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How much and how often can I modify child custody?

In appropriate circumstances, parents may petition the court to modify child custody, which changes the terms of the existing arrangement to reflect current circumstances.

A child custody modification can be an excellent solution for parents whose lifestyles or situations have changed significantly since the original order was issued — but this option is only reserved for certain circumstances.

modify child custody

Child custody modification requirements in Arizona

Arizona law has strict requirements that must be met before the court will consider a modification. In most cases, there must be a “substantial and continuing change” to the circumstances affecting the children. While there’s no clear legal definition of this phrase, it generally describes a significant change in the family’s circumstances that’s likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

If a family meets these criteria, the parent seeking the modification must wait at least one year after the date of the initial order before filing a request. The law doesn’t limit the number of times a parent can petition for a modification, and a new modification could potentially be granted every year if the parent can demonstrate a compelling reason for the change.

Exceptions to the standard requirements


There are a few exceptions to the above rules. For starters, if the child’s current living environment poses a serious risk of endangerment to their “physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.”

Situations involving certain forms of domestic violence by a parent or a member of the parent’s household are also valid exceptions. There is no mandatory waiting period for these types of custody modifications, and parents can file for them at any time.

Level of compliance with the custody order

Another exception applies when a parent fails to comply with the terms of a child custody order. In these cases, the other parent may file a modification petition six months after the order is issued without needing to meet the substantial and continuing change requirement.

Parent in the military

Special rules also apply to military families in Arizona. If either parent is in the military and is transferred out of state, the legal guidelines for modifying child custody orders may be different.

Common circumstances warranting modification

A child custody order can remain in effect for up to 18 years, and circumstances can change greatly during such a long stretch of time. Some of the most common situations that may warrant a child custody modification in Arizona include:

  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Substance use that interferes with parenting
  • Extreme changes to the safety and stability of the child’s living conditions, such as long-term homelessness
  • Changes to work, school, or extracurricular schedules
  • Relocation of either parent to another state or a different region of Arizona
  • A new medical diagnosis or disability within the family affecting the child’s needs or the parent’s caregiving ability
  • Changes to the child’s age and maturity — a schedule that was appropriate for a two-year-old might not be appropriate for a child who is now twelve

Keep in mind that the court’s decision to grant or deny a child custody modification request is based on what’s in the best interests of the child. Even if a family meets the legal requirements for modification, the court may choose to deny the request if it believes that modifying the order would be detrimental to the child’s wellbeing.

Let us help with your custody modification case

At Blanchette Law PLLC, we understand that your family’s needs are unique and can change over time. If you believe that your current child custody order isn’t serving your family’s best interests, our Tempe child custody lawyer can review your case and help you determine whether a modification is the right course of action — and, if so, guide you through the process of achieving it.

We provide compassionate, personalized representation to families throughout the greater Phoenix area and beyond, and we’re ready to do the same for you. Call Mrs. Blanchette at (602) 881-1748 to schedule a consultation and begin exploring your options.

How is drug testing used in child custody cases?

Not all child custody cases in Arizona involve drug testing. However, if the court has reasonable suspicion that you or your ex is abusing drugs, you may be asked to submit to a drug test.

Keep reading to learn more about drug testing in child custody cases, then contact Blanchette Law PLLC for personalized legal guidance.

drug testing in child custody cases

Situations where drug testing may be ordered

The most common scenario in which a judge might order drug testing is if one parent has accused the other of using drugs. 

In some instances, the court will order both parents to submit to drug testing. This is to prevent one parent from using false accusations to gain an upper hand in the custody dispute.

A judge may also independently order drug testing if they have any reason to believe that a parent could be abusing drugs. This might include if the parent shows signs of drug abuse, such as changes in behavior, or if the parent has a history of substance-related legal issues.

Types of drug testing used in custody cases

Urine samples are a commonly-used form of drug testing in child custody cases. A positive result typically indicates that the parent has used drugs within the last two to seven days.

The court may also order a hair follicle test, either in addition to the urine test or as an alternative. This type of testing can detect drug use for a much longer period — often up to 90 days.

It’s up to the judge to decide which type of test to use. Factors such as the parent’s documented history of substance abuse and the severity of the allegations may influence decisions about testing protocols.

How drug test results may influence custody decisions

In child custody cases, the judge’s role is to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child. If a parent tests positive for drugs, or if either parent has been convicted of a drug offense, this could be used as evidence to suggest that they’re not fit to care for their child.

The goal isn’t to punish the parent but rather to protect the child from harm. With that in mind, a positive drug test result doesn’t necessarily mean that the parent will be denied custody rights.

The judge will likely consider the type of substance the parent tests positive for — and its known effects on a person’s functioning — when determining the appropriate response. The parent’s criminal history is also an important factor.

For example, methamphetamine use is associated with aggression and impulsivity, which could make someone an unsafe parent, especially if the parent has several drug-related convictions on their record. 

On the other hand, marijuana use by a parent with a clean criminal record may not have the same effect. The keyword here is may – in all cases, the judge has the final say.

If the results suggest that the child isn’t safe in the care of the parent who tests positive, the judge may issue a supervised visitation order. This requires the parent to be monitored during visits with their child. However, it may not be a permanent arrangement. The judge may also order drug treatment and/or counseling to help the parent become fit to care for their child. 

Furthermore, in some cases, the parent may be able to challenge or “rebut” the court’s decision. When this option is available, the court will only consider arguments showing that the parent’s desired outcome is in the child’s best interests.

Learn more from our compassionate custody attorneys

Child custody cases are often stressful enough, but the added complexity of a drug test can make them even more difficult. You need someone in your corner to help you understand your rights and ensure that the court is making decisions based on accurate information.

Whether you’re on the requesting or receiving end of a potential court-ordered drug test, a Tempe child custody lawyer at Blanchette Law PLLC can help you understand your options and advocate for the best interests of your child. 

Call (602) 881-1748 to get started today.