Legal custody refers to the right of a parent to make decisions of significance about his child's life. Though such decisions can be relevant to many aspects of a child's life, they are often related to the child's education, health, and religious upbringing. In Arizona, a parent may be awarded joint custody or sole custody of his children with regard to this legal decision-making power.
If the parent has joint custody of his kids then he and his former partner share in the right to make important decisions. When one parent has the exclusive right to make major decisions about the upbringing of a child it is because that parent has been awarded sole legal custody of the child. Parents with sole legal custody have the authority to overrule the child's other parent when it comes to decision-making by virtue of the rights bestowed on him through the applicable child custody order.
In some cases, a parent who lacks legal custody of his or her kids may not be able to intervene when a disagreement arises with the custodial parent. However, when a child's best interests are not being served, a parent may be able to petition the court for a hearing to challenge the deciding parent's authority to subject a child to his or her particular decisions.
Petitioning a court may result in a change to the child custody order or it may not end with any modifications to the existing plan. Such changes could affect the parents' rights to legal custody as well as physical custody of their kids. Parents who have concerns about their children's care can discuss those issues with a family law attorney who can investigate possible methods of addressing problems they perceive in their children's upbringing.