Removing Children from Their Parents in Arizona

Q: What is the policy for removing children from their parents in Arizona?

The one phrase typically associated with the many complicated layers of a divorce proceeding is “What is in the best interest of the child?”

This question is at the very forefront of child custody and visitation negotiations and determinations. Under Arizona law, custody is referred to as “legal decision-making” and visitation is known as “parenting time“. Barring extenuating circumstances, the courts support the idea that both parents should be equally involved in parenting their children after a divorce and believe that children generally thrive with equal access in an amicable co-parenting environment.

Unfortunately, it is not always in the best interest of the child to be with a particular parent, or even either of their parents.

Domestic violence and child abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual, are grim realities. If you or your children are victims, it is important to contact the police to get immediate help. In addition, a family law attorney experienced in domestic violence matters can also help protect you and your children and legally get you out of that relationship.

In Arizona, the Department of Child Safety (“DCS”) can remove from their parents those children thought to be in immediate danger of death or serious harm at the hands of the parent(s). This removal to a safe and often temporary foster care situation is usually done with the assistance of the local police.

The current policy is that case workers and supervisors make that removal decision without the oversight or input of a judge. This resulted in over 18,000 children being removed from their families in 2016 alone sometimes unnecessarily. The trauma to the family, and particularly the children, can leave a lasting psychological impact and the reversal process is not always swift. While the legislature determines whether such decisions will require a warrant from a judge in the future – – except for cases where imminent danger is expected – – the DCS director is reportedly already shifting toward a warrant-based policy.

Having a judge review the facts prior to removing custody of a child from its parent(s) is the policy in many other states where its implementation has lowered the number of children being removed from their families “while still keeping them safest before”.

If you have any questions regarding divorce, domestic violence, or child custody and visitation, Cohen Family Law can help. We’ve been assisting families in Phoenix and throughout Arizona in all areas of family law since 1982. Call us today at 602-714-8898 for a free consultation.