to do whatever is best for them, and that starts with being prepared.

Here are some quick tips on getting ready for a mediation session:

Try to get plenty of sleep the night before. Mediation can be stressful, so be sure to take care of yourself. It’s much easier to stay calm and think clearly when you’re rested.

  • Resolve to keep an open mind. Remember, it’s not about getting everything you want. Your spouse may have a different perspective on what’s best for the children. Try to understand where your ex is coming from instead of immediately digging in. The mediator may also have suggestions for custody and parenting time that you haven’t thought of.
  • Sketch something out. Write out a proposal of what you believe would be a fair custody and parenting time arrangement. Sketching out a plan can help organize your thoughts and provide a starting point for discussion. Include a checklist so you don’t lose track of issues that are important to you. Remember to include things such as:
    • how to handle transitions, meaning picking up and dropping off the children when it’s time for them to be with the other parent
    • how to share the cost involved in travel if that’s a factor (such as when the parents live far away from each other)
    • how to divide holidays throughout the year (for example, whether the schedule will be the same each year or will alternate)
    • vacation sharing, for school breaks and summer
    • how to deal with minor changes to the agreed-upon schedules, like when a child or parent is sick
    • the best way for parents to communicate with each other (phone and/or email, for example), and
    • anything you feel could be a potential problem, such as a parent having substance abuse issues that need to be addressed.

Keep in mind that software programs and smartphone apps can help parents coordinate all aspects of custody and parenting time, including communications.

When Custody Mediation Might Not Be Appropriate

Custody mediation is generally not appropriate in cases involving ongoing domestic violence or emotional abuse. In many states that require mediation for custody disputes, you may get out of this requirement if you’re experiencing abuse or there’s a protective order in place. Other states, like California, won’t excuse you from participating in custody mediation, but you may request special procedures to protect your safety.

As long as you have the choice to participate in mediation (or not), you should be aware that custody mediation might not be the best option in some other circumstances, such as when

  • there’s a history of abuse in your relationship, or the other parent bullies or dominates you
  • you have such a high level of conflict in your relationship that cooperation and effective communication is basically impossible, or
  • the other parent has an untreated substance abuse disorder.

5 Tips for Your Child Custody Mediation Sessions

Even if both spouses come with the best intentions, mediation can hit rough patches. When that happens it’s important to take a breath and refocus your energy on what’s best for the children.

Here are some more tips to achieve a successful mediation:

  1. Don’t bring up marital issues unrelated to the children. Remember that this isn’t a general divorce mediation, so don’t muddy the waters by bringing up anything not specifically related to custody and parenting time. Reciting a laundry list of things you don’t like about the other parent is a prime example of what not to say in child custody mediation.
  2. Be thoughtful with your language. When you reference your children, talk about “our” kids, not “my” kids. It’s more inclusive and less confrontational. And try to couch your remarks in terms of what you as parents can jointly do to make the situation as positive and painless for your children as possible.
  3. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Expect that—despite everyone’s best efforts—there will be times when your discussion can become heated. Don’t use that as an excuse to unload on the other parent, which will only undo progress that’s been made up to that point. Mediators are adept at calming the waters, but if you feel your emotions are getting away from you, ask to take a short break.
  4. Don’t subject yourself to abuse. If you choose to mediate your custody dispute despite a history of physical or emotional abuse, you might consider online mediation, mediation with separate sessions for you and the other parent, or both (meaning that you’ll meet virtually with the mediator in separate “break-out” sessions). So-called “shuttle mediation” usually costs more—because it takes more of the mediator’s time—but it can help level the playing field by offsetting the imbalance of power that frequently exists in abusive relationships. A successful outcome is worth the additional cost, which is still likely to be considerably less than heading to court. Virtual or separate mediation sessions are also useful if the degree of hostility between you and the other parent is so high that you can’t be in the same room.
  5. Remember, you always have options. In the event mediation doesn’t work, you can still turn to the courts. Even in that case, your mediation sessions will probably have highlighted the issues you can’t agree on, which will show you what you need to focus on going forward.

Finding a Qualified Mediator

Mediation has become such a popular method of settling legal issues that there’s no shortage of qualified mediators. Your state court’s administration office may have a list of approved mediators. There are also mediation organizations that offer lists of mediators along with their training and experience.

When researching, be sure to pay particular attention to each mediator’s qualifications. You want one who’s taken mediation courses specifically geared to divorce cases, including custody and parenting time. Also, be aware that a child custody mediator doesn’t necessarily have to be a lawyer—many trained child custody mediators are licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, or social workers who have experience in child custody issues in their state.

Of course, firsthand knowledge and word-of-mouth referrals are always helpful. Recommendations from friends or family members who’ve been through custody mediation are often the best referrals you can find.


Divorce can be tolling on all involved so be sure to guard your kids and preserve their future. For more information on divorce and child custody, contact the Scottsdale divorce lawyers at Canterbury Law Group. We are here to protect you and your children: (480) 744-7711.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Differences Between Legal and Physical Child Custody

When you’re splitting up with your child’s other parent, you’ll need to address the issue of child custody, either as part of a divorce or in a separate custody proceeding. Whether you’re preparing for a custody case or hope to reach a parenting agreement, you should become familiar the basic principles of child custody.

The first thing to understand is that there are two elements to child custody: legal custody and physical custody. It’s not unusual for legal and physical custody to be set up differently. For example, parents might have joint legal custody but not joint physical custody. But with both legal and physical custody, judges base their decisions primarily on what would be in the best interests of the child, not necessarily what the parents want.

What Does Legal Custody Mean?

Legal custody refers to parents’ authority to make the important decisions about their children’s lives, such as:

  • medical and other health care, including the choice of doctors and whether the kids will get vaccinations or go to therapy
  • schooling and other educational resources like tutoring and special education
  • religious activities and instruction, and
  • whether they’ll take part in extracurricular activities like team sports, school band, or music lessons.

A few states use different terms for legal custody, such as decision-making or parental responsibility (in Colorado and Florida) or managing conservatorship (in Texas).

Joint or Shared Legal Custody

Most married parents make important decisions about their children together. And when they divorce or separate, judges usually prefer to keep this arrangement—generally called joint or shared legal custody. That preference is based on the longstanding recognition by courts that fit parents have a fundamental right to decide how their children are raised.

But even when both parents have the legal decision-making authority for their children, one of them—typically the primary residential (or custodial) parent—will often make routine decisions like scheduling doctor’s appointments or authorizing emergency medical treatment. Just as when they are still living together, it’s up to divorced parents to work out the practicalities of how to handle these decisions.

The best way to do that is to put it in writing ahead of time (whether in a separate custody agreement or as part of a complete divorce settlement agreement). For example, you may agree that you’ll follow the advice of your child’s pediatrician if there’s a dispute about vaccines, medication, or authorizing a medical procedure.

When Do Judges Award Sole Legal Custody?

Despite the built-in preference for giving both parents a say in how their children are raised, judges may grant sole legal custody to one parent when that would be best for the children, such as when the other parent:

  • has a history of domestic abuse (toward either a child or the other parent) or child neglect
  • has serious mental illness or a substance abuse problem that hinders the ability to make good decisions, or
  • isn’t involved in the child’s daily life.

Judges might also order sole legal custody in high-conflict cases where it’s clear that the parents won’t be able to agree.

Some judges may order joint legal custody while designating one parent as the tie-breaker in any disagreements. This isn’t that different from sole legal custody, but it does encourage both parents to be involved in the decision-making process.

Joint legal custody can sometimes turn into a constant battleground, with the parents going to back court to try to resolve disagreements. If this keeps happening—especially if one parent makes decisions about a child’s life over the other parent’s objections—the judge might modify custody by changing the existing arrangement to sole legal custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where the children live most of the time. As with legal custody, some states have different names for physical custody, such as parenting time or time sharing.

Sole Physical Custody With Visitation

With sole physical custody, the children live with one parent while the other parent has visitation time. This traditional arrangement isn’t as common as it used to be. But it still might be the best solution for the children in certain situations, especially when:

  • the parents live far enough apart that it would be difficult for the kids to go back and forth frequently, or
  • one parent isn’t able to provide proper care for the kids because of housing instability, mental health issues, or substance abuse.

Even when one parent has sole physical custody, judges will usually try to make sure that the other parent can have frequent and continuing contact with the children—a goal that is explicit public policy in some states. For instance, noncustodial parents who live far away from the custodial parent might have the children during summer vacations and other long school breaks.

Joint or Shared Physical Custody

With shared physical custody or parenting time, children split their time between their parents. This way, they can have two engaged and involved parents, with two real homes.

Some states require judges to start out with by presuming that joint physical custody is better for the children. Then, any parent who disagrees must provide convincing evidence that shared custody wouldn’t be good for the kids.

Joint physical custody doesn’t always mean an exact 50-50 split. For instance, it often works best for the children to spend school nights with one parent (often called the primary residential parent) and weekends with the other parent. Of course, this kind of arrangement isn’t very feasible if the parents live far apart.

Shared Parenting Plans

Shared parenting plans usually involve detailed schedules, including provisions for issues like:

  • when, where, and how parents will pick up and drop off the kids
  • how the parents will communicate and deal with unforeseen changes to the schedule, and
  • where the children will spend birthdays, holidays, and other school vacations.

In most cases, parents work out their own parenting plan—either on their own or with the help of custody mediation, their lawyers, or both. In fact, many states and courts require parents to participate in mediation of any legal custody dispute. Once the parents have agreed on a plan, they’ll submit it to the court. Judges usually approve these agreements as long as they appear to be in the children’s best interests.

When Parents Can’t Agree on a Parenting Plan

If parents aren’t able to reach an agreement about physical or legal custody of their children, each of them will typically submit a proposed parenting plan to the court. A judge will then review those plans along with all the other evidence—which might include a report from a custody evaluation—before deciding on a custody arrangement that will be best for the children.

If you find yourself in this situation, you should speak with a family law attorney who can help you gather and present the kind of evidence you need to win your custody case.Source

Divorce can be tolling on all involved so be sure to guard your kids and preserve their future. For more information on divorce and child custody, contact the Scottsdale divorce lawyers at Canterbury Law Group. We are here to protect you and your children: (480) 744-7711.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

How to Explain Child Custody to a Child

In Arizona family courts, judges often do everything in their power to keep divorce proceedings from negatively impacting children’s emotional well-being, especially when there are contentious custody proceedings taking place. Most judges discourage parents from even speaking to the children about custody disputes. However, at some point parents getting a divorce will eventually have to explain the divorce and custody arrangements to the children. It will have to be done regardless of the type of custody arrangement the court ultimately orders.

Explaining custody to a child can be a bit difficult if the child is still quite young. The process may be easier for an older teen, but they are still emotionally vulnerable as well. You can always ask for family Law help in Scottsdale to get pointers in explaining custody arrangements to children. Here are several tips from divorce experts who have navigated these waters before you:

Tell Them the Important Facts of the Custody Arrangement

You don’t need to explain the intricate legalities of joint or sole custody to children. However, you will have to explain terms of the custody arrangement as simply as possible, because it will affect them more profoundly than you. Here are the things you should tell children:

  • With which parents the kids will stay, or how much time they will have to spend at each parent’s house. These courts ordered parenting time allocations are not optional and must be followed by both parents, and the children.
  • The parent who will drop them off and pick up from school.
  • The parent who will handle transportation.
  • Repeatable schedules with each parent.
  • Living arrangements for the summer or annual vacation times (e.g. Spring or Fall Break).

Avoid Distressing Subjects

You don’t have to explain to children why the custody arrangement is the way it is, or why the parents went through a divorce. Do not bad mouth the other parent in front of the children, either. Doing some of these things may even land you in trouble with the court. Do not discuss child support, alimony or other money issues with the children either. If something is not of immediate concern to the wellbeing of the child, avoid the subject.  Money and property and other adult issues should remain discussed between counsel and the parents, not the minor children.

Let Them Know They are Loved

Children of divorced parents may experience a host of negative emotions, including feelings of abandonment or guilt. Some children feel like it is “their fault” that Mom and Dad split up.  It’s important to let the children know that both parents love them even if the parents are now divorced. Don’t leave any room for them to be alarmed about the custody arrangement. Show them that it is in their best interest. If the children have to spend time at two locations, tell them it is so because both parents want to take part in both their lives. Explain custody in a positive note so children are not unnecessarily distressed and worried with the new realities post-Decree.

Let them Feel Comfortable with Lawyers and Mediators

Children in the middle of contentious divorces may have to put up with strangers whom they keep encountering like lawyers and court-appointed advisors or interviewers. It’s important that children become familiar with these people and this process and not feel ambushed.  If explaining custody is too much for you, you can ask your lawyer to gently break the news to them. The lawyer will be familiar with what information is allowed by the court and what is not, to tell directly to the children.

It’s never easy to discuss divorce or custody with children. Hopefully, the above suggestions will help.  Regardless, you should rely on your chosen legal professional to help you navigate these critical and choppy waters.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Family Law and Child Custody Information

Determining the custody of a child when divorcing is not easy. Child custody and the related laws are largely determined by state law, though certain federal policies may apply. Here are some basic facts to know about child custody if you are filing for a divorce:

Working out the Custody of a Child

There are two ways to decide which parent gets custody: by trial or private mutual negotiation outside of court. Some parents who divorce amicably can discuss among themselves regarding with whom the child may live after the divorce, and who can visit and when. Divorcing couples can also hire a third party mediator to ensure that these discussions go well. If the parents are unable to reach a mutual agreement, then the case would go to trial where a judge (not a jury) will decide custody and visitation rights.

Types of Custody

There are different types of custody family courts grant.

Physical custody: Also known as “parenting time”, this is the type of custody that decides which parent the child lives with majority of the time. Courts usually grant physical custody to both parents on a joint and equal basis absent parental fitness issues. 

Legal custody: Also known as “legal decision making”, if the court has already appointed a physical custodian, then the other parent might get legal custody. It’s the right of a parent to make decisions about the child’s welfare, education, health, religion even when the child is not living with him or her.

Joint custody: This is an arrangement where the child spends equal amounts of time with both parents following a divorce. There are both proponents and detractors of this type of custody. It’s ultimately something the divorcing parents have to decide. Getting joint custody requires showing cooperation between the divorcing couple and the willingness to make decisions about the child’s welfare together.

Split custody: If the divorcing parents have multiple children, the court may decide to “split” up the custody of the children among the parents. For example, if there are two children, the court may grant custody of one child to only one parent. Courts, however, do not usually separate siblings in this manner.

To determine the type of custody best suited for your case, you will need an attorney’s help. Hire a local attorney from your county, for example family Law help in Scottsdale if you live in Arizona.

Unmarried Parents

Not only divorcing parents need to decide the custody of the child. There are different laws that determine the custody of the child if the parents are unmarried. Most states have laws requiring the granting of physical custody to the biological mother of the child as long as the mother is fit to be a good parent. Unmarried fathers often do not get custody of the child, but Fathers are typically preferred for custody over other relatives like grandparents, or prospective foster or adoptive parents.  Unmarried parents can sometimes be awarded 50/50 custody.  Every case is different. 

How Custody is Granted

The courts take into account various factors when granting custody. Mainly, the court will decide which parent is best suited to be a child’s main caretaker. The child’s wellbeing is always considered above the desires of the parents or others who have filed for custody.

Different states evaluate the “best interest” standard differently. But, most take into consideration the mental and physical fitness of the parents, the child’s relationship to parents or others in the household, the need for a stable home, religious or cultural issues at play, the child’s treatment at the hands of parents, possible history of abuse, and so on. If the child is old enough, his or her wishes will also be taken into consideration.  Each state has different rules of how old a child must be before his or her ‘wishes’ regarding custody will be heard by the Court. 

The parents in any case should hire a good attorney to prove to the court that they are the most fit to be the child’s primary caretaker. It will be up to you to protect your parental rights, as the courts will prioritize the child’s.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

4 Child Custody Tips to Incorporate Into The Holiday Season

A key driver of any divorce with children, after the dust settles, is a court enforceable joint parenting plan. Typically when parents cannot mutually agree on a child-rearing plan, the court will often establish a written plan and court order that both parents must follow concerning the children’s health and welfare. Arizona law requires that the best interest of the child be the lead consideration above any other.

At Canterbury Law Group, the family law attorneys in Scottsdale have helped thousands of parents achieve mutually agreeable custody road maps, and help navigate the changes needed when children’s schedules fluctuate as they grow and mature. Here are some common ways that parents divide and share holiday time under the law:

Alternate holidays every other year. You can assign holidays to each parent for even years and then swap the holidays in odd years. With this arrangement, you won’t miss spending a holiday with your child more than one year in a row. For example, this year she gets Thanksgiving and next year he gets it.

Split the holiday in half. You can split the day of the holiday so that your child spends part of the day with each parent. This arrangement requires planning and coordination because you don’t want your child to spend holidays traveling all day. However for longer holidays like Spring Break you can get the front 5 days and they get the other 5 days, and you reverse the time exchange the year after.

Schedule a holiday twice. You can schedule time for each parent to celebrate a holiday with your child. For example, one parent can celebrate Christmas with the child on Dec. 20th and the other parent on the 25th. The following year would reverse the order. Younger children, in particular may not even notice!

Assign fixed holidays. You can have each parent celebrate the same holidays with the child every year. If parents have different holidays that they think are important, each parent can have those holidays every year. For example, military spouses may want Veterans Day or Fourth of July every year and the other parent, in exchange would get Labor Day and Memorial Day every year.

The Scottsdale family law attorneys at Canterbury Law Group can help you keep the legal peace with your ex and enjoy a great vacation with your kids. If you need legal advice, call us today (480-744-7711) to schedule your consultation.

Written by Canterbury Law Group

Scottsdale Family Attorneys at Canterbury Law Group

The Scottsdale family attorneys at Canterbury Law Group handle all types of Phoenix and Scottsdale family law matters including divorce, child custody, paternity, prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements, spousal maintenance, Decree enforcement, child relocation, father’s rights, mother’s rights and grandparents’ rights.

If you are not sure whether or not you need a family law attorney in Scottsdale, here is an outline of what our lawyers can likely help you with:

  • Divorce – Whether you are considering filing for divorce or you’ve already been served with a divorce petition, it is critical to speak with an attorney immediately to assess your legal rights and take the necessary steps to protect them. Every situation is unique and our attorneys are well equipped to provide you with the tools to make the best decision that suits your particular situation.
  • Prenups/Postnups – Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can be smart financial planning tools for all marriages but are especially common in second and third marriages, for business owners and/or when one partner has a large inheritance (received or expected in the future
  • Father’s Rights – Our attorneys are experienced in helping Fathers get fair and equitable treatment by the courts in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Arizona.
  • Child Custody – Typically when parents cannot mutually agree on a child-rearing plan, the court will often establish a plan that both parents must follow concerning the children’s health and welfare. Arizona law requires that the best interest of the child be the lead consideration above any other.
  • Alimony – Spousal maintenance is where one spouse pays the other spouse monthly support payments for a defined term of months or years after the divorce is final to help the less wealthy spouse transition to the next phase of their life and ideally for them to be come self-sufficient.
  • Paternity – When a couple has children without being married, they should still legally establish who the lawful father of the child is, as well as determine what rights and obligations exist toward the child. Get your court orders now, while the child is young—do not wait until later.
  • Relocation – Out of state relocation by parents and children has become a common issue in family law and is taken extremely seriously as it often has a profound impact on all involved. As a result, Arizona has very detailed laws which outline specific requirements and guidelines for cases involving a parent who wishes to relocate the child or to prevent child relocation out of state.
  • Grandparents – Once a grandparents’ rights petition is filed, the court will consider several specific statutory factors to determine whether a court-ordered grandparent visitation is in the best interest of the child. These rights cannot be pursued unless at least one parent is dead or the parents are divorced.

Ultimately, we realize that hiring a Scottsdale family attorney can be a challenging task. Call the lawyers at Canterbury Law Group today to schedule you consultation. 480-744-7711

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