Even though Arizona has a high population of grandparents, it is not yet a leader in the rights of grandparents. For instance, it is still one of the states that exempts grandparents from visitation suits when involving intact family units, meaning unless parents are divorced, grandparents have no rights.
However, what some grandparents in Arizona have failed to realize is that they can petition the court to create a right to visit their grandchildren, enforceable by law. In some cases, a grandparent can claim visitation left to a parent who can no longer, or does no longer, use their awarded visitation. There are even situations in which grandparents can petition for custody of their grandchildren. We will cover this a bit, as well as going over how the state determines “the best interest” of a child.
The circumstances in which the Arizona Superior Court can grant visitation rights to grandparents are pretty cut and dry. First, the parents of the child(ren) must have been divorced for a minimum of three months or were never married, or a parent of the child(ren) has been missing for a minimum of three months, or is deceased.
In order to petition for custody, the circumstances are not quite as cut and dry. The considerations that must be met are:
- The grandparent must be acting as parent, providing all or most of the care for a child.
- It must be detrimental to the child for him/her to stay in the custody of their parent.
- There must not have been a decision made regarding the child’s custody within the last year. (This can be waived in cases where harm could come to the child.)
If any of the criteria cannot be met, Family Court will dismiss the case.
Best Interest of the Child
It must also be in the best interest of the child for a court to entertain a suit, even if one of the above is the case. No matter the situation, just as in granting parental rights, what is best for the child is of utmost importance.
For a grandparent (or other third party) to gain custodial rights of a child, they must show the court that it is not in the best interest of the child to be with their biological parents. They must show that it is probable or certain that it is detrimental to the child’s physical or emotional health to do so.
Determining Factors of a Child’s Best Interest
When determining whether or not it is in the best interest of a child to be put in the custody of a grandparent, the court must take into consideration not only all relevant factors, but also a list of specific factors determined by the state of Arizona.
These factors are:
- The current/past relationship between grandparent and child(ren) involved.
- What motives the grandparents may have for petitioning the court.
- What motives the parents may have for preventing visitation.
- The amount of time requested for visitations, when not a custodial case.
- Should the child maintain a relationship with the grandparents in the case of the loss of a parent.
There is a lot of things that have to be considered by the courts, as well as the families involved in visitation and/or custody cases. So much so that the Arizona Bar Association maintains a website. However, your case has unique factors of its own, and reaching out for personal legal assistance is always advised in situations involving something as important as a child.
We Can Help
With over twenty years of experience, Simon Law Group would like to earn your trust as a local family law attorney. We are here to support you in your rights when it comes to your family and the best interest of those you love. If you have any questions, would like to discuss your unique situation or wonder if you have a case, contact us at (480)-745-2450 to schedule your free consultation.
And remember, experience matters!