How do I file for child custody in Arizona?

How Do I file for child custody in Arizona?

If you are contemplating divorce or legal separation proceedings in Arizona, you may well have to agree on a court-established or amicable child custody arrangement with your ex-spouse. You may also request the court to alter a child custody decision made in an earlier divorce case. In this step-by-step guide, we will explain the Arizona child custody court process and how to file for child custody in Arizona.

Since 2013 Arizona Revised Statutes, Arizona laws refer to child custody and access as legal decision-making and parenting time.

There are 10 steps in the Arizona child custody court process.

  1. Completion and submission of child custody forms.

Every parent seeking child custody in Arizona should complete the following forms:

  • Sensitive Data Cover sheet with Children
  • Affidavit regarding minor children
  • Summons
  • Order and Notice to attend parent education
  • Parenting plan

The following additional forms must be completed by all divorcing parents:

  • Petition for dissolution of a non-covenant marriage (Divorce) with minor children or petition for legal separation with minor children
  • Preliminary injunction
  • Notice regarding creditors
  • Current employer information form
  • Notice of your rights regarding health insurance coverage

If you’re an unmarried parent requesting custody of your child, you should complete the additional forms below:

  • Petition for Court Order for Paternity and Legal Decision Making
  • Parent time
  • Child support
  • Vital Records

If parents cannot agree on how to co-parent while divorce or legal separation proceedings are pending, a parent can file a motion requesting a temporary custody order from the court.

All forms must be signed before a notary public or the court clerk. And completed forms must be submitted to the county’s Superior Court. They can be submitted physically or electronically through the Arizona-e-filing system. When you file custody papers you will be required to pay for state filing fees and costs which can vary between $100 and $200.  If you’re unable to pay filing fees, you have the option to apply for a fee waiver or deferral on the basis of your eligibility.


  1. Opening child custody case.

Child custody cases are opened at the family division of the county’s Superior Court. The parent opening the child custody case is referred to as the petitioner. The other parent is referred to as the respondent. If you’re a married parent and you or your spouse has lived in Arizona for 90 days, you can initiate divorce or legal separation proceedings requesting parenting time, child custody, and child support. For an unmarried parent, there is no residency requirement to be eligible for filing for child custody and parenting time. 


  1. Serving papers to the other parent.

After child custody is opened, the next step is to serve the respondent with the papers within 120 days of the filing of the complaint. As the family court does not serve papers, it is the responsibility of the petitioner to ensure that the other parent gets served on the case. If the respondent is not served with the following papers, the case gets dismissed. However, the petitioner in a child custody case is not allowed to serve the papers on the respondent. Papers should be served by a disinterested person.

  • Copy of the complaint for custody
  • Copy of the summons with the court6 clerk’s signature
  • A copy of the joint preliminary injunction

The respondent must file an answer within 25 days of the service (if served by mail) and 20 days in the case of personal service, service by private process or by the county sheriff or by publication in a newspaper. If the answer agrees to requests made in the complaint, the case moves for settlement. If the answer contests your complaint, the case moves to litigation. If no answer is filed before the deadline, a default judgment will be entered in your favor.

  1. Parenting class at Conciliation Court.

Arizona child custody laws require all parents to follow a minimum two hours of physical or online parenting classes offered by the Conciliation Court and other certified private agencies. This is for the purpose of educating parents about the potential effects of divorce or separation on the child.


  1. Request Conciliation services.

Either parent can request Conciliation services before, or after 60 days from the time divorce or legal separation proceedings are opened.


  1. Request for temporary custody orders.

Where a parent seeks a temporary custody order, the court will hear evidence from both sides.  A temporary order has effect only until a final judgment on custody is given.

Temporary orders are different from emergency custody orders. Pursuant to Rule 48, an emergency custody order may be granted without notice to the other party if the requesting party or child will be harmed by serving notice or where notice has failed.


  1. Resolution management conferences.

Resolution management conferences are held to facilitate parties to resolve disputed issues and prepare them for the next steps in the litigation process.


During the discovery process parties formally exchange information through requests for mandatory disclosure of information. Both parents must disclose financial details and other information regarding the child’s care. In addition to the list of witnesses, parties are required to send and answer standard uniform family law interrogatories both in writing and under oath.  Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure Rule 49 requires both parents to file a resolution statement. A resolution statement is a detailed document stating how a party proposes to resolve disputed issues.


Before the custody case goes to trial, parents are ordered to attempt an agreement about legal decision-making and parenting time for one last time. Parents can also request pre-decree custody mediation at any stage of the litigation process. Parties need to file a request for pre-decree mediation or joint request for pre-decree mediation and order for referral to mediation


Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure ARFLP Rule 76(c) requires parties to file a Pre-trial statement typically 20 days before trial.  Pre-trial statement also known as pre-hearing statement includes case information, claims, requests for relief, list of witnesses and exhibits admissions, factual and legal issues among others.

At the trial both parents present their evidence and examine witnesses to support their requests for custody and parental timing. After considering the weight of evidence, judge will enter a final order in the form of a parental plan and scheduled parenting time.


If you plan to take your child custody case to court as a self-representing client, you can hire a skilled certified legal document preparer to guide you in completing and filing Arizona child custody forms.

Call Document Prep Arizona to get answers to questions you may have about document preparation for child custody in Arizona. Our experienced legal document preparer team can help you successfully complete the necessary court documents. Call us at 888.362.0036 or email us at to schedule a consultation.





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