Unilateral Legal Decision-Making. Is it Allowed?

Unilateral Legal Decision-Making. Is it Allowed?

In Arizona, “legal decision-making” means “the legal right and responsibility to make all nonemergency legal decisions for a child including those regarding education, health care, religious training, and personal care decisions.  For the purposes of interpreting or applying any international treaty, federal law, a uniform code or the statutes of other jurisdictions of the United States, legal decision-making means legal custody,” as written in A.R.S. 25-401.

Pursuant to A.R.S. 25-403.01, while a court is able to award sole legal decision-making if it is found to be in the best interest of the child, such an order does not allow the parent designated as sole legal decision-maker to alter unilaterally a court-ordered parenting time plan.

Unilateral decisions are decisions in which one party takes an action without the participation or agreement of the other party or court. When it comes to legal decision-making, this means that one parent takes parenting actions without any agreement from the other parent or without a court order.

What does this mean?

Even parents with sole legal decision-making cannot make changes to parenting plans on their own.

For example, a parent is not allowed to unilaterally move out of state with their child before the statutory timelines, regardless of if they have sole or joint legal decision-making. A.R.S. 25-408 requires a parent to provide at least 45 days written notice to the other parent.

Other examples of issues that are not allowed to be unilaterally altered include child support, claiming the child as a dependent, financial support issues, and parenting time schedules such as a parent with sole legal decision-making modifying the parenting time days of the other parent without that parent agreeing to the decision or the court ordering these changes.

On the other hand, a parent with sole legal decision-making is allowed to make unilateral decisions for their child regarding issues such as education, religion, training, healthcare, and personal decisions. However, it is still always in best practice to keep the other parent informed of such decisions.


Rideout Law Group handles cases throughout the entire state of Arizona, with offices located in Scottsdale and Lake Havasu City. Our attorneys are experienced in handling legal decision-making cases. For a free consultation, call 480-584-3328.

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